Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the two new programs at the proposed Health Professions Building in Conroe; the story previously mentioned occupational therapy and an expansion in kinesiology, which are not planned.

Sam Houston State University is expanding its College of Health Sciences from its main Huntsville campus to Conroe. Construction will begin in 2024 on a Health Professions Building adjacent to the College of Osteopathic Medicine, located at 925 City Central Avenue, Conroe, according to SHSU officials.

The Texas State University System approved the $65 million project at the quarterly Board of Regents meeting Nov. 17 in Austin. According to the agenda, design services began in late August.

Emily Roper, dean of the College of Health Sciences, said the new building in Conroe will house new, proposed and existing programs, including relocating the Master of Science program in athletic training and Master of Science in dietetics from Huntsville to Conroe.

Roper said proposed programs for the Conroe campus include a doctorate in physical therapy and Master of Physician Assistant. She said details of the programs are still in the discussion phase.

“In the new proposed programs in [physical therapy] and [physician assistant], the workforce demand indicates a very strong, immediate need for these programs as well as a long-term need for healthcare professionals,” she said. “We wouldn’t proceed with developing this program or any program without sufficient data that indicates workforce need and student demand.”

Roper said the 85,000-square-foot building will also include student success and support resources, such as counseling, physical health, disability, testing services and made-to-order food as well as skills labs, team huddle rooms and a fitness center.

Construction on the Health Professions Building will begin after the coinciding parking structure is complete in 2024. Roper said a parking garage is necessary to accommodate the Health Professions Building and the growth of The College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The parking garage will provide approximately 1,000 parking spaces for both colleges. Construction begins in February and is set to be complete in February 2024.

Thomas Mohr, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, said the existing college that opened in 2020 in Conroe is on track to grow from 326 enrolled students to 488 students in the next year. He said the enrollment capacity is expected to cap out at 630 in the 2024-25 school year.

Mohr said his focus for 2023 is on expanding class sizes, adding additional clinical rotations for students, pursuing research opportunities and increasing connections with local hospitals. There is also discussion about creating graduate medical programs.

The first class of the College of Osteopathic Medicine will graduate in 2024.

“For 2023, we are mostly going to be continuing this growth and maturation phase and in 2024 the fireworks will go off,” Mohr said. “That’s when we’ll start to see the fruits of our labor.”