Here are 4 takeaways from UT Dell Medical School’s community progress update this week

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Dell Seton Medical Center

Leaders of The University of Texas Dell Medical School this week held the first in what is planned to be a series of public events to provide updates on the school’s finances and community contributions.

Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston said he wanted to give a clear picture of what the school has been up to since its inaugural class began studies this past summer. Johnston said an update is particularly important since Dell Medical School was created with significant financial help from taxpayers.

Travis County voters approved a ballot measure in 2012 that led to an affiliation agreement between UT and Central Health, the county’s public health district. As part of the measure, voters supported raising Central Health’s tax rate by 5 cents to 12.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The increase allowed Central Health to begin sending annual $35 million payments to the Dell Medical School. Since 2014, Central Health has sent $105 million to the school.

“We do take this investment from the community very seriously,” Johnston said during an event Monday at Austin Public Library’s Carver Branch in East Austin. “We’ve been given an opportunity that other places do not have.”

Here are four takeaways from Monday’s event:

1. Dell Medical School expects to gradually rely less on money from Central Health.

Dell Medical School projects 49 percent of its expenditures for FY 2016-17 will be paid with money from Central Health, according to figures provided by the school Monday.

However, that percentage is projected to decrease annually. By 2020, Dell Medical School projects it will cover 16 percent of its expenditures with money from Central Health.

Dell Medical School projects its will bring in $100.3 million in revenue during FY 16-17, with the majority of that coming from Central Health’s contribution as well as $35.2 million in state money allocated by the UT System.

Salaries and benefits are the school’s biggest expense.

Johnston said he expects philanthropic donations and state payments as well as income from clinical services and research grants will handle a greater burden in funding the medical school in the coming years.

2. The school plans to direct taxpayer dollars toward community health care.

Johnston said financial help from Central Health was integral to help Dell Medical School get through its “start-up” phase. However, beginning next year, the medical school plans to put the Travis County taxpayer money it receives toward the development of community health programs and services.

Part of that initiative will be to direct health care delivery toward low-income residents, as well as those without adequate health insurance, Johnston said.

“We think it’s perfectly reasonable to direct that toward indigent care in the coming years,” Johnston said.

3. Dell Medical School is developing a variety of health care programs.

Johnston said Dell Medical School has launched or is planning about two dozen initiatives designed to improve the health of Travis County residents.

He highlighted an orthopedic pilot program which Dell Medical School reports has increased access and reduced wait times for low-income and uninsured patients seeking treatment for musculoskeletal problems. According to the school, the pilot project has cut orthopedic patients’ wait times from more than a year to less than a month.

Monday’s event also included updates from Bill Tierney, who chairs the school’s Department of Population Health, and Lourdes Rodriguez, director of the school’s Center for Place-Based Initiatives. Both spoke of their recent work to identify health problems affecting Travis County residents.

Tierney said a nine-member “community strategy team” will continue to advise his department as it develops a national model for population health research and policy.

4. Additional community events are planned.

Dell Medical School will host a similar event from 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 27, at the Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road, Austin. That event will include a presentation and a Q-and-A session with Mini Kahlon, the school’s vice dean for strategy and partnerships.

Johnston said the school will likely hold additional community events later this year.