SHSU plans Montgomery County's first medical school for former Camp Strake site

Sam Houston State University is working toward a deal with Johnson Development Corporation to build a medical school on the site of the former Camp Strake property, which the development company purchased last year. The 112-acre site is on I-45 north of FM 1488 and south of S. Loop 336.

If the deal is finalized, and the project is completed, the SHSU facility will be the first medical school in Montgomery County.

"The rationale for us to look at Montgomery County is because of the access to all of the health care facilities that are there, and the concentration of hospitals and heath care service providers," said Dr. Michael Lacourse, dean of the college of health sciences at SHSU.

Lacourse said Johnson Development donated 10 acres of land for the development of the medical school.

"We don't know where it's going to be, exactly," he said. "Probably somewhere along the feeder road of I-45."

Several hurdles still need to be cleared before the medical school becomes a reality, however.

Lacourse said the proposal for a medical school at the Camp Strake site still requires approval by the college's board of regents, which he said could come "very soon," as well as by the school's coordinating board. Lacourse said their approval could take about a year.

Julia May, associate director of communications for SHSU, said the deal with Johnson Development is contingent upon the university acquiring the adequate funding to build the facility.

Johnson Development issued a statement regarding the proposed SHSU medical school.

"The Johnson Development Corp. announces transactions for the Camp Strake property as they are finalized. We cannot confirm any such completed transaction with Sam Houston State University at this time," the statement read.

Lacourse said if the deal is finalized, construction could take about 18 months to complete with a planned opening date sometime in fall 2018.

The SHSU medical school would offer a degree path in osteopathic medicine, or D.O., rather than M.D.

"There are two directions a medical school can take," Lacourse said. "You have allopathic medicine, which leads to an M.D. The second branch is osteopathic medicine, or a D.O. There are some variations of philosophy and approach to medicine [between the two programs]."

The medical school would also emphasize education in advanced nursing practices and physician assistance, among others.

Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, said the proposed SHSU medical school would be a benefit to The Woodlands.

"This is perfect timing for [SHSU] to address the need for a trained medical staff," he said. "This means more college-trained nurses, more D.O.s and more physicians. It will be an addition that will strengthen our medical community even more."

Johnson Development purchased the 2,000-acre tract from the Boy Scouts of America in July of last year. Johnson Development is planning large-scale mixed-use projects for the site.

In September, Johnson Development announced the sale of a 112-acre tract of land at the site to Fidelis Realty Partners, which is planning a retail development for the parcel.