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Anatomy of a UT Medical School

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Burnt orange scrubs—they’re not just for nurses anymore. The Dell Medical School at UT Austin, named for benefactors Michael and Susan Dell, aims to welcome its first class in 2016. And it has the potential to improve the health of people not just in Austin but throughout Texas and beyond by training new physicians and conducting research to enhance medical knowledge and technology, and expanding health care access to people of all income levels.

To achieve its potential, organizers say the Dell Medical School will go beyond having the best faculty, laboratories, and teaching theaters. Cooperation among teachers, researchers, and health care providers in state-of-the-art facilities will produce expertise and management systems to improve people’s health both locally and globally.

“Central Texans of the future will enjoy better health than we do,” says UT president Bill Powers. “Their economy will be more robust than ours. And their University of Texas will be more dynamic and prestigious even than today’s. The historical reason for all of these trends will be that between 2013 and 2016, the university—supported by key partners across the region—will have built and opened a world-class medical school.”

“It is the right investment for our family, our university, and our community,” says Michael Dell of his family foundation’s $50 million, 10-year commitment. “The effects of the medical school will be felt well beyond the campus.”

A Top-Notch Team

A publicly owned, privately operated hospital and clinics for the public will ensure that classrooms, clinical education, and hospital systems are fully unified for the benefit of those who need medical care. By designing and constructing these facilities concurrently, the Dell Medical School represents an opportunity to create an environment in which to improve health through teaching, healing, and innovation.

“I’m grateful to be living through this historic and exciting period and to have the support of so many visionary partners,” Powers says. “We’re building the next great institution, both of Texas and within Texas’ flagship university. It’s an institution that will be propelled by the strength of the state and the university, and at the same time it will transform both for the better.”

vials

The Dell Medical School aims to welcome its first class in 2016. In addition to training new doctors, the school will conduct research to enhance medical knowledge and technology.

A steering committee has been established to help guide the school’s creation now that start-up funding has been secured, including a property tax increase approved by Travis County voters that will generate $35 million a year for the school. Led by Sue Cox, UT Southwestern Medical Center’s regional dean for Austin programs, and Robert O. Messing, UT’s new vice provost for biomedical sciences, the committee represents schools and colleges within UT, as well as the Seton Healthcare Family and UT Southwestern. Meanwhile, a selection committee is identifying key talent and expects to have the school’s founding dean in place by the start of the 2013-14 academic year.

If all goes as planned, by 2016 Dell Medical School will begin guiding its first class of 50 students toward their MDs. Upon graduating, many of the new physicians will continue their medical education in residency programs established by Seton Healthcare at a new associated teaching hospital, where they will treat thousands of local patients. Many new doctors will remain in Texas, increasing the volume and variety of specialists in the state.

Leveraging Strengths

While Austin has lacked a medical school, medical education has occurred in the city for many years. Seton Healthcare and St. David’s Hospital sponsor extensive residency programs, and UT’s Dell Pediatric Research Institute, created via a $38 million challenge grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, has been advancing understanding of childhood diseases and disorders since 2010. The Dell Medical School will coordinate with these and other key organizations’ existing resources.

Meanwhile, the deans of UT’s schools and colleges are identifying how their programs can collaborate with the medical school to provide greater opportunities in education and research. The school will draw on UT’s considerable research strengths, including cell and molecular biology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, chemistry, public health, sociology, psychology, health care delivery systems, and health care policy. There will also be interaction with the university’s highly ranked programs in nursing, pharmacy, and social work to prepare physicians for the health care system of the future.

Two dedicated buildings are planned for the school, one for education and administration and another for research. Additionally, Seton Healthcare has committed at least $250 million—a portion of which will come from fundraising—to build a new teaching hospital to replace the aging University Medical Center Brackenridge. The new hospital will serve as the medical school’s primary clinical in-patient teaching facility and will enhance services to residents of Central Texas. It will also upgrade the only Level I adult trauma center for a populous and growing 11-county area.

A team that includes the university, UT System, Seton, and Central Health—the Travis County Healthcare District—is developing a master site plan for the placement of the school, the new teaching hospital, clinics, and a medical office building. The area being studied is the corner of campus near the School of Nursing, south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, west of Interstate 35, and east of Trinity Street.

With an estimated $4.1 billion in construction and operational costs over the next 12 years, the goal is to accommodate current needs while allowing for growth, including space for private-industry medical ventures. The master plan also is being coordinated with the state of Texas. Among the many planning considerations are transportation, environmental concerns, and a design that integrates with the main campus and the surrounding area.

Join the Effort 

Just as it takes a team to diagnose a patient, to perform life-saving surgery, and to successfully deliver all types of health care, UT alumni and friends can help improve health care access, foster medical innovations, and boost the area economy by supporting the Dell Medical School. While the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation has made a $50 million commitment to the school, it will take the entire UT community to make it a success.

Learn more about the Dell Medical School and how to support it at www.utexas.edu/dell-medical-school.

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