Huston-Tillotson University

Clay Johnston, dean of the Dell Medical School, has started from scratch in March to build up the staff and partnerships for the school. Johnston’s greatest challenge thus far has been to focus his energy on key functions of the school, such as initial accreditation.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. Dr. Clay Johnston is dean of the Dell Medical School. He was appointed dean in January 2014. The interview has been edited for clarity. The McCombs School of Business declined our requests for an interview.

The Daily Texan: What sorts of things have happened in the medical school since the Texan last spoke to you? 

Clay Johnston: We’ve been hiring a lot of people. Hiring people is one of the most important things we do. We are almost entirely focused on [hiring] leaders. Now we have three department chairs, with another four to recruit. We had a visit from the accrediting body in February. And that visit went really well. We will hear about accreditation for sure in June. If that goes well, we will start accepting applications for July 2016.  

DT: What kind of relationship do you foresee between the medical school and the rest of UT? 

Johnston: We have started the first program that cuts across schools, called the Design Institute for Health. It’s us and the College of Fine Arts. We will announce another program like this that will include LBJ, McCombs and the Law School within a month. In addition we will start programs that reflect how we hope to find solutions to health problems.  

DT: What has the recruiting process been like so far? 

Johnston: For us, the most logical way to recruit is to recruit the leaders and have the leaders recruit their people. There are some urgent needs we have to fill, so we are recruiting a small number of faculty along the way. In terms of staff, we met those needs right away. We did inherit clinical faculty from UT Southwestern. 

DT: Recently, the University announced a partnership between the medical school and Huston-Tillotson University. Can you tell us about that, and what are the things you look at when it comes to working together with other organizations, such as Seton? 

Johnston: We have a bunch of partnerships, and we will always rely on those. As opposed to our own stuff, we are trying to work as a coordination and creativity engine to move other entities forward. Seton is a key one because they are a primary in-patient partner. The other major partner for us is Central Health, the Travis County health care district. They make sure that poor people get health care and they do that through contracting with different providers. A lot of teaching will happen there. ... Huston-Tillotson is brand new. We are focused on how we deal with mental health disparities in Travis County. Huston-Tillotson is great partner to help us think about that. 

DT: How can the medical school address disparities in health care access? How could it work to alleviate some of the problems? 

Johnston: I see that as one of the critical roles for us. Right now, too much money is being spent on the emergency room and stuff that happens in the hospital, whereas if we shift the dollars and spending more to promoting health, creating a better environment for people, encouraging them to make better choices and identifying conditions early, we could save tons of money and people would be happier and healthier.  

That’s particularly true in neighborhoods where there’s more poverty. What we are interested in is shifting the payer model. Our role is to help these populations to identify the things that could be effective, potentially to coordinate different practitioners that are acquired to create those plans, directing payers toward wiser investment to their dollar. It will be more effective by bringing good ideas and promoting smart policies and the infrastructure. 

DT: How do you plan to help with students’ tuition and also increase diversity? 

Johnston: Our goal is to have no tuition for a third of our students and to keep tuition low for the other two-thirds. We have scholarships for people who plan to go into primary care — it’s probably going to be a forgivable loan program as the way to encourage it. 

The diversity issue is complicated, and it’s going to be a long-term issue for us. It is important, ultimately, to have physicians look like the patients they are treating. Unfortunately, we’re nowhere close to that in the U.S. health care system. We, as a single school, cannot solve that problem, but we are trying to look at the entire pipeline to interest students in medicine as early as middle school. 

DT: What role do you think the Dell Medical School will play in relation to the other medical schools in the UT System? 

Johnston: We have some fabulous [medical] schools in the UT System. They have been honed through years of tradition. We have this opportunity, and responsibility, to be more representative of where the health care system is going. So the other schools are looking to us to succeed and fail because we are definitely taking some of the risks so they can learn from both. 

UT students came together Saturday with students from Huston-Tillotson University and members of the general public to discuss the issue of racial bias in present-day society.

The event titled “End Racism and the New Jim Crow: Families of Police Violence Victims Speak Out” was held at Huston-Tillotson University in East Austin. The event was co-organized by several organizations, including the UT chapter of the national organization Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

The discussion focused on national and local instances of police misconduct driven by racial bias. In many of the instances, an African-American man was killed by police at the crime scene or while in custody. The family members and victims shared their stories to explain why there needs to be additional and stronger legislation to prevent such misconduct from happening in the future.

Speakers included Eva Haywood, mother of James Haywood, an African-American man that died in 2011 at the age of 33 in the custody of the Elgin Police Department in Central Texas. Airicka Taylor also spoke at the event from Chicago via Skype. She is the cousin of Emmett Till, an African-American boy killed in 1955 at the age of 14 by Mississippi police, spurring on the then emerging national civil rights movement.

Roughly a dozen event attendees stood up and shared their experience with racially-motivated misconduct.

Several of the event’s co-organizers, including government senior Michelle Uche, also spoke at the event. She broke down in tears as she spoke about the lack of public awareness of such misconduct in Austin and nationwide. Uche called the issue “systematic,” because of its frequency and the lack of oversight regarding it.

“This idea that black life can be extinguished by anyone at any time is systemwide and it needs to stop, but it will not stop until we get together and we fight it,” she said. “There will be no justice for us until we get together and we demand it.” Speaker Eva Haywood said racially motivated police misconduct often occurs because police tend to treat people unfairly once they have been convicted of a crime.

“Because our children break the law, it doesn’t mean they are not worth anything,” she said. “They are worth something.”

Felisa Yzaguirre, event moderator and 2012 UT alumna, encouraged event attendees to join organizations that advocate for civil rights in order to fight racially motivated misconduct.

Outside the event, the UT chapters of Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the International Socialist Organization set up tables to allow event attendees to join their organizations and find out about related events.

