Experts talk Austin's health care revolution

State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin); Beto Lopez, co-founder and managing director at the Design Institute for Health at UT; Ben Holland, consultant with the Rocky Mountain Institute; and Mini Kahlor, vice dean of partnerships and strategy with the Dell Medical School, spoke at the Smart City: The Austin Opportunity For Health panel on March 12 at SXSW Interactive.

State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin); Beto Lopez, co-founder and managing director at the Design Institute for Health at UT; Ben Holland, consultant with the Rocky Mountain Institute; and Mini Kahlor, vice dean of partnerships and strategy with the Dell Medical School, spoke at the Smart City: The Austin Opportunity For Health panel on March 12 at SXSW Interactive.

Austin has been presented with a unique opportunity to build a medical school “from the ground up,” state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin said March 12 during a SXSW Interactive panel.

Mini Kahlor, vice dean of partnerships and strategy for the University of Texas Dell Medical School, defined the new medical school’s vision as changing the entire business of health care at the Smart City: The Austin Opportunity For Health panel.

According to the UT website, the school is on schedule to begin holding classes in June.

Kirk Watson - Smart Cities State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) said the new Dell Medical School at the University of Texas has a unique opportunity to improve the health of the Central Texas region.[/caption]

“The core element of [the school] is to actually change the business model for health and health care, because we believe that if you don’t change the financial incentives of the system we have, nothing else will change,” Kahlor said.

Improving health within Austin is a far-reaching effort that includes improving facilities and health care practices, ensuring better access to healthy food and improving transportation and transit options, she said.

Although the city and the school have a great opportunity to advance the health of the region, Kahlor said there are a few challenges that exist in the area.

“Some of the stats for Austin are exceptional in ways that are not great,” she said.

City of Austin and Travis County residents have a higher educational attainment than the state average, but poverty in the city is a challenge facing health care and a variety of other service providers, she said.
“The concept of health care and being healthy is far more fundamental, I believe, to affordability to a community than is just property taxes.”

— State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin

Watson said leaders should widen their focus when discussing topics such as affordability, which he said too often is pigeonholed into a housing issue. Affordability is an even bigger issue when one considers health, he argued.

“‘Can I buy that house that I want?’” Watson said. “That has become the definition of affordability. That’s far too narrow. The concept of health care and being healthy is far more fundamental, I believe, to affordability to a community than is just property taxes.”

Watson gave the example of an Austin resident with diabetes who is unable to afford blood sugar monitoring or insulin.

“That has an impact on their ability to work,” he said. “It has an impact on their spouse or others they’re helping with. That makes a difference in affordability. Being healthy plays a role in what they can afford to do in the community.”

Beto Lopez, co-founder and managing director of the Design Institute for Health at UT, said one of the unique factors about the new medical school will be its ability to pivot and evolve with the community.

Lopez said the school must be willing to learn and implement strategies that work while scuttling those that do not. In that way Dell will better be able serve each segment of the community.

“I think the willingness for the medical school to embrace change and to learn is probably one of the most important qualities to be able to anticipate how we can continue to strive to deliver care for everyone in the community—not just the poor or the rich, but everybody,” Lopez said.

Kahlor said the Health Transformation Building, one part of the new school, will focus on implementing sustainable, innovative practices within health care. Key to that innovation: inclusion.

“I would say the heart of the innovation in the Health Transformation Building—and we don’t have all the answers, it’s something we’re figuring out—is that the doors need to be open for everyone,” she said. “We want cutting-edge care, fantastic systems and, once you walk through that door, everything is forgotten about who is paying your bill, and you become a person who gets top-notch care. That is the target.”


MOST RECENT

The adopted budget's expenses total $54.5 million. (Courtesy city of Hutto)
Hutto officials adopt $0.536448 tax rate, creating little to no change for property taxes

After weeks of discussion, Hutto City Council has finalized the city’s budget and ad valorem tax rate for fiscal year 2021-22, which will begin Oct. 1.

The 3.27-acre tract of land will be the site of several apartment buildings. (Courtesy city of Hutto)
3.27 acres in Hutto rezoned to allow for construction of apartments

Hutto City Council rezoned 3.27 acres near CR 137 and FM 1660 from general commercial to multifamily use.

graphic
DATA: How population changed in Texas counties between census counts in 2010, 2020

Texas added nearly four million people between 2010 and 2020, according to the latest Census data.

Georgetown Police officer Michelle Gattey (Courtesy Photo)
Georgetown police officer Michelle Gattey succumbs to COVID-19

Georgetown Police loses one of its own to COVID-19

Members of the Pflugerville Educators Association gathered outside the PfISD administration building prior to a Sept. 16 meeting. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pflugerville ISD board approves paid COVID-19 leave for teachers and staff

Pflugerville ISD is joining several other school districts in Travis County that already have paid COVID-19 leave for their teachers and staff.

Emory Crossing will feature 1,341 single-family homes. (Courtesy Taylor Morrison)
Taylor Morrison announces 1,341-home community in Hutto

Hutto will soon gain a new community with 1,341 single-family homes just north of SH 130 and US 79.

Jorge and Aracely Alcocer, center, opened the Georgetown location of Fuego Latino Gastropub in 2020 with the help of their two sons and daughter. (Courtesy Fuego Latino Gastropub)
Fuego Latino Gastropub

Fuego Latino settles in to Georgetown digs

Locker Room Haircuts opened a new location at 8900 South Congress Ave. in July. (Courtesy Locker Room Haircuts)
New Locker Room Haircuts comes to Southwest Austin, plus other business news

Locker Room Haircuts and three other new businesses are now open in Southwest Austin.

UFCU pledged up to $100,000 in scholarships to Texas State University students for the 2021-22 school year. (Joe Warner/ Community Impact Newspaper)
UFCU pledges $100,00 in scholarships to Texas State students

In a statement, UFCU CEO Tony Budet expressed the passion the company has to strengthen the local communities and students, both on and off the field.

Dream Bakery
Wells Branch cake expert Dream Bakery celebrates 5-year anniversary

Dream Bakery specializes in custom cakes and gluten free baked goods.

Until funding for the full expansion can be found, library staff will focus on reconfiguring the existing facility to better use the space. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Public library master plan aimed at expanding, reconfiguring main campus approved by New Braunfels City Council

Until funding for the full expansion can be found, library staff will focus on reconfiguring the existing facility to better use the space.

The cheeseburger and fries combo ($11) is served with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and condiments on the side. (Photos By Zara Flores/Community Impact Newspaper)
Willie's Joint restaurant offers burgers, live music and more

Since 2013, Willie's Joint has served as a main street family style bar and restaurant in the heart of Buda.