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UTHSC and Public Health: Contemporary Considerations


Message from the Chancellor

Dear Students, Trainees, Faculty, and Staff,

On Friday afternoon, several of UTHSC’s academic leaders had an informative and productive discussion with a small, yet representative group of our health sciences students regarding the complex changes emanating from the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. We listened and learned from our astute students as they insightfully described how this ruling and subsequent laws may impact their education, the care of our patients, the community, and importantly also themselves. 

UTHSC acknowledges how changes to state law in this area could affect our students’ future as health care providers. While we find ourselves – albeit not alone in higher education or in health care – in uncharted territory with the recent Supreme Court decision and changes in our state due to that decision, please know that we are committed to being thoughtful and appropriately supportive as this situation evolves. We are also committed, in word and deed, to upholding all applicable laws. 

We discussed with our student colleagues initial considerations on how we can be more responsive with respect to educational and clinical experiential learning, providing guidance to ourselves and to our patients, and being cognizant of access to services for some, as needed. We recognize that each of our students and residents in their specialties may be impacted differently in their training and in their practice by these changes. We are mindful that changes in training may be required in how our colleagues are educated on (medical and surgical) abortion care, so that they will have the clinical skills and experience in training to be able as licensed practitioners to provide appropriate and medically sound care to patients, including to save a patient’s life in an emergency. It will take some time to collectively determine and thereupon to adjust our training so that discipline-specific competencies are met and are consonant with the pertinent accreditation standards for each discipline, all the while working within the provisions of applicable law.  

In the area of direct patient care, we are also working with our vital health care partnerships, relevant state and national professional organizations, and with our clinical faculty so that our clinicians can practice safely and in compliance with the law as they inevitably will be presented with challenging clinical situations now and into the future. 

It has been reported that Tennessee’s Trigger Law might be revisited this legislative session and UTHSC’s administration is engaging internally and with our accrediting bodies and relevant Tennessee health care organizations, so that we are prepared to address the complex situations and uncertainties we imagine may arise as we train and work under the current law.

We recognize that many questions exist, both now and going forward. As we collaborate with our various educational, health care, and community partners to gain a greater shared perspective on how this complex situation might evolve, we will share that perspective and any pertinent information with you.

In the interim, we recognize – and duly respect – that abortion is a topic on which individuals are divided, and we appreciate that members of our campus community hold different viewpoints on this topic.

As a public institution, we appreciate, welcome, and respect the opinions of all of our students, trainees, faculty, and staff. These conversations remind all of us to be diligent that personal opinions, whether singular or collective, whether verbal or in written communications, not be portrayed as potential institutional statements.

That said, as private individuals, it is each person’s right to state their opinion and advocate for what they believe. We acknowledge and respect that also.

Thank you for your input and also your patience as we engage our collective efforts and perspectives in working through this important public health issue together.

Peter Buckley, MD