Dell Medical School pediatrics chair emphasizes communication with community

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Steven Abrams, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UT-Austin’s Dell Medical School, speaks to doctors and nurses at Dell Children’s Hospital about his goals for the school’s pediatrics department.
Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Steven Abrams, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UT-Austin’s Dell Medical School, spoke Monday morning to doctors and nurses from Austin about his vision for the department’s future.

Abrams addressed several issues important to his goals for the medical school during his talk. One of Abrams’ most pressing challenges will be to connect already-established pediatric care centers and the medical school, according to S. Claiborne Johnston, dean of Dell Medical School.

“There are a lot of great things going on in pediatrics in Austin, and [there are] groups that are established and used to doing things a certain way,” Johnston said. “We need to work with them even if they’re fearful of us. [Abrams is] the perfect person to show them our goal is to make everyone better.”

Abrams said one of his main goals for pediatric care in Austin is to have better communication between facilities.

“I think the medical school stands not as part of hospital competition, but to serve the community,” Abrams said. “We can’t change that there is competition in health care. That’s an inherent part of it.”

Tim George, a neurosurgeon at the Dell Children’s Medical Center, said Abrams only provided a brief framework of his goals, and he would like more depth in the discussion of coordinating the medical school’s work with other pediatric clinics.

“There are tactical things we need to accomplish so we can solve the problems that face us and fulfill the goal of having a unique ecosystem,” George said. “How do we pay for it? These are all open questions. Once we figure that out, we can figure out how to better teach and care.”

Abrams also said he intends to provide more comprehensive health care for children in Austin as well as preventative care to address the growing problem of childhood obesity. 

“The University of Texas at Austin is an amazing place and one of the reasons why I’m so excited to be here,” Abrams said. “We need innovative curriculum, committed to creating not just physicians, but dietitians and nurses who will understand the needs of children. We have to educate all groups in health care providers, such as critical issues like on-time vaccinations. We have an opportunity to think carefully of that and think of the pediatric education, make pediatrics a field [medical students] want to go to and understand the value of a pediatric education.”

Le-Wai Thant, a doctor at the CommUnity Care clinic that aims to help the underserved population of Austin, said she is optimistic about the more well rounded health care children would receive with the medical school and outpatient clinics such as the one she works with.

“This will be the beginning, and we’ll start having a connection,” Thant said. “We haven’t set up an official way of communicating yet. It’s a big population we serve around here, and having the structure and way to communicate among specialists and the community medical school — to double up treatment — would be the best for the whole community.”