President Renu Khator Appoints Leader of UH Health Initiatives

Optometry Dean Earl Smith to Develop Strategic Plan for UH Health Science Center

University of Houston President Renu Khator has named Dean Earl L. Smith III to a two-year term as Interim Chief Health Officer. Smith will lead the University of Houston’s efforts to develop a strategic plan and launch the new UH Health Science Center.

As the Interim Chief Health Officer, Smith will work with stakeholders on creating a Health Science Center that is relevant to the community by serving its mission of workforce preparation, innovative solutions to cutting-edge research problems, community outreach and patient care.

Earl Smith - Chief Health Officer“The University of Houston is ideally positioned to significantly advance health care, particularly in Houston and Texas,” Smith said. “I am excited about the opportunity to be involved in the growth of health care-related programs at UH. President Khator’s emphasis on health-related degree programs is very timely, and it is clear to me that UH has the potential to address the increasing demands for health care services and professionals.”

Careers in health care and related fields provide high-quality, high-income jobs. Health care also is the largest, fastest-growing industry in Texas, employing 1.3 million workers in more than 200 careers, with the number of health care jobs in the state expected to grow 44 percent in the next five years. Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, is home to the world’s largest medical complex, the Texas Medical Center, which employs more than 100,000 people.

“Enhancing our already outstanding health care programs remains one of my top priorities,” said UH President Renu Khator. “The development of our new Health Science Center is a crucial element of that commitment. Dean Smith brings the experience, enthusiasm and energy required for this considerable challenge.”

UH already has made significant contributions in health care. More than 11,000 students are currently enrolled in health-related degree programs, and about 24 percent of all degrees awarded by UH are health related. Additionally, UH research programs are working to address health-related scientific, engineering and policy issues, and its clinical programs of optometry, pharmacy, clinical psychology, speech language pathology and social work collectively treat more than 30,000 patients annually, as well as generate more than $3 million in revenue. Smith will build on these strengths, working to fill the gaps that currently exist.

“I am confident Earl Smith has the experience and commitment necessary for this important role,” said UH Provost Paula Myrick Short. “He has done an outstanding job as dean of the College of Optometry, and I look forward to working closely with him to establish a superb UH Health Science Center.”

Smith will work with the Health Science Center Task Force, a group comprised of UH System faculty, to develop programming by analyzing workforce needs in the region and implementing new degree programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels. During the two years that Smith will serve as Interim Chief Health Officer, Roger Boltz, associate professor and associate dean for professional studies, will serve as Interim Dean of the College of Optometry.

Smith received his O.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Houston and joined the faculty of the UH College of Optometry in 1978. He has served as the Chair of the Basic Sciences Department and as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research. Prior to his appointment, he held the Greeman-Petty Professorship in Vision Development and served as Dean of the College of Optometry.


About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 39,500 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country. For more information about UH, visit the university’s newsroom.

About UH Health
The University of Houston offers a wealth of health science programs that prepare students for health and medical careers, address health-related scientific, engineering and policy issues, and offer clinical programs directly involved in patient care. UH enrolls more than 10,000 students in 97 health-related degree programs, conferring nearly a quarter of health degrees in the region. The university’s research awards in the health sciences account for 38 percent of total UH research, and its clinical programs treat more than 30,000 patients annually, generating more than $3 million in revenue. As a member of the Texas Medical Center, UH offers many opportunities for both educational and research collaborations.

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