The University of Texas at Austin was founded in 1883 by the Texas State Constitution, the result of a mandate to establish “a university of the first class.” UT Austin is now one of the largest and most respected research universities in the nation and the world. It is a diverse learning community with over 51,000 students hailing from every state and more than 100 countries. The Dell Medical School will be the newest of 18 colleges and schools on The University of Texas campus.
Old Main and the Littlefield Fountain, 1933.
Since the inception of The University of Texas in 1883, medical education was part of the plan to build a “university of the first class.” However, owing to political maneuvering, the medical branch of The University of Texas was located in Galveston, Texas, a booming port city prior to 1900, in order to garner the votes needed to locate the main university in Austin.
For 125 years, the idea for medical education in Austin continued to germinate. In 2008, UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas approved preliminary plans to locate a regional campus there, developing projections to test the financial feasibility of starting a modest-size, high-quality, research-oriented medical school in Austin. By fall of 2009, UT-Southwestern had signed an affiliation agreement with the Seton Healthcare Family in Austin to partner in providing graduate medical education and pursue a vision of developing a medical school in Austin that would provide undergraduate medical education, GME, and clinical research.
In late 2011, Texas Senator Kirk Watson created a list of ten health-care centered goals he hoped to achieve within ten years for his Central Texas district. Number one on that list was to build a medical school. Senator Watson quickly created alignment with his goals from multiple constituencies, beginning with the UT System Board of Regents. In May 2012, the Board of Regents allocated $25 million of annual funding to a UT Austin medical school, plus another $40 million spread over eight years for faculty recruiting. In November 2012, Travis County voters approved a proposition to raise property tax revenue in support of health care initiatives for Central Texas, including $35 million annually for a medical school. And in 2013, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation pledged $50 million over ten years to the school, which was named the Dell Medical School.
With significant funding sources secured, the UT System Board of Regents approved a plan in May 2013 to construct research, educational and administrative facilities, as well as a medical office building and parking garage on UT Austin property. The Seton Healthcare Family and Central Health also confirmed plans to build a new teaching hospital on leased university land in the heart of the medical campus. Construction of the UT facilities began in April 2014, with scheduled completion in 2016 – just in time to welcome the first class. The new teaching hospital, which will be named the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, will be completed by 2017.
The inaugural Dell Medical School dean was named in January 2014. S. Claiborne “Clay” Johnston, MD, PhD, is an energetic and innovative physician and researcher from highly ranked University of California at San Francisco. Dr. Johnston brings an exciting vision for innovation in medical education, research, and health care delivery – one that will ensure the medical school complements a university of the first class.
Creating the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin is, essentially, the equivalent of starting a new campus. A comprehensive plan has been developed for a medical district to be created on existing University property at the southeastern corner of the campus as part of the University of Texas at Austin Campus Master Plan. The school is scheduled to open to the first class of 50 students in the summer of 2016. As mentioned above, financial resources have been secured or sufficiently planned to fund the medical school operations.
The addition of a doctorate of Medicine will complement and strengthen many existing programs at The University of Texas at Austin. The university’s existing health professions programs will enable a medical school to access team-based, inter-professional environments in which physician education can take place and which can contribute to the delivery of superior health care in connection with clinical training. Faculty from these programs can significantly enrich the educational experience of doctoral students in Medicine, and medical faculty in turn can improve teaching of other health professions.
Students in Medicine will benefit from interdisciplinary training in fields such as cell and molecular biology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, chemistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health, sociology, psychology, kinesiology, and health care policy. A substantial number of students will be offered the opportunity to pursue formal courses of study or degree programs in these and related fields. Beyond its impact on the health professions, a doctoral program in medicine will strengthen core biomedical research at the university and catalyze the development of new interdisciplinary activities, inventions, and fields with both scientific importance and real-world application to clinical and community problems.
Academic medicine has not met its promise. It has been slow to recognize the importance of population health, has participated in a culture in which more care is often favored over better and more valuable care, and has been slow to alter its models for training future physicians and for supporting research.
