At first, people said a medical school in Lubbock was not possible. But today, the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center celebrated 50 years of education.

HSC alumni, faculty and other community members celebrated the 50th anniversary of the HSC at 6 p.m. on June 7 at the University Center on the HSC campus.

During the celebration, guests enjoyed snacks and drinks, toured the UC and listened to live music at the reception. Afterward, attendees joined one another for a dinner to share the HSC’s history.

Tech System Chancellor and HSC President Tedd L. Mitchell said the HSC staff worked to spotlight the success of the HSC leading up to the celebration.

“We had put together a campaign called Your Life, Our Purpose,” he said. “One of the things we’ve done for the last decade or so is, within the community in Lubbock, we specifically have been trying to make sure that we distinguished what it is that we do relative to Texas Tech University.”

Through the campaign, Mitchell said he hoped people can celebrate the HSC as a stand-alone institution apart from the Texas Tech University System.

Alongside the 50th anniversary celebration, Mitchell said expansion projects, such as the UC and the Academic Event Center, are other aspects of the institution’s future.

“This really is preparing us for the next several decades,” Mitchell said. “This facility that we’ve had has served us well for the past several decades, but we’re at a point where we’ve got to prepare for the next several.”

In addition to expansion projects, Mitchell said future HSC students need updated facilities and equipment. He said one example of updated learning is giving students the opportunity to use ultrasound probes in a new anatomy lab.

“When you talk about preparing the students of tomorrow, you got to use the technology of tomorrow,” he said. “The anatomy lab has to reflect that. The learning center, the classrooms reflect that.”

Regardless of the HSC’s present and future, some may reflect on the institution's past.

Regarding the institution's establishment, Mitchell said there was a huge push for the medical school to not be placed in Lubbock. He said the right people are necessary for institutions, such as the HSC, to thrive during these difficult times.

“Back then, they had to do anything and everything just to get it going,” Mitchell said regarding when the medical school was first established. “So, one of the things we are doing tonight is celebrating some of those folks.”

Throughout 50 years, one may consider what the HSC has achieved despite people in the past who thought the institution would never have survived in Lubbock.

Steven Berk, dean of the HSC School of Medicine, said he has had his position for 14 years and was the regional dean in Amarillo for seven years. He said the infrastructure and the population of Lubbock 50 years ago were reasons some people did not believe an institution, such as the HSC, could prosper.

“Fifty years ago, there was a lot of doubt that a medical school or a health science center could actually be successful in West Texas,” he said. “Now, 50 years later, we have a health science center that has the most students of any health science center in Texas.”

Being in the top ten percentile of student and faculty satisfaction, high pass rates and close to 6,000 applicants each year are achievements Berk said defy the doubt 50 years ago.

For some who have been a part of the HSC’s history, the growth of the institution may be an achievement to admire.

Richard Johnston, HSC alumni, said he was part of the institution's second class that graduated in 1975.

“When we started, we were in the dormitories, so there were no permanent facilities,” he said. “So, to see what has arisen in Lubbock over the years has been amazing.”

In the future, Johnston said he hopes the HSC continues to create trained medical professionals that will stay in local areas.

“The original premise of the medical school is to create primary care doctors that will go to the rural communities in Texas,” he said. “I think that should be their aspiration still.”

Due to the celebration of 50 years, one may also consider the work that went into establishing the HSC.

Jan Smith Taylor, daughter of former Texas Gov. Preston Smith, said she remembered the work her father was doing to sign the establishment of the medical school into law.

“I remember how frustrated he was because there were a lot of citizens who didn’t want the medical school,” she said. “When, finally, everyone came together, it was just huge.”

Robert Preston Schmid, local plastic surgeon and grandson of Smith, said he thinks his grandfather would be overwhelmed with how the HSC looks today.

“Texas Tech has done a great job, Tedd Mitchell has done just a great job,” he said. “They have such a bright future ahead.”

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