AUSTIN, Texas — Less than four years after Travis County voters passed a proposition to establish and invest in a new medical school at The University of Texas at Austin, the Dell Medical School is welcoming its first class of 50 students this week.
Selected from among more than 4,500 applicants, the students have degrees ranging from biology and engineering to art and philosophy. Their ages span from 20 to 39. Together, they will help fulfill Dell Med’s mission of revolutionizing the way people get and stay healthy, helping create a vital, inclusive health ecosystem in Austin that is a model for the nation.
“Calling each of these students, personally inviting them to be part of our first class, was the most gratifying thing I’ve done in my professional life. They are an amazing group and are here because they want to help lead the charge in realigning medicine with society’s interest in health,” said Clay Johnston, the Dell Medical School’s inaugural dean.
“We have always focused on attracting students who are leaders — who are good at solving problems and challenging norms as well as taking tests and processing lectures. This class is a testament to that,” Johnston added. “While test scores and grade-point averages are considerations in admission — and our students do very well by those measures — we look for applicants with a wide diversity of skills and backgrounds who are comfortable working in teams. Our students have already distinguished themselves as leaders and innovators. I can’t wait to see what they’re about to do.”
Along with its unprecedented community support, one of Dell Med’s key differentiators is its status as the first medical school in nearly 50 years to be built from the ground up at a top-tier, Association of American Universities-member research campus. Dell Med’s first class, which starts orientation Monday and will begin regular classes July 5, will play a critical role in laying the school’s foundation.
“This is a key milestone for the medical school, and it also is a historic landmark for the entire university,” said Gregory L. Fenves, UT Austin’s president. “Across campus, we have set the goal of transforming health care, and welcoming this first class of future physician-leaders is a major step toward that goal.”
Keeping with the tradition of commemorating major campus accomplishments, the UT Tower will glow orange tonight in honor of the first class.
Regarding the make-up of the class, 46 out of the 50 students are Texas residents. The state Legislature requires that at least 90 percent of public medical school students be residents of Texas.
In addition, 22 percent of the class identifies with racial or ethnic groups historically underrepresented in medicine. The national average last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, was 13 percent. Every Dell Med student received some form of scholarship support.
When classes begin next week, students will be trained in the Health Learning Building, the first of three Dell Med buildings to open in Austin’s burgeoning health district. The architecturally arresting, light-infused space has more than 2,000 panes of glass and is defined by a 118-step staircase ascending along the northern side of the building, creating a “social edge” that facilitates interactions among students and faculty members.
The school’s groundbreaking Leading EDGE curriculum uniquely combines training in Essentials, Delivery, Growth and Exploration, creating another differentiator for Dell Med. The curriculum was developed in collaboration with more than 250 UT Austin faculty members, local physicians and education experts, and it builds on national efforts to close the gaps between how medical students are educated and how health care needs to be delivered.
The curriculum focuses on team-based problem solving, interprofessional education, leadership development, technology integration and educational flexibility. It leverages Dell Med’s relationships with the Seton Healthcare Family and Central Health, Travis County’s health care district, to train students in ways that improve the overall health of the community. As part of this collaboration, students will also train at the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, a teaching hospital scheduled to open in May 2017.
“Our curriculum will ensure that students are prepared for the challenges of 21st century medicine,” said Sue Cox, executive vice dean for academics and chair of medical education, who led the development of the curriculum. “When they graduate from the Dell Medical School, students will be as comfortable taking on systemic health care challenges as they are caring for individual patients.”