Robert Messing

The 2012 master plan, which will help shape the University’s growth for the next 25 to 30 years, includes plans for the new UT med school area, pictured above. The master plan proposes the possibility of removing the Frank Erwin Center.

UT administrators are scouring far and wide to find an inaugural dean for the Dell Medical School — a position that will fundamentally shape the school and determine its role in the Austin community. 

A search committee of UT faculty, students and industry leaders began accepting applications and nominations for the dean position this month. Applications will be reviewed this fall and officials expect the position to be filled by early 2014. The school is set to begin classes starting in fall 2016. 

A dean has his or her hand in everything from shaping general policy to providing insight on specific student and faculty situations.

“On a typical day, I might have a meeting with a small group of [senior officials or faculty], hold a series of conversations with individuals about any number of relevant and immediate issues — for example, hiring of a new senior faculty member — approve a number of faculty actions, such as salary changes, and discuss, in general terms, curricular changes,” said Francisco González-Scarano, the dean of the UT School of Medicine in San Antonio.

UT’s Dell Medical School is seeking a dean with previous academic medical experience who has a record of interdisciplinary research, management experience in running medical schools and experience communicating with political actors, private sector leaders and the media, according to a job posting released this month.

“The inaugural dean will have a tremendous opportunity to define the culture, priorities and strategies of the school in a way that doesn’t exist anywhere in the country,” said Robert Cullick, spokesman for the Dell Medical School. “It’s not only a new medical school, but one with a tremendous commitment to research.”

The dean will also be responsible for managing partnerships between UT, the Seton Healthcare Family and Travis County Central Health. Seton runs several hospitals in Austin and has committed $295 million to build a teaching hospital for students enrolled at the new medical school.

Central Health is a county organization that works to ensure Austin’s poor have access to health care. Voters last year approved a property tax increase to support the new medical school and teaching hospital, among other health projects.

Robert Messing, vice provost for biomedical sciences and chair of the search committee, said some work now being done to get the school running would be postponed until the new dean is hired.

“Several decisions will need to be made in the meantime to keep the project on schedule, but we are planning for flexibility to allow the inaugural dean plenty of opportunity to shape the program,” Messing said.

Cordell Cunningham, a medical student at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston, said the most successful deans are the deans who work with students, such as UTMB’s Dean Danny Jacobs. 

“He’s had a couple of sessions where he talks to students and listens to them,” Cunningham said. “I think stuff like that’s important.”

There is palpable excitement in Austin for this school and everyone wants it to succeed, González-Scarano said. Although maintaining active community participation is vital in running medical schools, this can also lead to challenges.

“All medical schools have multiple missions, and the stakeholders often have slightly different orders of priorities,” González-Scarano said. “The most important challenge the new dean will face is negotiating through these nuances and maintaining all of the constituencies happy while at the same time advancing the school.”

Correction: Due to an editing error, an original version of this story stated Seton pledged $245 million for a new teaching hospital. Seton has actually pledged $295 million.

The 2012 master plan, which will help shape the University’s growth for the next 25 to 30 years, includes plans for the new UT med school area, pictured above. The master plan proposes the possibility of removing the Frank Erwin Center.

UT administrators are scouring far and wide to find an inaugural dean for the Dell Medical School — a position that will fundamentally shape the school and determine its role in the Austin community. 

A search committee of UT faculty, students and industry leaders began accepting applications and nominations for the dean position this month. Applications will be reviewed this fall and officials expect the position to be filled by early 2014. The school is set to begin classes starting in fall 2016. 

A dean has his or her hand in everything from shaping general policy to providing insight on specific student and faculty situations.

“On a typical day, I might have a meeting with a small group of [senior officials or faculty], hold a series of conversations with individuals about any number of relevant and immediate issues — for example, hiring of a new senior faculty member — approve a number of faculty actions, such as salary changes, and discuss, in general terms, curricular changes,” said Francisco González-Scarano, the dean of the UT School of Medicine in San Antonio.

UT’s Dell Medical School is seeking a dean with previous academic medical experience who has a record of interdisciplinary research, management experience in running medical schools and experience communicating with political actors, private sector leaders and the media, according to a job posting released this month.

“The inaugural dean will have a tremendous opportunity to define the culture, priorities and strategies of the school in a way that doesn’t exist anywhere in the country,” said Robert Cullick, spokesman for the Dell Medical School. “It’s not only a new medical school, but one with a tremendous commitment to research.”

