Dell Med Kickoff Invites Community Input

Clay Johnston, Dell Medical School
Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston encouraged the audience to share their hopes for the school at the groundbreaking ceremony, held April 21, 2014. 

Construction symbolically kicked off for the Dell Medical School (DMS) at a ceremony Monday morning. Without the traditional golden shovels digging into dirt, UT President Bill Powers joined other community leaders at the site of the future medical school complex to celebrate this next step toward the realization of the medical school.

"Today, we embark on the construction of three magnificent buildings that will form the heart of the Dell Medical School at UT Austin: an academic building, a research building and a medical office building," Powers said. He noted that the university, already one of the biggest in the country, isn't opening the med school simply to grow, but rather to improve.

"To be better means to be of greater service to society," he said. "The Dell Medical School will embody the next innovation and, hopefully, many hundreds of innovations in medical education, and indeed, in health care itself."

To underscore this idea, Powers wrote the word "innovation" on a poster meant to capture the community's hopes and aspirations for the medical school.

Central Health, one of the partners in DMS (including the university and the Seton Healthcare Family), was represented by its board chair, Brenda Coleman-Beattie. The word she added to the poster was "community," noting that Central Health has worked toward an Austin-based medical school for many years.

"In just two short years, the next generation of doctors will begin their training in order to serve our community," Coleman-Beattie said. "These young physicians in training will bring needed primary and specialty care to our community clinics."

Jesús Garza, president and CEO of the Seton Healthcare Family, acknowledged the multifaceted mission of the medical school in his remarks.

"While we anticipate great advances to flow from a research-focused Dell Medical School, it will also be a place where young doctors learn what it means to care about the whole person, mind, body and spirit," Garza said, before writing the word "care" on the poster.

A member of the audience shares his hopes for Dell Medical School.
A member of the audience shares his hopes for Dell Medical School. 

"My word my aspiration for the Dell Medical School is 'transformation,'" said State Senator Kirk Watson, who has been a key figure in the evolution of Dell Medical School, spearheading the campaign for Proposition 1, which was approved by Travis County voters in November 2012. "We invested in something that will change what it means to live in Central Texas. We invested in transformation," he added.

Clay Johnston, the inaugural dean of DMS, added a phrase, "Model Healthy City," summarizing his aspirations that the new medical school and in-patient teaching hospital will help Austin become one of the healthiest cities in America. Johnston hopes the new school will tap into Austin's technology and research communities to find new ways both to educate medical professionals and deliver health services.

"We have a responsibility to take advantage of our newness," Johnston said, "to test out different ways of doing things that could become models for the rest of the country."

Johnston invited members of the community to share their dreams for the medical school via social media. Words and phrases emailed to or posted on the Dell Medical School Facebook page will be memorialized as part of the complex. Or tweet your aspirations @DellMedSchool using the #IHopeDellMed hashtag.

Images from Dell Medical School's three partner entities come together in this video that was shown at the groundbreaking ceremony Monday.

In Pursuit of Health series graphic

This story is part of our yearlong series "In Pursuit of Health," covering medical news and research happening across the university.