Education
1:27 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Interview: Dr. Clay Johnston on Innovations at Dell Medical School

The Dell Medical School at UT Austin is scheduled to open for classes in 2016. The man leading the school to that opening is newly appointed dean, Dr. Clay Johnston.

Johnston spoke with Texas Standard host David Brown about what needs to happen before classes begin – and more importantly, how the new medical school will break the mold for student education and patient care.

"We can't treat this as our one opportunity to change things," Johnston says. "The reality is that academia – at least in medicine – moves very, very slowly. So we want to create the structures, the culture, that allow us to continually move, to be nimble and move forward."

One of the modifications, Johnston says, is training new doctors that medicine is a team sport. "The physician has a role on that team. But re-jiggering health care means the physician needs to recognize that the other members of that team are adding important aspects. That means nursing, social work, pharmacy, educators. We want to bring in that interprofessionalism as well."

A lot of smart people in the medical industry are interested in the new model. "Not just a small sub-segment of physicians is frustrated with the current model of care, Johnston says. "It's interesting, you see what happens to medical students. They come in with high aspirations and a wonderful altruistic bent and we kind of punish it out of them through time. … I mean physicians want to interact with patients – they want more time with patients, not less. They don't want to think about the billing issues, they don't want to think about the legal issues … the models of care are frustrating. A lot of physicians and patients feel they are facing a computer screen and not a patient."

How will patients in Texas feel the impact of this facility?

"We're going to look at an entire population and ask, how can we change the health of an entire population? And how can we do that as efficiently as possible. … It opens up the opportunities first of all to take advantage of informatics. There's a lot more we can do. It's [using] big data and it's convincing the organization to combine their data to make it much richer and much more useful. So the hospitals, but also the pharmacies, also the food, the cigarettes, alcohol, starting to understand how all that interacts by neighborhood, zip code, individuals – all of that – to really understand what the predictors of health are. And then in a laboratory like that we can start to look at changes to improve health and whether they've had an impact. We've never been able to do that before."

You can hear more about potential innovations at the Dell Medical School by listening to the interview above.