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.
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.”