The Dell Foundation promised a $25 million matching donation to the Seton Healthcare Family’s teaching hospital Tuesday.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The Dell Foundation promised Tuesday to match donations, dollar for dollar, up to $25 millions for the Seton Healthcare Family’s teaching hospital to help cover the remaining costs.

The hospital will be located next to the under-construction Dell Medical School, to which the Foundation donated $50 million in 2013. The 211-bed teaching hospital is slated to open in 2017 and will cost an estimated $295 million. 

The new hospital will work in affiliation with the medical school, according to a legal agreement between UT, the UT System Board of Regents and Seton Healthcare Family. 

“UT Austin and Seton will also work to expand the healthcare infrastructure, workforce, and services available to all residents of Central Texas,” the agreement states.

Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) released a statement shortly after the announcement in support of the donation.

“Our community’s goal of transforming health care in Austin and beyond requires a modern, 21st century teaching hospital,” Watson said. “This generous donation from the Dell Foundation helps us reach that goal.”

Watson said the hospital and the medical school are vital to completing his “10 Goals in 10 Years” plan to improve health care in Central Texas.

“We’re well on our way to accomplishing the 10 goals in 10 years that I laid out in 2011, and the Dell Foundation has proved an invaluable partner,” Watson said. “It’s exciting to see this much momentum and progress.”

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of the College of Pharmacy | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with the deans of the University’s 18 schools and colleges. Lynn Crismon was appointed dean of the College of Pharmacy in 2007. This interview has been condensed to fit space requirements.


The Daily Texan: Could you talk about how you collaborate with the nursing school and how you plan to collaborate with the medical school?


Lynn Crismon: This is a national movement. In fact, all of the health professional schools have national accrediting bodies for each professional discipline, and all of those accrediting bodies have started putting interprofessional education as a core curricular requirement. The philosophy is that if we’re going to transform healthcare to better meet people’s needs, we need providers that are working together collaboratively in a team-based fashion so that people’s needs are met. If you don’t have those individuals begin working together when they are students and trainees, how can you realistically expect that they’re going to know how to work together once they get out in the practice setting? So that’s sort of the overall philosophy. There are some curricular and there are some extracurricular things that the students are currently doing. The curricular things really surround, primarily, some elective coursework and ethics, where they’re doing group seminars and things, and there are also some interprofessional project, education project initiatives that students are doing together.

We have some non-curricular things through students’ organizations — community service projects. We have an initiative called Project Collaborate which involves pharmacy and nursing and social work students, where they do health screenings for underserved consumer populations, and most of those screenings they’ve done, somewhere between 40 to 50 percent of the individuals they’ve screened do not have a primary care provider. So, the pharmacy students, the nursing students do most of the screenings, and then the social work students will try to work with those people to refer them to different resources where they can get help to get healthcare. We hope with the inauguration of the Dell Medical School, we’ll be able to move things to a different level.

I was on the search committee for the [medical school] dean, and we really very, very intentionally, in terms of the questions that we asked the dean candidates, we asked about their philosophies on interprofessional education... When we interviewed Dean [Clay} Johnston... He knew exactly what we were talking about, and he totally embraces this vision that if we’re really going to meet people’s needs in terms of healthcare, then we have to provide healthcare differently, and that means optimizing people’s education and training skills, regardless of the initials behind their name.


DT: Is there a gender imbalance in the pharmacy school?


Crismon: Pharmacy over the course of my career has done a complete flip-flop in terms of gender balance. When I was a student, we were probably about 75 percent male, 25 percent female. Now, we run generally around 65 percent of each class is female, about 35 percent is male.


DT: What are some goals and new initiatives that have happened in the college in the past couple of years or that you’re planning for for the next couple of years?


Crismon: We started an endowment ... to honor a retired faculty member, Arlyn Kloesel, with a goal to look at new practice models and new business models in pharmacy, and we finally got that up to enough money that we can start awarding grants to faculty and to students to research projects, to explore those business models and practice models. More recently, we had an alum who’s really interested in giving, first some cash awards and then later a planned gift, in order to foster entrepreneurism in pharmacy, both in terms of looking at the practice level as well as looking at the research level with such things as drug development, because we have a major drug development research initiative.

We’re looking at transformation in health care, what are the practice models and the business models that will be successful in the future for pharmacists to be able to be successful in practice? Because if you don’t have the business model and the practice model aligned, it’s going to fail because you’ll go broke. It doesn’t matter how good of care you provide; if you can’t protect the bottom line, you’re not going to be successful in any endeavor.


DT: Is there anything else you want students to know?


Crismon: There’s really just a multitude of different career paths that people can pursue. It’s a lot different than just what the average person thinks about when they look at going to a community pharmacy. In fact, only slightly less than half of our grads actually go into community pharmacy. All of the rest of them go into other different areas of practice ... You often don’t think about the pharmacist that’s at Brackenridge [Hospital] or that’s at the surgical center or a variety of other different places that people practice.