The dean will also be responsible for managing partnerships between UT, the Seton Healthcare Family and Travis County Central Health. Seton runs several hospitals in Austin and has committed $295 million to build a teaching hospital for students enrolled at the new medical school.

Central Health is a county organization that works to ensure Austin’s poor have access to health care. Voters last year approved a property tax increase to support the new medical school and teaching hospital, among other health projects.

Robert Messing, vice provost for biomedical sciences and chair of the search committee, said some work now being done to get the school running would be postponed until the new dean is hired.

“Several decisions will need to be made in the meantime to keep the project on schedule, but we are planning for flexibility to allow the inaugural dean plenty of opportunity to shape the program,” Messing said.

Cordell Cunningham, a medical student at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston, said the most successful deans are the deans who work with students, such as UTMB’s Dean Danny Jacobs. 

“He’s had a couple of sessions where he talks to students and listens to them,” Cunningham said. “I think stuff like that’s important.”

There is palpable excitement in Austin for this school and everyone wants it to succeed, González-Scarano said. Although maintaining active community participation is vital in running medical schools, this can also lead to challenges.

“All medical schools have multiple missions, and the stakeholders often have slightly different orders of priorities,” González-Scarano said. “The most important challenge the new dean will face is negotiating through these nuances and maintaining all of the constituencies happy while at the same time advancing the school.”

Correction: Due to an editing error, an original version of this story stated Seton pledged $245 million for a new teaching hospital. Seton has actually pledged $295 million.

As plans move forward to create the Dell Medical School, which will be affiliated with UT Austin, a search committee has been formed to find the medical school’s inaugural dean. 

The search committee consists of 18 members, including four UT System deans, several health professionals, two UT students and faculty members including Robert Messing, a pharmacy professor and vice provost for biomedical sciences who was named co-chair of the medical school’s steering committee in January. 

Da’marcus Baymon, a biology senior and member of the committee who plans to attend the UT Galveston Medical School in the fall, said he appreciated the chance to help shape the future medical school’s culture so early on in the process.

“The role of dean is critical in setting the tone for a medical school,” Baymon said. “I’m honored to help and to be a part of UT’s history.” 

Baymon said he does not yet know what qualities he hopes to find in a dean.

“I don’t want to limit myself this early on, especially before we begin to discuss candidates as a group,” Baymon said. “We’re all going to need to keep an open mind.” 

The University hired Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm with experience in finding deans for medical and health sciences schools, to help guide the search process. 

The committee members will attempt to find a dean before the start of the 2013-2014 academic year to prepare for the expected launch of the medical school in 2016. The inaugural class will likely be composed of roughly 50 students.

New Vice Provost for biomedical sciences Dr. Robert Messing has been named a co-chair of the steering committee that will oversee plans for the recently announced medical school. The steering committee will be responsible for the development of the budget, curriculum, research and clinical training programs and community engagement efforts of the new medical school. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The University has named both co-chairs of the steering committee that will oversee plans for the recently announced medical school, which Travis County voters approved to partially fund via a ballot initiative in the November election. Dr. Susan Cox, UT Southwestern’s first regional dean for the Austin area, will serve alongside Dr. Robert Messing, a neurobiologist from the University of California, San Francisco. Messing will also join as the new vice provost for biomedical sciences at UT Austin.

The steering committee the pair will co-chair is responsible for the development of the budget, curriculum, research and clinical training programs and community engagement efforts of the new medical school. Messing said a significant amount of work must be done before the school can move past the initial planning stage.

“There is no dean, no building, no staff, virtually nothing except a concept,” Messing said. “So much needs to be set in motion to make this happen.”

Though the steering committee will take responsibility for a wide range of issues, a dean hasn’t been named yet. Messing said the search is tentatively scheduled to begin in the spring of this year.

“There has been general talk about hiring someone before the end of the year,” Messing said. “But if you want to have a dean search, you have to be able to bring the candidates out here and show them all the things what we have available, that we have general plans, that accreditation is underway, that there is a lot we can build on. Only then you hire the kind of person you want.”

Messing said he and Cox will each focus on different aspects of the committee’s work. 

“Dr. Cox has significant experience in residency education, and she will be trying to deal with all of the clinical and accreditation related issues that happen early on,” Messing said. “I’m trying to collect information on all of the research opportunities and degree programs that already exist on this campus, so we can explore possibilities of joint degrees and interdisciplinary education.”

Though launching a new medical school is not easy, Messing said he is confident the steering committee will succeed.

“I think it’s all very do-able,” he said.

Published on January 23, 2013 as "UT appoints co-chairs to oversee medical school".