Dell family foundation to donate $60 million for UT medical school, local health care [Austin American-Statesman]
(Austin American-Statesman (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 31--A medical school to be built at the University of Texas got a major shot of adrenaline Wednesday with the announcement that the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation will donate $50 million to the school. The foundation also said it would contribute $10 million to improve access to local health care and to improve the quality of that care.
The school -- to be named the Dell Medical School -- is expected to be built at the southern edge of the UT campus, at a yet-to-be-determined site near University Medical Center Brackenridge, the region's highest-level trauma center. Officials hope to enroll the first class of 50 students by 2015 but consider 2016 more likely.
The $50 million for the medical school, to be paid at a rate of $5 million a year for 10 years, will bring the Dell family foundation's contributions to the Austin flagship to more than $100 million. Previous gifts include $38 million to help underwrite UT's Dell Pediatric Research Institute.
"The Dells have been fabulously generous," UT President Bill Powers told the American-Statesman. "We are absolutely grateful for their support. I think this will jump-start the philanthropic effort for the medical school in the rest of the community."
Speaking to invited guests at the foundation's headquarters in Austin on Wednesday evening, Michael Dell said he foresees a host of benefits associated with the medical school, including an influx of specialists and researchers to the area, new synergies involving such fields as nursing and pharmacy, and innovative technology investments.
"The establishment of a medical school at the University of Texas is great for our families, for Austin and for the entire nation because the effects of a medical school will be felt well beyond the UT campus," he said.
Janet Mountain, executive director of the foundation, said in an interview that Michael and Susan Dell began discussing the potential for a medical school with UT officials in 2006. The donation reflects their "affinity for this community," Mountain said. "They're long-term residents of Austin. They love Austin. They believe this will be a tremendous asset to the community."
Michael Dell dropped out of UT in 1984 to sell computers out of his apartment. Dell Inc. is now the world's third-largest personal computer maker.
The announcement of the gift comes three months after Travis County voters approved a property tax increase to generate $35 million a year for the medical school.
"That was really important in terms of making sure the community was equally behind the concept of this medical school," Mountain said.
State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who has championed the medical school and other health initiatives, agreed: "Not only is it a significant stamp of approval on what Travis County voters did, but I truly believe it will catalyze philanthropy for this fantastic program."
Watson said he expects the medical school to receive donations for endowed faculty positions, among other things.
A "letter of intent" signed last week by Powers and Mountain specifies that UT will move quickly to launch a major fundraising effort.
Other elements of the medical school's financing include millions from the UT System's endowment and the Seton Healthcare Family, the region's largest hospital system.
University documents previously obtained by the Statesman through an open records request project a $233 million price tag for building and equipping a classroom and administration building, a research facility and a unit for experiments involving mice and rats.
Capital and operating costs for 12 years could total $4.1 billion, according to the documents. The Seton Healthcare Family would shoulder $1.9 billion of that, in part by underwriting residents, who are freshly minted doctors undergoing additional training. Separately, Seton has tentatively agreed to spend $250 million to replace UMC Brackenridge with a new teaching hospital.
Gene Powell, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, said in a statement that a powerful public-private partnership has emerged. "Austin is the new beneficiary of enhanced health care and countless economic development opportunities," he said.
System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said the gift from the Dell family foundation "truly saves lives. Investments in medical education, biomedical research and health care touch all citizens."
The university and the foundation will decide together how to allocate the $50 million, officials said. Similarly, the community-based health care initiatives to be supported by the separate $10 million donation have yet to be firmed up, said Megan Matthews, a spokeswoman for the foundation.
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, established by the computer company's founder and his wife, is the region's wealthiest philanthropic organization, with $817 million in assets. The foundation has donated $975 million locally and around the world since its inception in 1999. That includes $150 million in the past 10 years for various health-related initiatives in Central Texas, some of which bear the Dell name, such as the Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living and the new medical school.
The foundation has offices in India and South Africa, where it underwrites programs aimed at improving public education, childhood health and the economic stability of poor families.
A force for improving health
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has donated or pledged $150 million for health-related initiatives in Central Texas since 2003:
--$50 million for University of Texas Dell Medical School
--$10 million for community health initiatives
--$1 million for Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity
--$4 million for electronic medical records, mobile health, Seton Breast Cancer Center
--$38 million for UT's Dell Pediatric Research Institute
--$6 million for Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
--$32 million for Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas
--$9 million for community clinics
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