Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s F. Marie Hall Institute is positioned at a crossroads to take advantage of opportunities that connect West Texans’ legendary determination to the cutting edge of innovation in meeting the challenges of rural health for the region, the state and the country.
These connections harness the energy that is the collective whole of what West Texas has to offer: people as diverse as any in the nation, resources that contribute globally and ingenuity that goes beyond what exists to what is possible from here.
The ultimate challenge ahead for West Texas—as it has always been—is to shrink the distances. From cattle drives to the coming of the rail to the development of highways that traverse the state for physical transportation, and now to the uses of technology advances in the digital age: each of these innovations has served to shrink distances and to create opportunities in commerce and healthcare delivery to benefit both local communities and the state as a whole.
Not that it isn’t still going to be 493 miles from Dalhart to Mason or 539 miles from Wichita Falls to Terlingua. Any resident in those communities—and every community between the mile markers—should have the same opportunities to live a life in health and wellness.
West Texas is a unique place with unique needs. The region spans 131,323 square miles and is home to more than 2.8 million people in the 108 counties that make up the service area of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Most of Texas’ frontier landmass is in West Texas, and only Alaska has more. Half of the 108 counties are designated as frontier, with fewer than seven people per square mile; 98 counties are classified as rural, 12 counties do not have a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant; and 32 counties do not have a hospital.
To travel west of the I-35 corridor to the mountains of New Mexico, the majority of the drive will be across West Texas. The eight metropolitan centers are somewhat conveniently dispersed across the region: Abilene, Amarillo, El Paso, Lubbock, Midland and Odessa, San Angelo and Wichita Falls; each serving as a hub for advanced healthcare services. The traffic patterns for rural towns around them converge for shopping, food and entertainment. But access to such services often requires a two- to four-hour drive for rural residents.