UT Names First Dean Of Its Dell Medical School
By Joe Olivieri, January 21, 2014
University of Texas leaders announced that Dr. S. Claiborne “Clay” Johnston will be the first dean of the Dell Medical School.
At a news conference Jan. 21, Johnston said he is not interested in creating an ordinary medical school, but rather one that will
position Austin to be at the leading edge of health care in the future.
“The community has been so engaged in creating this medical school,” he said. “It is integral that it delivers on its mission.
I’m committed to going back to the community and making sure that we are making progress on the mission [the community] has created for us.”
Johnston is associate vice chancellor of research at the University of California, San Francisco.
He is a neurologist who has researched strokes.
“The more research I did, the more I came to realize that the pace of research was too slow,” he said.
“There were lots of discoveries and many papers filed but very [few] changes in improving outcomes. “… How do we create innovations that actually [help patients] while still lowering costs?” he continued.
Johnston said it is easy to envision a better health care system, but getting there is not easy within existing systems.
He said he is interested in new models of health care, including more coordinated efforts among doctors, nurses, social workers and health care professionals.
During a question-and-answer session, Johnston said his first jobs will be hiring the faculty and getting the school accredited.
He planned to continue his research of “mini-strokes,” or transient ischemic attacks.
He intends to bring some of his California research team to Austin.
When discussing a proposed innovation district near the school, Johnston called for coordination between the business and academic communities.
He said Austin’s biotech industry can and will grow stronger over time.
Unlike other cities with strong partnerships between universities and industry, Austin’s costs of living and doing business are less expensive and will create opportunities, he said.
UT President Bill Powers called Johnston’s appointment one of many critical moments in the development of Dell Medical School.
“We have a vision of creating at the University of Texas at Austin one of the finest medical schools in the world, and doing so from the ground up,” Powers said.
“The cornerstone of that school is the founding dean. Thank you for accepting that challenge.
You are the right person to help us make our long-term dream a reality.”
State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said Johnston shares the community’s goal of making Dell Medical School a top-flight institution.
“Dr. Johnston knows what we hope to achieve and has the commitment, drive and intelligence to follow through,” he said. “His success will be all of ours.”
Central Health board member Clarke Heidrick said Johnston was interested in having Dell Medical School work with the local biotech and biomedical business communities.
He said the new dean was committed to serving the low-income populations Central Health serves.