Dell Med, Doctors-to-be and Doug
The story of Sue Cox is a love story — her love for a medical school, her love for teaching, and her love for her husband, Doug Morris. “My wedding day to Doug was the happiest day of my life — my second happiest day will be when the first class of Dell Medical School students graduate,” she said with a chuckle.
Cox is an obstetrician/gynecologist, the executive vice dean of academics and chair of the department of medical education at Dell Med. She has been called the key architect of the school, which opened in 2016. But she describes her role in true OB-GYN fashion. “Opening Dell Med was like giving birth, but the timeline was longer. Each trimester for this baby was three years instead of three months.”
Before Cox came to Austin, she lived across the United States. A self-proclaimed “Navy brat,” she called Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and the Texas Panhandle her home. She attended West Texas State University on a bowling scholarship and was nationally ranked. Forgoing her plans to be a genetics researcher after she had a change of heart, she earned a spot at Baylor College of Medicine, where she also did a residency in OB-GYN. After completing her maternal-fetal medicine fellowship at UT Southwestern, she joined the teaching faculty there.
“I think I was born to be a teacher because I just love it,” said Cox. “As a clerkship director, I was like a mother to 200 medical students each year. They were like sponges, so eager to soak in everything.”
She held many leadership roles at UTSW that prepared her for her big new role in Austin. Cox arrived in 2011 as UT Southwestern’s dean for Austin Graduate Medical Education programs. Soon, state Sen. Kirk Watson and leaders at the UT System asked her to help develop the groundwork for UT Austin’s own medical school. She formed community committees and a task force to draft the curriculum and start the accreditation process, then became one of Dell Med’s first full-time employees in 2014.
“I always say ‘you can’t take it with you,’ and Doug likes to add, ‘but you can leave it behind for others.’ We made a decision to support Dell Med in our estate plans.”
Her husband Doug, who met Cox through the matchmaking prowess of a three-year-old neighbor, was by her side through it all. “Sue has the wonderful ability to bring people together for a common goal, and she was virtually the only person in Austin then with the experience and skills to get a new medical school off the ground.”
Cox relished the opportunity to create an innovative curriculum. It is a hallmark of Dell Med. “We use a lot of team teaching and case-based curriculum and offer early exposure to clinical medicine,” said Cox. The curriculum also includes leadership courses, research opportunities, and the opportunity for dual degrees in medicine and business, education, engineering, health care value, fine arts or public health.
In 2016, a life-changing event prompted Cox and Morris to think about the impact they personally wanted to make in health care. “My mother passed away,” said Cox, “and we began reviewing our wills. I always say ‘you can’t take it with you,’ and Doug likes to add, ‘but you can leave it behind for others.’ We made a decision to support Dell Med in our estate plans.”
Cox and Morris had already made a gift to create a scholarship for Dell Med students, as well as a gift to establish the Susan M. Cox, M.D., Academy of Medical Educators Fund. Their estate gifts will add to this fund and will also be used to create the Susan M. Cox, M.D. and Douglas N. Morris Endowed Chair for Medical Education.
“There are a lot of great teachers in medical schools, but they’re not recognized as they should be,” Cox said. Through the combined impact of the fund and endowed chair, distinguished professors of Dell Med’s Academy of Medical Educators will have financial support for things like research and continuing education. And Cox’s successors will have the resources needed for recruitment, retention, scholarship and innovation.