UTRGV announces steps toward school of podiatry

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is putting its first foot forward on the path toward creating Texas’ first school of podiatry this week.

On Thursday the University of Texas Board of Regents approved UTRGV’s proposal to establish a school of podiatry and a doctor of podiatric medicine degree program, both firsts for the Lone Star State.

The school of podiatry, the 10th of its kind in the nation, will be housed within the Division of Health Affairs.

“The development of a podiatry school and program stays true to UTRGV’s commitment of expanding educational opportunities and providing more healthcare services for the Rio Grande Valley and beyond,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey wrote in a statement. “Additionally, we are doing amazing work at our South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute, and the School of Podiatry is a natural expansion of research that will greatly affect and benefit members of our community.”

According to the statement, the school will require approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and an additional OK from the UT System before the program can officially be offered to students.

“We are ecstatic the UT System Board of Regents supports our goals in continuing to provide high-quality and distinct programs for our students who are changing the landscape in these high-demand careers,” Bailey wrote. “UTRGV is proud of the incredible programs we offer our students and our growing region.”

UTRGV School of Medicine Dean Dr. John Krouse said he thinks the school will be especially valuable in the RGV.

“Podiatry is the specialty that looks at the foot and lower leg. We have such a high prevalence of diabetes in the Valley, there’s so many people that have lower limb diseases, that it just makes sense for us to be able to enrich the workforce by training podiatrists in the Valley,” he said.

Krouse said the first class is expected to be launched in the fall of 2021.

“So about a year and a half from now would be when the first class would actually begin taking courses,” he said. “It’s a four year curriculum, so if we’re on schedule with everything, the first graduates would be in May of 2025.”

According to Krouse, UTRGV expects 40 students per year in the program and will be using existing school of medicine facilities for instruction.

“We will be looking for funding in the next biennium to build a large health education building in the range of 110,000 square feet, so we would be looking for funding from the legislator in 2021 in order to do that,” he said. “Ultimately, yes, it will have its own facilities as part of a larger health building, but it will be accommodated within the school of medicine for the next several years.

Krouse said that efforts toward the podiatry school have been in the works for a little over two years.

“I think this is really demonstrating our commitment in health at UTRGV to continue to expand professional doctorate programs. That is something we’re going to plan to do over the next five to 10 years,” he said.