Abbott's healthcare proposal is lacking

A few days ago, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, unveiled his plan for women's healthcare issues. The plan itself is painfully short on details, and is a rather limited solution to a big problem.

The plan raises money for important women's healthcare such as cancer screenings, as well as more incentives for medical professionals to expand their services into historically underserved communities. As many liberal commentators have noted, this plan is more show than substance, and it completely ignores one solution that would provide a huge, immediate benefit to the women of Texas: allowing the federal government to step in and expand Medicaid, as prescribed by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, the Democratic candidate for governor, has not offered much in the way of highly detailed plans on this topic herself. However, Abbott should face special scrutiny, given the fact that he has so vigorously campaigned for the continued enforcement of an omnibus anti-abortion bill (the one Davis filibustered) that will likely close down the vast majority of clinics that provide abortions to women in Texas.

Contrary to what many in the Republican Party may say, Planned Parenthood and likewise services do not exclusively terminate pregnancies, nor is it the majority of what they do. Rather, family planning organizations such as them spend enormous resources providing basic healthcare for women, including cancer screenings. Since Davis doesn't want these clinics closed, she doesn't have to explain how she intends upon making up the invaluable services to the women of Texas.

Perhaps Abbott should hire a few female advisors on this topic. According to photographs of Abbott's press conference at a hospital in Houston wherein he announced his new platform, the only relevant players in this policy debate are men. No fewer than eight stand directly behind him as he discusses healthcare and choices that will directly affect none of them.

Horwitz is an associate editor.

Every Friday, the Daily Texan editorial board will publish a selection of tweets and online comments culled from the Daily Texan website and the various Daily Texan Twitter accounts, along with direct submissions from readers. Submissions can be sent to 


Wrong on healthcare


I see your editorial group bemoans the idea that “Texas is sinking to the bottom in measures of national health care quality.” I am a physician. I can tell you after decades of work in medicine and becoming much more understanding of economics, history and politics, it’s a complex and simple issue at the same time. What I mean by that is, on the one hand, any American would be delighted to leap on a plane and have his cancer diagnosis addressed at the great Texas MD Anderson Hospital- no better place in the world to get such care. On the other hand medicine has needed reform, for example, some people find medical care too costly.  Our Democratic Party did not reform medicine, it radically transformed it, it crushed a giant complex and overall great system built up over decades. The simple part of it is what you students don’t understand. And what you don’t understand is this radicalism will make the problems dramatically worse. You don’t understand that the goods and services of medicine is just like the goods and services involved with cars, apples or Apple laptop computers. The best way, the most moral way, to create and distribute such goods services is by free market capitalism. 

What has happened over the past 50 years since FRD is that this American notion has been rejected by many Americans and replaced by essentially Marxist- based state control. This is the simple core of the problem. Now with Obamacare the problem has been made exponentially worse. The State takeover is almost complete. Just like with cars or food or computers that might be built and distributed, heaven forbid by the state, the goods and services of medicine will now dry up, become mediocre, and get a lot more expensive. Your freedom to decide with your doctors what is best for you individually will be almost gone as 15,000 new pages of laws come spewing forth from the enlightened in Washington. You worry about government getting into your reproductive issues? Now you’ll have government not only of your testicles and ovaries but government of your lungs and livers and hearts and kidneys.

 Most of you disagree and will keep supporting and voting for this Leftist un-American  “Hope and Change” nonsense. However, I and thousands of other doctors guarantee you, when you abandon our great American values like that of free market capitalism, you actually abandon hope and the once great bounty and excellence of American medicine. You’ll see. Elections do have great consequences. Brace yourselves for the world of the department of motor vehicles American medicine- a very sad image for our great country.

— Howard Sachs M.D., submitted via e-mail in response to “Horns Down: Texas failing in healthcare measures” 


Down with Davis


“She can’t detail her own life with honesty. what are you expecting?” 

— Twitter user @longhornblondie in response to the editorial “Davis’ education policy is short on specifics, just like her campaign” 


I’m more than a sofa


“As I accessed this page, a pop up assaulted my senses with an advertisement that asked the question, “What does your sofa say about YOU?” My sofa says nothing about me or Steve Sonnenberg or Rolando Hinojosa Smith or Ricardo Ainslie or many of the distinguished senior faculty members whose work is so richly and deeply human and who use their hearts and souls as well as their minds in order to make sure students have a chance to really know and feel what is what during their time on the Forty Acres.

Steve is a fine example of a dedicated humanist who has never been aware that there is any box he needs to think outside of.  His mind, heart and soul make clear that knowing who we are as human beings is what will ‘change the world’, not focusing on four-year graduation rates or whether the head football coach is brown or white or strong or weak. 