At the Dell Medical School we have an opportunity to redesign academic medicine from its foundations. Rather than settling for incremental changes and relenting to traditions and dysfunctional but stable approaches, we can build a new model. We are driven by this creative opportunity and plan to develop new paradigms in several areas:
- Clinical care: we will strive to create models that reward enhancements in health as opposed to encouraging high reimbursing procedures.
- Education: we will recognize the importance of inter-professional education, complex systems, implementation sciences, and population health in all our training programs and will incorporate pedagogical innovations proven in other fields.
- Innovation: we will support a broad range of innovation, with an initial emphasis on care redesign, technology and informatics, and on interdisciplinary programs that build on the great strengths across the UT campus.
In all of these activities we will remain nimble, focused on feedback and metrics, quick to learn from our own shortcomings, collaborative, caring, and good natured.
The financial resources to fund this initiative are derived primarily from a dedicated and perpetual annual appropriation of $35 million in voter-approved Travis County tax revenue, $25 million from the UT System Board of Regents, an additional $5 million per year for eight years for faculty recruiting from the Board of Regents. This tax revenue is collected and allocated to the Dell Medical School by Central Health, the Travis County health care district that funds health care services for low-income and uninsured Travis County residents. Philanthropic gifts are also expected to be a significant contributor to the financial resources beginning with the lead gift from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation in the amount of $50 million. Additional endowment income, parent institutional contributions, gifts, and in-kind contributions also will provide support to the medical school. Tuition, beginning in the fall of 2016, state formula funding, beginning in the fall of 2017, and research grants comprise the other significant revenue sources.
The Seton Healthcare Family will be responsible for the practice plan revenue through University Physicians Group, which will provide clinical faculty salaries and resident stipends. In addition, DMS will reimburse Seton for undergraduate medical education and instructional activities provided by physicians on behalf of the Dell Medical School.
The Medical District Master Plan includes a phased development of the University's portion of the district. The location of the newly constructed medical campus – adjacent to the central UT Austin campus, the existing School of Nursing, and the new Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, the new teaching hospital that Seton is building – will facilitate productive educational and research-oriented collaborations with faculty and students in complementary colleges and schools on the central campus and in the community. Additional space for expansion is available should the need arise during or after the implementation of the phased development.
The first phase of development of the medical district will involve the construction of an education and administration building, a research building, a medical office building, a parking garage and a new cooling and heating plant. Additionally, space in the existing School of Nursing building will be renovated to accommodate training needs.
Education and Administration Building
The Education and Administration Building will serve as the epicenter of the medical student educational program. Construction will be completed before the matriculation of the inaugural class in July 2016. The building will house educational and study spaces, a library, and the administrative offices of the medical school. Technology in the building will enable video-capture and streaming of lectures and class discussions, include virtual-reality teaching computer stations, and incorporate gross anatomy lab equipment and patient simulation mannequins, as well as standard office equipment in the administrative areas.
The Research Building, Medical Office Building, and Parking Garage
The Research Building will be the primary center for medical research and will join the Medical Office Building to enable patient-based clinical and translational research. State-of-the-art facilities are being planned for the new research building, including extensive lab space, core research and imaging centers, imaging tools, and computational capabilities. The building will also house large, advanced imaging equipment and a vivarium to support clinical research studies.
The Medical Office Building will accommodate clinical exam rooms and offices, and it will adjoin the Research Building. It will be outfitted with equipment consistent with other medical facilities in order to accommodate patient exams, procedures, and other ambulatory services.
Covered parking will be available with an existing UT garage and a newly planned parking garage accommodating 1,120 automobiles next to the Medical Office Building.
Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas
Seton Family Healthcare has committed to constructing a new teaching hospital on the medical campus to serve as the primary training facility for the Dell Medical School. This hospital, known as the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, will be situated between the Education/Administration building and the Research and Medical Office buildings and will serve as the primary trauma care hospital for the City of Austin and surrounding areas.
The hospital will have 211 licensed beds including 60 critical care beds, 41 emergency treatment rooms, and 16 operating rooms. Acute Care areas will include dedicated medical/surgery beds with special safety features that are designed to support patients with behavioral health issues. The design of the building maintains critical adjacencies, such as having the Emergency Department located next to imaging and surgery adjacent to the ICU. In addition, it will facilitate better cooperative space for inter-disciplinary care, medical education, and research.