How Dell and UT Austin Are Bringing Sorely Needed Doctors to Texas

Among the problems facing the U.S. heath-care industry: There are too few doctors to meet the demand for health services. And in Texas, the doctor shortage is especially bad. The state's doctor-to-patient ratios are among the worst in the country. Expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act could increase the demand for doctors' services in Texas, but without an influx of new doctors, how will an underserved market get the care it needs? The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has granted some $50 million to the University of Texas, Austin, to answer at least part of that question — by creating a medical school.

According to the Texas Medical Association, doctors tend to stay and practice in the areas where they undergo their medical training. By educating med students in Texas, where the medical training infrastructure lags behind that of other states, UT Austin should theoretically be making a significant contribution to the state's future supply of doctors.

Based in Austin, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is focused on improving the health and education of urban children living in poverty. (See Michael and Susan Dell Foundation: Grants for Hospitals and Health Centers.) Some of the foundation's grants, like the one to UT Austin, are domestic, while others are directed at childhood poverty in urban areas of India and South Africa.

In 2012, the foundation gave out 16 domestic grants in the area of childhood health, all under $1 million each and most well under that. The foundation's $50 million investment in a medical school isn't so much out of character for the health-oriented group, but it is an unusually large grant in an area — educating doctors — that the foundation has not previously invested significant resources. (Read Dell Executive Director Janet Mountain's IP profile.)

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation continues to accept unsolicited funding proposals on a rolling basis. Interested parties should be mindful that the foundation gives grants in three primary focus areas: urban education, childhood health, and family economic stability.