Dell Medical School’s first class experiences new curriculum

Areeba Khwaja

Austin is known for entrepreneurship involving the food, music and tech industries, but now it’s emphasizing the medical industry.

On Sept. 1, Dell Medical School’s director of humanities, Joel Daboub, spoke to a room of wide-eyed premedical students about new opportunities that will be offered at Dell Medical School, whose first class of 50 students started classes this July. During the talk, which was held in Painter Hall and sponsored by the Health Professions Office, Daboub shared why he thought Dell is able to offer a unique medical education to its students.

As an institution that was able to “start from scratch” in 21st-century medicine, Daboub said that Dell Medical School has completely revolutionized its curriculum to serve the needs of a diverse medical community.

“Traditional medical education is set up where students spend the first two years studying hard science, while the last two are spent doing clinical rotations across various different medical specialties to apply their knowledge,” Daboub said.

But not at Dell Medical School.

Students will be able to work on realistic cases from day one through their Developing Outstanding Clinical Skills program. Learning will take place in small group settings and students will have the opportunity to collaborate with students from the School of Nursing, the School of Social Work, and the College of Pharmacy. According to Daboub, these inter-professional teams are meant to simulate a real-life work environment, where collaborative approaches are required to take care of patients.

“The layout of the program is really unique because it focuses on the fundamentals as well as cooperative learning in small groups … inside and outside the classroom,” said Mary Feng, a neuroscience sophomore.

Built into the curriculum is also a leadership class that will run for all four years of the students’ time. Dell has partnered with the McCombs School of Business to bring in management experts and teach students about leadership skills.

“We’re not just training people to be physicians at Dell Med, but to be leaders who can take responsibility and create solutions,” said Daboub.

The third year, or the “Growth Year,” has been set aside as a year in which students can create individualized experiences to further their own particular career goals. Daboub said that students will be encouraged to take on initiatives that they are passionate about and bring them to life.

“We can provide the resources,” Daboub said, “Whether students will need funding to start a business, or lab space to test an idea, we can help students find what they need. We want them to carry out a project from scratch and really become experts in their topics of interest.”

Daboub explained that these new initiatives are aimed at giving back to the Austin community and spearheading new ideas to turn Austin into a “model healthy city.”

The “Growth Year” also provides students an opportunity to obtain a second degree in public health, business administration, biomedical engineering or educational psychology.

“I love how each year is dedicated to a pillar that helps students grow and become well-rounded, especially how in the third year students can either pursue a dual degree or devise a project for the community,” Feng said.

Physicians and professors at Dell Medical School hope the new curriculum will better prepare medical students for a diverse and ever-changing medical environment.

“This is our first class of medical students coming in, but we are really excited and fortunate to have them here,” Daboub said. “They are truly leaders and innovators and learners, and we’re really glad that they share the same passion we do because these are the values that Dell Medical School stands for.”