Student Health Services employees are celebrating A.P. Beutel’s life, as well as the Texas A&M health center’s history and future, in preparation of the namesake’s 127th birthday.
Albert Phillip Beutel was born on Nov. 13, 1892, and was a chemist who came to Texas in 1940 to build a Dow Chemical plant in Freeport, establishing the chemical industry’s presence on the Gulf Coast. He later constructed plants in North Carolina, California and overseas. Beutel also was the vice president of Dow Chemical Company and was appointed to the Texas A&M Board of Directors — now known as the Board of Regents — in 1963.
The university’s fourth health center opened in 1973 as a hospital and was dedicated to Beutel after his death on Nov. 27, 1972. According to official Texas A&M University Board of Director meeting minutes, Beutel was “joyously philosophic,” “believed that qualities for good abided in all people and that truth could be best known through a personal engagement with the realities of life.”
Dr. Martha Dannenbaum, Director of SHS and Class of 1983, said although the history of the physical building was well-known, the history behind its namesake was not.
“We knew we named the building after him, but we didn’t know much about the story behind who he was,” Dannaenbaum said.
Dannenbaum said she also discovered that Beutel’s name is actually pronounced as “Boy-tel” instead of “Bue-tel.”
Dr. Garry Gore, Medical Director for Texas A&M Emergency Medical Services and Class of 1984, introduced the idea of recognizing Beutel’s birthday and learning more about him. Gore said they have been looking for months for information on Beutel and didn’t find any until he contacted the Board of Regents.
“We wanted to know more about him, his hobbies, his interests, but we could never get a lede on anybody,” Gore said. “He came from Ohio, so his family may be mostly in the Ohio area.”
The Beutel Health Center has undergone many changes since it first opened in 1973, including a 16,000-square-foot addition in 1986 with an x-ray unit, a lab waiting room and an emergency squad room. Renovations in 2012 and 2016 created a combined eighteen exam rooms and shared office space for 10 health care providers. A pharmacy that sells over-the-counter medications was renovated in 2017.
The building also has a twin – the Owens-Franklin Health Center at Prairie View A&M University.
Dannenbaum said they stopped serving overnight patients in the 90s and turned the overnight rooms into the women’s clinic and other patient care areas.
“Most of the expansion has been related to increasing the ability to provide direct care to students, so adding exam rooms and adding space for clinicians,” Dannenbaum said.
According to Student Health Services’ 2018-2019 Impact Statement, the clinic had 82,907 total visits and 24,928 unique patients from September 2018 to September 2019.
According to Dannenbaum, the health center was initially built to serve 22,000 students, and after the 1986 renovation, a student population of 33,000. Dannenbaum said she would like SHS to provide full dental and optometry services, but the health center is limited by space and funding.
“The building is to the point where we can’t expand our service offerings,” Dannenbaum said. “We’ve looked at building up, and the architects have told us, ‘No, you can’t, there’s not enough support to be able to do that.’”
Gore said the Beutel Health Center is not included in the university’s future master plan and will eventually be replaced by another building. However, even with the center’s limitations, A&M is still considered a leader in college health.
“We were at a conference, and some folks I met from North Carolina were telling me A&M is considered a leader in college health because we’re so big,” Gore said. “Apparently, we do things pretty well here compared to other schools because of our size. He said, ‘When A&M talks, other people listen.’”