It's Time to Build a Medical School in Austin

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Earlier today, I delivered a speech declaring that it’s time for a medical school, teaching hospital and research institute in Austin.  I also outlined the process I’m proposing to finally get it done after all these years, as well as the group I’ve put together to lead the effort.
Below, you'll see the text of the first part of the speech, along with links to other sections of it (for a full version, go here).
This is going to be a long effort involving a whole lot of people.  But the economic and quality-of-life payoff, for Austin and all of Central Texas, would be enormous.  I hope you’ll keep an eye on it, help with it, and join this community effort to make this long-sought vision a reality.

It’s time for a Medical School in Austin.

That sounds so good.

Such an easy, obvious declaration.  But despite the certainty behind that statement and the diversity of people who will chant it like it’s a mantra … it hasn’t happened.  So we wait.  And we watch.

We watch Austin grow into one of the largest cities in the country without a medical school and teaching hospital.  We watch the University of Texas at Austin stand as one of only a handful of Tier One research institutions without a medical school.

Meanwhile, we see all the things a medical school, teaching hospital and additional health resources offer.  And we watch other cities and regions seize these opportunities and assets that we want and need:

— We see the medical schools and teaching hospitals … and the doctors who start in those hospitals and spend their lives working in those communities long after their training and residencies are completed.   

— We see the improved, cost-effective opportunities for medical care open to folks who don’t have or can’t afford health insurance … and the cutting-edge treatments and cures that people right here at home need to be healthier, or even need to survive, but that they have to travel to places like Houston and Dallas to get.  

— We see the jobs and economic booms in biotech, health science and medical research that regions with medical schools, teaching hospitals and related assets can jump on … and the business startups, technology licensing, and tens of thousands of jobs launched by that research and discovery.  

We see all of it.  

And then we look here at Austin and we see … Well, we see that we don’t have these things.  

As of today, as of right now, that’s going to change.

Just look at who we have in this room, ready to go.

They're here knowing, and I’m here today to say, that it’s time to act.  To look forward.  To say with certainty and purpose that it really is time to create jobs and boost our economy by building on healthcare and medical research.  It’s time for a new way of life that will make this healthy community even healthier.

It’s time for a medical school and health science center in Austin.  And if we look at our history, we’ll see that we have a great chance to fulfill this vision.

Regional History

I deeply believe we’re entering a new phase in Austin’s history, one that makes a medical school – and everything that goes with it – both more critical and more achievable than it’s ever been.  And when we think about transitioning into this new era, it helps to think about the transitions that have come before.

The Fourth Transition

But it would be a mistake to treat medical education and research like it’s some new song from an old band we all liked back in the ’70s.  You don’t just drop the semiconductor wafer, pick up a scalpel, and keep going the way you’ve been going.  This isn’t simply another version of something we already know.
This is new, and it’s potentially bigger than any of us have ever seen.

The Assets We Have

Think for a minute about the inventory of assets this community can bring together to help us create a medical school and health science center in Austin:

10 Things in 10 Years: The People

Let’s set 10 goals.  10 steps that lead to a teaching hospital, medical school and health science center.

Let’s reinforce an Austin way of life built around intelligence, inclusiveness and community well-being.

I’ve met, consulted and worked with a large group of dedicated people – many of you in this room – to come up with these 10 concrete outcomes.  Achieving them will require hard work, targeted work and responsibility.  So Central Texas business and community leaders will form an organizing committee to create Austin’s medical school and health science center.

10 Things in 10 Years: The Goals

This impressive group will focus on achieving, over the next 10 years, these 10 transformative and interlocking goals:
1.  Build a medical school.
2.  Build a modern teaching hospital.
3.  Establish modern, uniquely Austin health clinics.
4.  Develop a Research Institute and laboratories for public and private research.
5.  Launch a new commercialization incubator.
6.  Start a comprehensive cancer treatment center.
7.  Provide needed psychiatric care and facilities.
8.  Improve basic infrastructure, and create a sense of place.
9.  Bolster the medical examiner’s office.
10.  Solve the funding puzzle.

Pitfalls and Possibilities 

… This is a program that’s much bigger than this committee and even the folks in this room.  This is a program for our community.  It requires the contributions of more people, from more segments of our community, than any single program I’ve seen in more than 20 years of public life.  It will require hard work, creativity, unselfish input and commitment from a truly remarkable group of people, and a truly remarkable number of people.
And whatever’s required … is what we must do.
Austin must seize this chance and create this fabric for the health of our neighbors, our economy, and our children and grandchildren.  We have to be mindful of the problems and pitfalls of the past, but we must not be intimidated by them.
We’ve got to be open, honest and accountable, working to create and build, not destroy and tear down.  We’ve got to make new friends, join new constituencies, and form bonds that ensure everyone who can gain from this project really does.
Most importantly, we’ve got to resist the temptation to keep waiting, watching and wishing.  We’ve got to throw out the past and reject the old excuses.  We must not tell ourselves that somehow, sometime, some better deal will come along.

It won’t.

This is the moment.   This is our chance.

It’s time for a medical school, teaching hospital and health science center in Austin.  And I’m looking forward to working with all of you to make it happen.


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  1. Location
    is key. Please don't let this be built up in sprawl-country (Round Rock).

    This would be a good anchor for the city's urban rail line in Mueller IF we can get the density high enough. Think the Houston Medical Center (which is the main reason their rail line did so well) – not like the supposedly high but really low density stuff currently in Mueller.

    • Especially for low-income people
      who need access to quality, affordable care. Who often ride the bus. And can't be expected to ride said bus for 2 hours to get 5 miles to the hospital.

      I am really enthusiastic about this — the creative ways of providing care that a teaching hospital can provide would be a huge boon to our community. And it will create lots of jobs, not just at the hospital and teaching center, but all of the supporting businesses as well, from the potential to relocate biomedical firms to the hot dog* cart out front.

      * And since this is Austin, I am sure it will be vegan dogs with vegan chili on top.  

      • Need to emphasize though
        the model needs to be Houston's medical center (TALL buildings, no parking lots; expensive structured parking if anything); NOT the current Mueller model of “new suburbanism”. If we end up with more development like the Dell Children's Hospital, it will be a disaster.

  2. who benefits
    One of the less obvious but most important benefits:  in cities that have medical schools and teaching hospitals, the quality of health care at every level tends to be better.  Doctors and nurses in other health care facilities are challenged to keep up with the latest, cutting edge research in a way that they are not in “backwater” locations.  This is not a conjecture, but an observation by a health care professional shortly after moving from a city that does have such state of the art health care.

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