After nearly 130 years of anticipation, a medical school is joining UT’s academic flagship in Austin. Like any upstart, the Dell Medical School will have to deal with a number of challenges before graduating its first white coats. We take a look at how UT is gearing up.
Whether it’s pouring concrete and hanging drywall or setting up MRI machines and hiring faculty, someone has to foot the bill. In January, Michael and Susan Dell announced a gift of $50 million.
But the school will need ongoing sources of funding to get started. In UT’s case, the medical school is part of a coordinated funding plan that includes a network of clinics and a community-supported teaching hospital. The UT System Board of Regents has also committed $25 million per year to support teaching and administration.
A good medical school has an administrative and classroom wing for teaching and a laboratory wing for research. The Dell Medical School is slated to have those and more, and will work closely with the new teaching hospital that will replace University Medical Center Brackenridge.
In February, the University confirmed that it was scouting the area around the Frank Erwin Center, a spot close to the potential teaching hospital, and one that would bridge UT’s academic and medical campuses. The proposed medical district would eventually include the new hospital, academic and research buildings, parking, and a new psychiatric hospital and cancer center, according to plans approved by regents in May.
The plan calls for building around current structures, like the School of Nursing, while eliminating others, like UT’s Penick-Allison Tennis Center. It will build over what is now Centennial Park and realign Red River Street.
In January, Robert Messing was appointed vice provost for biomedical sciences and charged with guiding the creation of the Dell School. Messing is chair of the search committee for the school’s founding dean, and UT has hired the executive search firm of Witt/Kieffer to help select the candidates.
Phyllis Guze, associate vice chancellor for health affairs and senior executive dean at UC Riverside, says visionary leadership is the reason her medical school will open its doors for the first time this August.
Whomever UT chooses, Guze insists, should have a sense of how the health care industry is changing, and a clear vision for the school’s first 10 years.
“The bottom line is that the folks you recruit early on have to be risk-takers,” Guze says.
The first phase of construction for the Dell Medical School. Photo courtesy The University of Texas at Austin.