Emails (excerpted), Gary Susswein, director of media relations, University of Texas, Nov. 6-7, 2013

From: Susswein, Gary

Sent: Wednesday, November 06, 2013 3:46 PM

To: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Subject: med school info


As discussed.


You'll note that no Tier 1 School (as defined by AAU membership at the time) has established a medical school since 1964. A&M's was established years before it became an AAU member. And I believe that medical school was, until recently, a separate entity from the main campus, just as UT Southwestern and UT Dallas are separate entities.


Establishing a medical school brings unique opportunities and challenges for a Tier 1 university, which – by definition — is already a highly-regarded research institution. UT Austin is the first school in a long time to have these opportunities. There are a limited number of precedents from which we can learn.




Gary Susswein

Director of Media Relations

The University of Texas at Austin

4:26 pm

Nov. 6, 2013

Answers in red below.



Gary Susswein

Director of Media Relations

The University of Texas at Austin


From: <Selby>, "Gardner (CMG-Austin)" <>

Date: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 4:05 PM

To: Gary Susswein

Subject: RE: med school info


Got it, thanks.


At a glance, the spreadsheet indicates that since 1963 (50 years ago) Penn State and Michigan State University each established its medical school while being AAU members. Agree?

Correct. Our research indicates that Penn State established a medical school 50 years ago and Michigan State 49 years ago.


Also, each of the following institutions are current AAU members and established medical schools in the half century: Texas A&M, UC-Davis, UC-San Diego, Stony Brook and Arizona. (Stony Brook’s AAU status is not on your spreadsheet.) Did I miss any?

I believe that's right. We will triple check (and thanks for catching Stony Brook, which became AAU in 2001). Please note that the Texas A&M flagship university is an AAU member. The medical school was a separate institution until John Sharp changed that recently.  In each of these cases, it would be interesting to go back and see whether the new medical school — and the research and funding that came with it — was a large factor that actually pushed the school into the Tier 1 category.



From: <Selby>, "Gardner (CMG-Austin)" <>

Date: Thursday, November 7, 2013 12:12 PM

To: Gary Susswein

Subject: Following up





Past what I shared yesterday, it looks like several universities considered “high research activity” (like UT-Austin) opened medical schools in the past few decades. In 2012, an AAU spokesman deferred to the Carnegie approach to characterize schools as Tier One, as noted in our 2012 fact check.


Specifically, the University of South Florida enrolled its charter medical school class in 1971; the University of South Carolina opened its medical school to students in 1977; the Florida State University College of Medicine welcomed its first students in 2001; and the University of Central Florida established its medical school in 2006. Finally, it looks to me like the University of New Mexico launched its medical school in 1964, though I await confirmation.


On another front, Dr. Henry Sondheimer, senior director of medical education projects at the Association of American Medical Colleges, told us by phone he certainly wouldn’t want to tell Florida State or Central Florida (or the like) they’re not major universities. “They’re our members too,” he said, after earlier noting that UT filed its initial application for medical school accreditation about a month ago.


Anything else for us to consider on this claim?


I hope to complete our review today.





1:05 pm

Nov. 7, 2013

As I mentioned, much of the higher education community classifies Tier One schools as those that are part of the AAU. And, to the best of our knowledge, we are the first sitting AAU university to establish a medical school since 1964.  AAU represents the top 60-plus public and private universities in the US and Canada and the statement made at the forum is accurate in the context of these very top AAU universities. Had we used the term "AAU" in our comments, I don't think audience members would have understood what we meant so we used the common shorthand of "tier one."


Any way you cut it, it's been a long time since a medical school has been started at a top tier AAU university and this is a very important reason why our medical school is attracting the interest of the very best talent in the country.  


I recognize that others may use a broader definition for "Tier One" universities. Under that broader definition, we are one of a handful of top tier universities to launch a medical school in the past 50 years.


But do you know who else uses AAU membership as the definition of "tier one"? The American Statesman does.


Using the broader list of "tier one schools" referenced in your Politifact last year, there are four such schools in Texas: UT, A&M, Rice and the University of Houston. Yet the Statesman continues to report that Texas has three Tier One schools schools. Ralph Haurwitz wrote in a blog seven months after your Politifact piece that "The state has just two such public universities — the University of Texas and Texas A&M University — and one private Tier One school, Rice University.


This is consistent with what the Statesman has always reported, including in a 2009 editorial that stated "As it stands, Texas has two public research universities and one private university that qualify as tier-one research universities — the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Rice University." The editorial went on to state that University of Houston is not a Tier One school – even though it is on the list you now rely upon.


The only way for the Statesman to conclude that Texas has three Tier One universities – as opposed to four – is by using the AAU list.


I find it somewhat disingenuous that the Statesman would expect UT to use a broader definition of "Tier One" than your own higher education reporter and editorial board use.




Gary Susswein

Director of Media Relations

The University of Texas at Austin