Dell Medical School, AISD collaboration up for election

Maria Mendez

The Dell Medical School could provide health training for students in the Austin Independent School District if a $1 billion AISD bond passes.

The AISD and Dell collaboration announced their proposal last week to launch a health professions program. Through the program, Dell Medical School would help develop a health career-focused curriculum, including internship and shadowing opportunities, for AISD students. Austin residents are currently voting to approve a $1 billion bond, which includes funding for the program.

Mini Kahlon, vice dean for strategy and partnerships at the Dell Medical School, said Dell has been working with AISD to support local students since the medical school was established.

“The very first Dell Medical School students were middle and high schoolers who enrolled in our Health Sciences Summer Camps in 2014 and 2015,” Kahlon said in a press release. “It’s both our passion and part of our mission to help students see themselves in these essential roles creating healing in the community.”

Craig Shapiro, an AISD associate high school superintendent, said mentorship from Dell health professionals could encourage students to join health careers.

“We know that early exposure to the health professions, to science and to STEM programming can energize students,” Shapiro said. “(It) not only increases their academic capabilities but also really gets them excited for careers in health.”

AISD’s proposed program would also make its students more competitive for Austin’s future job market, Shapiro said.

The health and life sciences are growing industries in Austin, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Seton Healthcare and St. David’s Healthcare employ more than 6,000 people as some of the largest Austin employers.

“The health professions program would build upon the offerings we already have and create a much-needed pipeline of health professionals for Central Texas,” AISD superintendent Paul Cruz said in a press release.

Students from all of AISD could apply for the program, but the program would be housed at the existing Lyndon B. Johnson High School and at a proposed Mueller Middle School. The $22 million allocated for the program in the AISD bond would fund the creation of biomedical laboratories and classrooms at LBJ High School and at Mueller Middle School, Shapiro said.

“Twenty-first century learning spaces would require us to convert some of our traditional classrooms … to labs that would mirror the type of experience students need to prepare to enter tier one universities or the world,” Shapiro said.

The AISD bond for district facility updates would also relocate the Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School within the LBJ High School building, making space for the health professions program classrooms, Shapiro said.

“If the bond does not pass, unfortunately, this project would not be started because we need space and money,” Shapiro said.

Approval of the AISD bond is on the ballot during this year’s special elections in Austin. Election day will take place on Nov. 7, but early voting started on Oct. 23 and lasts until Friday.

“One program by itself will not meet the future demands of the city of Austin,” Shapiro said. “We’re going to need a number of programs like this with the amount of future job openings being predicted for our city.”