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.” In 1891, the university opened a medical branch in the state’s booming port city of Galveston. But the desire for medical education in the state’s capital remained — and movement toward creating a medical school in Austin accelerated in the late 2000s.
UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas approves preliminary plans to locate a regional campus in Austin, developing projections to test the financial feasibility of starting a modest-size, research-oriented medical school in Austin.
State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) creates a list of “10 Goals in 10 Years” centered on health care. Building a medical school tops the list. Watson is instrumental in aligning multiple constituencies around these goals, including The University of Texas System Board of Regents.
The UT System Board of Regents allocates $25 million in annual funding for a UT medical school, plus another $40 million over eight years for faculty recruiting. Travis County voters take the unprecedented step of approving Proposition 1 in November, which raises property tax revenue to improve health for the people of Central Texas. The investment includes $35 million annually for a new medical school.
The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation pledges $50 million over 10 years to the school through a naming gift in January. The UT System Board of Regents approves a plan in May to construct three new buildings to house medical education, research and administrative efforts on the UT campus. Ascension Seton and Central Health, the Travis County health care district, confirm plans to build a new teaching hospital on leased university land in the heart of the burgeoning Health District.
In January, UT names Clay Johnston, M.D., Ph.D., inaugural dean of Dell Medical School — the first medical school in nearly 50 years to be built from the ground up at a top-tier Association of American Universities research university. Several months later, construction begins on medical school buildings designed with elements to support the well-being of occupants and foster collaboration. The innovative buildings ultimately earn recognition for sustainability. In July, UT, Central Health and the Community Care Collaborative sign an affiliation agreement, which formalizes the relationship among the three entities as well as the transfer of $35 million per year to support Dell Med.
At the start of the year, Dell Med launches graduate medical education programs with more than 600 residents and faculty prior to the school’s inaugural Match Day. On the heels of preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the school kicks off undergraduate medical student recruitment in the summer.
Community leaders announce the creation of Capital City Innovation, a nonprofit to foster the development of an innovation district anchored by Dell Med. Founding members include UT, Central Health and Ascension Seton. In June, the medical school welcomes its first class of 50 students and opens its Health Learning Building.
Ascension Seton opens the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, the primary teaching hospital for Dell Med, in May as a replacement to the aging University Medical Center Brackenridge. In the summer, students in Dell Med’s inaugural class start providing care in hospitals and clinics around Austin as part of clinical clerkships. UT Health Austin, Dell Med’s innovative clinical practice, begins seeing patients in October.
The school’s inaugural class enters the signature Growth Year, when students work across disciplines to improve health in Central Texas. UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center together launch the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, providing local families with world-class care close to home. The Value Institute for Health and Care begins accepting applications for a first-of-its-kind Master of Science in Health Care Transformation, jointly offered by Dell Med and UT’s McCombs School of Business.
Dell Med announces the nation’s first Department of Health Social Work within a medical school and hosts its first State of Our School address, marking five years of progress. In June, Dell Med welcomes the Class of 2023, taking the school to full enrollment for the first time. In December, the school’s Design Institute for Health collaborates with the School of Design and Creative Technologies in the UT College of Fine Arts to launch a first-of its-kind Master of Arts in Design in Health.
Dell Med earns full accreditation, paving the way for its inaugural graduation in May. In March, the first students participate in national Match Day, with 22 of 49 staying in Texas. Throughout the year, the school — joined by UT and community partners — plays an integral part in Central Texas’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In October, the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease performs the first-ever pediatric heart transplant in Austin, and in December, Dell Med is part of a campus coalition that delivers some of the area’s first vaccines.
Clay Johnston steps down as dean, kicking off a national search for new leadership for Dell Med and for medical affairs at UT. George Macones, M.D., is named interim dean; C. Martin Harris, M.D., is interim vice president for medical affairs. In December, Dell Med launches the Center for Psychedelic Research and Therapy — the first of its kind in Texas.
UT Health Austin and partner Ascension Seton perform the first kidney transplants at Dell Seton Medical Center and launch the first pediatric abdominal transplant center in Central Texas. UT President Jay Hartzell announces that Claudia F. Lucchinetti, M.D., will succeed Macones effective Dec. 1, 2022. In addition to serving as Dell Med’s second dean, she is named UT’s senior vice president for medical affairs.