Texas Tech University System Health Policy and Public Health Think Tank | Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center


To be the preeminent think tank for health equity and access to care in greater West Texas.


To develop, promote and implement best practices in health equity and access to care throughout the Texas Tech University System and surrounding areas.


  • To foster collaborative research and volunteerism.
  • To engage with communities to develop policy recommendations.
  • To assist with the implementation of best practices.
  • These goals are accomplished by focusing on four key areas:
    • Rural health disparities
    • Underserved populations in urban areas
    • Interprofessional health education
    • Community empowerment and education

2nd Annual West Texas Health Disparities Research Symposium

When: March 22-23, 2024
Where: Academic Event Center at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, TX

Symposium Objectives:

  • Identify current health disparities afflicting the West Texas region across all disciplines (medicine, public health, law).
  • Present primary and secondary data related to health disparities in West Texas.
  • Propose current or prospective interventions, strategies, or policy recommendations that address health disparities in West Texas.

Think Tank Progress and Background

  • Established a faculty advisory board of physicians, public health experts, nurses, historians, social scientists, engineers, scientists, and healthcare administrators
  • Established a student advisory board of medical, nursing, public health, and undergraduate students from 5 institutions
  • Collaborated with the city of Lubbock health department on a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at an NCAA football game
  • Developed COVID-19 educational materials to distribute to hundreds of college students
  • Organized the vaccine administration training of MS1 and MS2 students to prepare students for community outreach for COVID-19 and other vaccinations
  • Started a compilation of all existing needs assessment across the region, to guide future research and policy proposals
  • Began developing a pilot mentorship program for underrepresented in medicine (URM) high school students in partnership with the office of admissions at TTUHSC School of Medicine, with the goal to expand throughout the West Texas region (rural and urban communities) in the fall

The Texas Tech University System is one of the largest university systems in the state of Texas. Furthermore, it includes a vast array of institutions, includes a diverse community of faculty, staff, and students, and serves a large geographical area. Angelo State University and Midwestern State University offer unique and necessary perspectives given their geographic locations, institution-specific research, and relationships with local leaders and healthcare providers. Texas Tech University is classified as a Hispanic Serving Institute and a Carnegie Tier One Research Institution. It’s diverse population, immense resources, and role as the intellectual and innovative center of West Texas make it ideal for a health policy and public health think tank. The TTU Health Sciences Center (both in Lubbock and El Paso) are largely responsible for the healthcare of underrepresented populations in diverse and underserved communities including predominantly Hispanic populations in El Paso, rural populations in West Texas, and the historically underserved communities of east and north Lubbock. Each of these communities have their own unique healthcare and public health challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted the delivery of healthcare, especially in these underserved areas. ICU’s were at capacity, many hospitals were on diversion, and there was not enough personal protective equipment to go around. The West Texas region faced unique challenges spanning a large geographic area, with barriers to access large medical centers such as University Medical Center or Covenant Hospital in Lubbock. Doctors were forced to re-wear masks for multiple shifts at a time, gowns were disinfected between each COVID-19 positive room as there weren’t enough to go around, and ventilators were limited and reserved only for the sickest of patients. The larger medical centers, at capacity, left many rural hospitals to treat critical patients without the infrastructure, supplies, or PPE necessary to care for these patients.

The West Texas COVID-19 3D Relief Consortium was established to address some of these concerns. The Texas Tech University (TTU) Honors College became a makeshift workshop for the assembly of 3D printed face shields. The TTU Engineering Department came together to find innovative ways to create re-usable PPE to supply our health care workers. TTUHSC advised the consortium of the situation each hospital was facing, and the best ways to ease the burden on the healthcare system through the distribution of PPE. The West Texas COVID-19 3D Relief Consortium promoted collaboration across disciplines to support the medical community sacrificing their lives on the front lines each day, hoping to one day see the end to the virus.

It should not, however, take a pandemic to bring together our higher education community. The Texas Tech University system plays an integral role in the healthcare and public health of the greater West Texas Community. We saw the concrete, widespread impact that was made when our communities came together to address a worldwide PPE shortage that was impacting our region. Through this collaboration, or need for it, stemmed a question: does an entity exist to empower and serve West Texas communities in access to health care? Despite many higher education institutions and the TTU System spanning most of the region, no centralized entity existed. This is the premise behind the founding of the Texas Tech System Health Policy and Public Health Think Tank.

The future of Think Tank is aiming high, with a vision to be the preeminent think tank for health equity and access in rural and urban areas. The mission is simple, promote best practices in health equity and access throughout the Texas Tech University System and surrounding areas. In practice, this breaks down into two main goals: to foster collaborative research and volunteerism, and to promote advocacy and produce policy recommendations. These goals will be accomplished through focusing on four key areas: rural health, underserved populations in urban areas, interprofessional health education, and outreach to the communities we serve.

This will not be a traditional Think Tank, as its structure engages and empowers students. Students across the system will be at the forefront of the Think Tank’s endeavors, whether it’s research, advocacy, service, or policy. The faculty board, which includes among the most distinguished faculty members and administration of the TTU system, play an integral role by providing the Think Tank with direction, expertise, and support.

This Think Tank will serve to prepare greater West Texas for future pandemics and promote best practices in current daily practice in health equity and access to care.


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