The state of Texas officially has another medical school: The Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin has received preliminary accreditation, giving it the green light to begin recruiting its inaugural class.
On Monday, UT Austin gathered the press near four new buildings currently under construction to celebrate the occasion. As The Austin American Statesman reported, Dean Clay Johnston expects as many as 3,000 applications before the deadline hits in October. The 2016 entering class will have just 50 students.
The U.S. Department of Education permits the Liaison Committee on Medical Education to accredit the country’s medical schools. In all, the state of Texas counts nine medical schools in College Station, Dallas, Houston, El Paso, Galveston, Lubbock, San Antonio, and now Austin. Of those nine, five fall under the University of Texas umbrella. The last Texas medical school to achieve accreditation was the Texas Tech University health Sciences Center in 2008.
“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,” said UT Austin President Gregory Fenves in a statement. “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.”
In 2011, then-mayor (and current Democratic state senator) Kirk Watson announced a goal to turn Austin into a hotbed for cancer research. Last year, a 10-year, $50 million gift from the LIVESTRONG Foundation helped the school sail past its fundraising goal well ahead of its planned eight years.
“Nothing will embody our spirit of innovating excellence as much as next year’s opening of the Dell Medical School, the first new medical school in nearly 50 years to be established at a member school of the prestigious American Association of Universities,” Fenves wrote in an editorial earlier this month published in the state’s largest dailies. “At the Dell Medical School, we are developing a new model for medical education that partners with the community, redesigning healthcare to better align with society’s interests in quality and value.”
The medical school will place an added emphasis on innovation, giving third-year students the chance to engage in population health initiatives as well as efforts to redesign the delivery of healthcare. Another program, known as Texas Health Catalyst, is a collaboration with UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Pharmacy, and the Office of Technology Commercialization. The Catalyst program will help students identify research angles to develop medical devices and other products to improve a community’s health.
It’s basically a high-stakes incubator: Finalists will compete for funding of up to $300,000 while receiving input from life sciences experts in Austin who focus on product development, venture capital, regulatory issues, and patent law.
The school’s curriculum was developed with the help of 250 physicians, education experts, students, and UT faculty.
Full accreditation is expected in 2020 once the first class graduates.