Five years since the vote for its creation, Dell Medical School is expanding access to health care

Anna Lassmann

Dell Medical School is working to expand access to local health providers for communities in Austin, as highlighted in the 2017 Community Benefit Report.

The report, released by the school in August and updated on Monday, said the number of doctors in residency in Travis County has grown almost 32 percent since 2012 to include 287 residents and is projected to grow to more than 300 residents by 2020.

“There’s a very high percentage of residents that remain practicing in Texas,” said Stephen Scheibal, spokesperson for Dell Medical School. “What the expanded residency programs do is enhance the pipeline of physicians into communities.”

Five years ago from Monday, Travis County residents voted for a proposition to create the Dell Medical School on Nov. 6, 2012. The report has been released annually since the school opened to its inuagural class in 2016, detailing the impact of the school on Austin.

Six medical residency programs are now operating in CommUnityCare Health Centers and include 130 residents and 49 faculty members, according to the report. CommUnityCare centers act as primary care centers across Austin.

“It brings the academic prowess to the clinical environments and helps to expand the possibility for caring for more folks who are under-resourced,” said Alan Schalscha, chief medical officer for CommUnityCare.

The first class of medical students, now in their second year, are currently working in community clinics and hospitals through support from Central Health, which works to provide access to health care to people with low incomes, said Ted Burton, senior director of communications for Central Health.

“(The students) are caring for our patient population in a variety of settings throughout Travis County,” Burton said. “We believe very passionately that everyone should have access to the best care this community can provide.”

The Department of Women’s Health in the Dell Medical School is working to redesign the prenatal and postnatal care system to make the care accessible to women with low incomes or without insurance by moving providers to outlying communities, said Rebecca Rogers, associate chair of clinical integration and operations, women’s health.

“These are the women at highest risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes and premature babies,” Rogers said. “If we can get them engaged in prenatal care, we can get the moms healthier (and) hopefully institute some preventive measures to decrease preterm deliveries and have better outcomes for the women of the state.”

The medical school has also teamed with local and state partners such as Integral Care, Central Health and Seton Healthcare Family, to integrate mental health care with primary care to make it more accessible, according to the report.

“The patient population that we serve faces a number of barriers,” Burton said. “Making access easier and cutting down on having to drive from one clinic to the next is a really important milestone for the people we serve.”

The Center for Place-Based Initiatives within the Dell Medical School has also collected ideas from the community to address priorities in health for Travis County citizens. Ten of the submitted ideas are now being developed by the Department of Population Health.

“The idea there is a lot of times, people in communities have the best insight, both in terms of the needs of that community and ideas for addressing those needs,” Scheibal said.