AUSTIN, Texas – (June 30, 2015) – Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin has received preliminary accreditation – a major milestone that allows it to begin recruiting its first class of students; implementing its innovative academic programs and curriculum; and creating a model healthy city and community in Austin and Travis County.
Dell Medical School students will train and provide care in community clinics operated through funding from Central Health, Travis County’s health care district.
They also will learn in Dell Ascension Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, the region’s Level 1 trauma center for adults now under construction across Red River Street from the medical school. The new hospital will replace University Medical Center Brackenridge in 2017.
Dell Ascension Seton will be one of four Ascension Seton hospitals used for medical student education. The others are Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin, the region’s largest local hospital; Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, the region’s pediatric Level 1 trauma center; and Ascension Seton Shoal Creek Hospital, the region’s only nonprofit behavioral health hospital.
Ascension Seton is part of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and largest non-profit health system. Ascension and Ascension Seton are investing $245 million to build Dell Ascension Seton Medical Center at UT, which is expected to cost $295 million.
Ascension Seton Fund, with help from community leader fundraising volunteers, is spearheading the effort to raise the other $50 million from the community – one of the largest goals for a single, nongovernmental building campaign in Austin’s history.
Within Ascension Seton’s hospitals, students will have “longitudinal” primary care experiences, during which they will follow patients alongside community physicians and at clinical sites to gain greater insight over time into the prevention and management of diseases and chronic health issues.
UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves and Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston were joined by Christann Vasquez, president of Dell Ascension Seton and UMC Brackenridge; Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson; Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt; and other community leaders on June 29 to celebrate the announcement of the school’s accreditation. The event was held atop the UMC Brackenridge garage, affording participants a bird’s eye view of the construction sites across 15th Street.
Accreditation, awarded by the federally recognized Liaison Committee on Medical Education, will allow Dell Medical School to function as a medical school and – in less than a year – to welcome its first students.
“There can be only one inaugural class, and the university and our community are rightly excited this accreditation now allows us to recruit the class,” Fenves said.
“Building UT’s Dell Medical School from the ground up – conceptually and then organizationally and physically – at a major university makes it unique in American medical education today,” Fenves said. “This bold endeavor combines the intellectual resources of a top research university with unfettered thinking that allows us to examine every assumption about medical education and health care itself. And it will be a huge boon to our community and the people of Travis County, who have our heartfelt thanks for their support.”
Dell Medical School’s curriculum, which was developed with the help of more than 250 physicians, education experts, students, UT Austin faculty members and other partners, will train and support physician leaders who are as comfortable taking on transformational health challenges as they are in caring for patients.
The curriculum pulls from the most creative and effective teaching practices nationwide and introduces innovations to ensure that students’ education reflects the challenges of modern medicine.
One such feature is the “Innovation, Leadership and Discovery Year,” through which third-year Dell Medical students will have the option to work on projects related to healthcare delivery redesign, population health and informatics, or more traditional research, and have the opportunity to pursue dual-degree programs.
“We are rethinking everything about medical education and the appropriate role of a physician in the community,” Johnston said. “As a result, we designed a school in which students will learn in ways that are fundamentally different from their counterparts at established medical schools – ways that, we think, represent the evolving needs and challenges of 21st century health and healthcare. The accreditation shows that we have already begun to fundamentally change medical education in a way that is compelling to the medical education establishment.”
The curriculum also reflects the unprecedented investment that the Austin and Travis County community has made. In 2012, county voters approved Proposition 1, a ballot measure that increased property taxes to transform health and healthcare across the community, in part by creating the medical school.
“Our students will be on the ground, in our hospitals and clinics, revolutionizing the way people get and stay healthy and helping to make Austin a model healthy city,” Johnston said, “and they will make us all proud by helping to make the Dell Medical School a model for medical schools across the country.”
The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the reliable authority for the accreditation of medical education programs leading to M.D. degrees in the United States and Canada. The LCME determined that the UT Austin Dell Medical School has made sufficient progress toward compliance with relevant accreditation standards and developed satisfactory plans for its educational program.
Preliminary accreditation of the education program was awarded, allowing the program to begin accepting applications for enrollment. The preliminary accreditation is an important step in the LCME’s process that allows Dell Medical School to recruit students and administer its education program.
Full accreditation is expected in 2020 after the first class matriculates and the LCME determines that Dell Medical School can demonstrate the effectiveness of the education program and has demonstrated continued compliance.