Printed on Monday, October 22, 2012 as: Students discuss current racial bias

Former UT Student Chas Moore organized “Walk to West Campus: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism and Hate,” a march that will take place Tuesday evening. Moore planned the march in hopes that it will bring awareness to incidents of reported bias and generate action from relevant officials.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Students will march through the streets of West Campus on Tuesday night to send the message that they will not stand for bias in the UT community any longer.

Former UT student Chas Moore organized the march, “Walk to West Campus: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism and Hate,” in conjunction with students from UT and Huston-Tillotson University as a response to recently reported incidents of bias in the area. Those incidents include several reports of students being attacked with bleach-filled water balloons in order to “white-wash” them as students of color, racial slurs being used in the West Campus area and ethnic-themed parties being thrown in an insensitive manner. Moore said he hopes the march will publicly shed light on these incidents and prompt members of the UT community to realize that bias is still a major issue at UT in 2012.

“We are not going to sit back and let things like this happen,” Moore said, referring to the recently reported incidents of bias. 

Moore said he planned the march because he feels he has not seen a serious enough response from relevant officials in dealing with reported incidents of bias at UT. He said he wants to show them how widespread this issue is so they will be more inclined to take action when incidents of bias are reported.

“We just want the University to seem like they care about what happens to students of color,” Moore said.

Moore said one example of authorities failing to take an appropriate response to a reported incident was when anthropology sophomore Taylor Carr had a bleach-filled water balloon thrown at her car last month.

Carr said her car was struck with the balloon around 2:30 a.m. near the 26 West apartment complex, formerly known as Jefferson 26, located at the corner of West 26th Street and Rio Grande Street.

Carr said she immediately got out of her car and ran to a nearby Austin Police Department officer to inform him of the attack.

“He asked if there was any damage, and I said ‘no,’ so he refused to take any action in response to the attack,” Carr said.

Carr was unable to provide the name of the officer she spoke to, and APD was unable to find a report of the incident on file, although APD did find a report of a water balloon being thrown at a car in the same area at roughly the same time. APD said they were unable to identify the assailant in that case, and they believe the balloon was filled with water, not bleach, in that incident.

Robert Dahlstrom, University of Texas Police Department Chief, said his department, which operates separately from the City of Austin Police Department, heard about the bleach-ballon incidents recently. He said UTPD has taken measures to investigate the attacks, including reaching out to one of the students who said he was attacked with a bleach-filled balloon.

Dahlstrom said his department has been limited in its investigative efforts, however, because these attacks were not reported to UTPD, leaving them with little information to try and investigate the attacks.

“We’re very interested in helping students anywhere work through any type of case and this one no more or no less so than any other case,” he said. “We just need to know the facts so we can start working with the students.”

Dahlstrom said he urges students to report any illegal activity to his department so that it can be dealt with as effectively as possible and prevented from happening to others.

Moore, the event’s organizer, said he is happy that UTPD is looking into the incidents and hopes to see the same serious response to reports of bias from other relevant authorities, such as UT’s administration and APD, in the future.

Students participating in the march will meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue located on the East Mall near West 21st Street and Speedway.

Printed on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 as: Students plan march against bias

Delores Lenzy-Jones, Sabrina OBerry, Melvin Coleman, Mailynn Hart and Arnold Garrett perform a prayer at the Capitol during the 19th Annual Community March celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Monday morning. The parade began at the MLK Statue on UT campus, marched to the Capitol and then on to Huston-Tillotson University.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Although progress has been made in the 43 years since his death, activists still pursue Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality as Austin residents celebrated his life and work Monday at an annual march.

The city of Austin’s 19th Annual MLK Community March on Monday morning saw an estimated 15,000 people travel from the East Mall to the Capitol and finally to historically black Huston-Tillotson University in celebration of the life and works of Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader’s teachings of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience helped bring civil rights to the forefront of the political agenda, ending institutionalized segregation.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed Martin Luther King Jr. Day into law in 1983 as the third Monday in January, the same year that students in the African-American culture committee at UT created the Annual MLK Community March, said UT march coordinator Brenda Burt.

“It was a student initiative, and our students decided that they wanted to honor King by having a march, and it’s been going on for 29 years,” Burt said. The march began with an opening address by Burt and President William Powers Jr., followed by an address by Edmund T. Gordon, department chair for the African and African Diaspora Studies Department. The marchers then traveled to the Capitol where participating gospel choirs performed, and then to Huston-Tillotson University where the performances of local bands were combined with an oral history of MLK’s push for de-segregation in Austin.

Austin was one of the first cities to embrace Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was not celebrated in all 50 states until 2000. This displays Austin’s highest values, said Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell, who took part in the march.

“The march reflects well on Austin’s values, that we respect what Dr. King did and that we are proud to recognize and honor his accomplishments,” Leffingwell said. “In many if not most social issues, students have led the way, and UT is no exception.”

Monday’s march also displays the values of UT, which continue to demonstrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy to this day, said Powers.

“Dr. King’s achievements resonate among all Americans but we see it quite visibly here on our campus,” Powers said. “We are not at the end of our journey, but we’ve come a long way and I think celebrating Dr. King on campus is particularly important because today is not just a celebration, but a re-dedication to the values of Dr. King.”

This is a particularly important day, given the continuing inequality of wealth in the United States, said Gordon.

“MLK would not be content with a mere celebration on his birthday,” Gordon said. “He believed nothing would be done until people put their bodies and souls into motion, and the uneven distribution of wealth is reaching historic proportions.”

Austin resident Karalin Joyce shared that belief. She said she participated in the march to honor the traditions of Martin Luther King Jr.“We don’t have equality, we just have this pretty picture that everything is better,” Joyce said. “Racism is still there. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”