Steve’s work in the school of architecture, the Humanities Institute, spearheading the idea for a Veterans Park and Pavilion, and his teaching with me in a Plan II seminar and working with Plan II and other senior thesis writers and his concern that the new Medical School will have a serious humanistic component in its training are models for what it is to be a good citizen of our University community, our city, our state, our country and indeed our world.” 

— Tom Palaima, Professor of Classics, Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor of Classics, in response to the news article “Architecture professor honored for contribution to medical field”

Heatlhcare policy in Texas will change after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and panelists Monday focused on uncovering the future of those policies and Medicaid’s place in Texas. 

The panel included Anne Dunkelberg, from the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities and Arlene Wohlgemuth, from the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Health Care Policy. William Sage, law professor and vice provost for health affairs, moderated the talk.

“What we’re looking for as advocates is something that will establish a systematic way to affordable healthcare that will be available to all levels,” Dunkelberg said. “To make any of that work — be affordable, effective — you got to have a system of getting healthcare cost under control.”

Dunkelberg said as of 2011 there were 6.1 million uninsured Texans, a majority of them working-age adults. She said expanding Medicaid would bring $24.1 billion in federal money to Texans and insure 1.5 million more people by 2017, though three million Texans would still be uninsured.

Wohlgemuth said Medicaid needed reform, not expansion. Wohlgemuth said with the Affordable Care Act, younger and healthier people and small employers in Austin will see an increase of 162 percent in insurance premiums by 2014. On the other hand, older and sicker individuals in Austin will see a decrease of 32 percent in premiums.

“I think we have to look very seriously at actual experience rather than projections,” Wohlgemuth said.

Wohlgemuth made reference to two Medicaid expansion examples in Arizona and Maine, both of which failed to decrease the percentage of uninsured and ended up costing hundreds of millions of dollars more than expected.

“We can do better,” Wohlgemuth said. We can do better for the Medicaid patient. We can do better for the taxpayer.”

Wohlgemuth advocated a system where people make their own decisions about what to pay for in healthcare. She said that this will make people more aware of how much healthcare costs.

“The individual in charge of spending the money is going to be the best consumer,” Wohlgemuth said.

Both Dunkelberg and Wohlgemuth agreed that overall there needs to be more transparency for healthcare costs.

Ben DeMarsh, a second-year law student, attended the panel on Monday. DeMarsh is also a member of the Health Law and Bioethics Society, one of the four School of Law clubs that helped host the event.

“There’s bipartisan support for greater healthcare cost transparency,” DeMarsh said. “There’s a need for more consumer-driven medical care.”

DeMarsh said although the speakers disagreed on expanding Medicaid, people should become more actively involved with how their money is spent on medical care.

“I really believe that cost transparency is the most important aspect of anything that we can do with health reform,” DeMarsh said.

Printed on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 as: Panelists debate merits of Medicaid expansion 

This article was corrected after its original posting.

Texas Republicans — including Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus — ran and won on a platform that promised a balanced state budget without new taxes.

State budget and politics experts said Wednesday the legislative session may be just as painful for Republicans as election night was for Democrats if they balance the budget with huge cuts to education and healthcare. The budget shortfall could be as much as $25 billion, or about 30 percent of state spending based on the current budget.

The reduction of Democrats in the Texas House means that Republicans will take sole responsibility for consequences of significant budget cuts, said Dave McNeely, a retired political columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.

“Nov. 2 was a bad day to be a Texas Democrat, and the day the next legislative session opens will be a bad day to be a Republican,” McNeely said. “The cuts are going to be savage — Texas already runs frugally and if you’re trying to make up $25 billion with just spending cuts, it’s going to be very difficult.”

Spending on education and health and human services makes up about 75 percent of the budget — eliminating all other spending still wouldn’t completely close the budget gap.

“There is literally no way to balance this budget with cuts alone,” said Dick LaVine, a senior budget analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “There are ways to raise money that might be acceptable to the governor if they’re not called tax increases; like fee and tuition increases.”

State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, said it wouldn’t be surprising to see an another 5- to 10-percent reduction in funding to high priority budget items such as universities and public schools.

“You couldn’t make the limitations we’d have to make to balance the budget if you didn’t make [meaningful] cuts to the two largest areas of the budget,” Branch said, referring to education and social services. “Our [funding] for our highest priorities is going to have to shrink because the budget is going to have to shrink.”

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said that fewer Democrats wouldn’t make a difference in what cuts are made and how they are made.

“It was in the hands of the Republicans before,” he said.

Sticking with the strategy of significant spending cuts also carries political risks for the Republicans, said Sherri Greenberg, interim director of the LBJ School’s Center for Politics and Governance.

In 2003, the Texas Legislature closed a $10 billion budget shortfall by cutting spending — including reducing the number of children on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which subsidizes healthcare for children of low-income families. Greenberg said that decision will hurt Republican representatives in swing districts during the next two elections.