Dell Medical School calls for grassroots ideas

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A new program at the Dell Medical School aims to involve community members in solving local problems.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

The Dell Medical School has created a new program aimed at engaging the local community to pitch in ideas that will improve the health services and resources provided to Central Texas residents. 

The Center for Place-Based Initiatives, a program under the UT Department of Population Health, was funded through a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The goal of the program is to have local members of the community create solutions for local problems, regardless of their background or who they are, according to the initiative website.

“Generally, medical schools are not very smart about how to make care better in the community, so we figured the people who are smartest about how to make care better in the community or make health better in the community are people who live there,” Department Chair William Tierney said. “It’s essentially helping people solve their own problems.”

The program consists of the Community Strategy Team, which is comprised of nine representatives of the populations the program is trying to reach. Twice a year, the program will encourage Central Texas and Austin residents to submit applications for their ideas through the team, email, local postings and more. Six ideas will be chosen, and the selected applicants will be able to work with the Project Development Team in ensuring the plan to help the community is executed properly.

The deadline to submit an application was Jan. 6, and the selected applicants will be announced by Jan. 31. According to Lourdes Rodriguez, founding director of the Center for Place-Based Initiatives, 94 applications were received from a range of applicants including middle-schoolers, residents working in the technology field and people who have experienced homelessness. 

“When you have perspective that comes from the lived experience of vulnerable populations and folks who are usually not a part of the research enterprise, you can see things differently and you can see things that you didn’t notice before,” Rodriguez said. 

Public health sophomore Sofie Momin said the program seems like a way for local community members to be equally represented and heard. 

“This initiative is especially significant for those who are underrepresented or homeless and are lacking adequate services,” Momin said. “Many of these people may not know how or when to approach city leaders, so this program is beneficial in creating a platform for their voice to be heard.”