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Spreading its wings

Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern celebrates its first year as partner DISD honors Charles Ginsburg, M.D., by renaming original school building in his honor

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Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern, which opened in 2022, represents a unique partnership between the Dallas Independent School District and UT Southwestern that exposes students at an early age to the wonders of science. Above, students listen to the “heartbeat” of a baby manikin during a tour of the UTSW Simulation Center.

Making a lava lamp and watching the bubbles float up was the highlight of 7-year-old Nam Nguyen’s day at Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern. But seeing samples of a human brain and visiting an astronaut were just as exciting.

“Seeing a real astronaut on Zoom was a lot of fun,” the second grader said. “I want to be a pilot when I grow up.”

Such hands-on experiences have made Biomedical Fridays a big hit at the school, which is the result of a partnership between the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) and UT Southwestern. The school serves 172 students from prekindergarten through second grade and will expand one grade each year to the eighth.

Just a year after opening at Forest Park Road on UT Southwestern’s North Campus, the school is already spurring a love of learning in its students, who follow the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum but also are exposed to reading, Spanish, and other subjects.

Dr. Charles Ginsberg sits and reads to young students at UTSW Biomedical Preparatory
Charles Ginsburg, M.D., former Vice Provost and Senior Associate Dean for Education at UTSW, reads a book to Biomedical Prep students. The idea for the school was Dr. Ginsburg’s, and in his honor, DISD is renaming the original school building after him.

The purpose of the school is not to train the next generation of doctors and researchers but to inspire students to think like scientists, be curious, and explore the world around them – no matter what careers they pursue, said Charles Ginsburg, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and former Vice Provost and Senior Associate Dean for Education. The school is his brainchild.

“My goal is to imprint them with discovery,” said Dr. Ginsburg, a pediatrician for more than five decades. “How do you build a molecule, and why do people get sick or get well? I want them to ask questions like those their whole lives.”

Original building renamed in Dr. Ginsburg’s honor

About five years ago, Dr. Ginsburg envisioned a school where young children from different socioeconomic levels could benefit from the unique educational experience that only UT Southwestern’s many intellectual resources could provide.

“Dr. Ginsburg’s passion for helping children is palpable, and he’s continuing to take education in an innovative direction by empowering students at an early age to think like scientists.”

Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., President of UT Southwestern

When Dr. Ginsburg came up with the idea, he never imagined that just a few years later the initial building that houses Biomedical Preparatory would be named after him. But during its March meeting, the DISD Board of Trustees approved naming the building in Dr. Ginsburg’s honor. A second building, now under construction, will retain the name Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Dr. Ginsburg said. “I was absolutely flabbergasted and never thought I deserved to have a building named after me.”

“Dallas ISD is beyond proud of our partnership with UT Southwestern,” said Brian Lusk, Ed.D., Deputy Superintendent of Academics and Transformation at DISD.

“Dr. Ginsburg has been a champion for this school and continues to be an advocate in providing students with hands-on experiences that help to enrich their education beyond the classroom,” he said. “We are grateful for his leadership and support in fostering a dynamic and unparalleled learning environment for our future leaders.”

“Dr. Ginsburg’s passion for helping children is palpable, and he’s continuing to take education in an innovative direction by empowering students at an early age to think like scientists,” added Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., President of UT Southwestern. “We are delighted to see that his lifelong commitment to the welfare of children extends beyond his impact as a pediatrician and an academic leader to inspiring the youngest about biomedical research.”

The endeavor to name the original building after Dr. Ginsburg began in November, when school leaders, including former Biomedical Preparatory Principal Roberto Gonzalez, M.D., presented a proposal to DISD praising Dr. Ginsburg for his foresight and leadership.

“In naming the school [building] after Dr. Charles Ginsburg, we honor a legacy that goes beyond the name of a building. It embodies a commitment to visionary education, tangible exposure to scientific frontiers, and a community built on the foundation of collaborative generosity. The impact resonates in every student’s academic journey, creating a dynamic, forward-thinking educational institution,” the proposal reads.

construction site of future Biomedical Preparatory expansion at UTSW
Construction is underway at the school’s second building, which is adjacent, and is scheduled to open in 2025-2026.

Surpassing forecasts

During its first year, the school has exceeded Dr. Ginsburg’s expectations. In addition to the existing school building, construction is underway on a three-story building that will house 638 students through the eighth grade. The new building will contain a gym, library, auditorium, and classrooms. An eco-friendly playground with sensory pads is also planned at the new building, which is slated to open in the 2025-2026 academic year.

It will be roomier than the current space, where lunch is held in a flex area and meals are delivered from another campus because there is no kitchen. After lunch, the dishes are cleared to make room for other activities. There is no library, but a vending machine that distributes books has become an exciting opportunity for the students.

These temporary inconveniences have not discouraged families from applying for admission, however. This year the school had 598 applications for 53 spots.

All enrollment offers are generated at random through a lottery system based on the number of seats available in each grade coupled with the student’s priority group. Half of the available spots are reserved for economically disadvantaged students.

There is a celebration of diversity at the school, where the walls are covered with drawings the children have made honoring their different cultures. This year, 45.5% of students are Hispanic, 18.7% are Asian, 17.4% are African American, 13.6% are white, and 4.8% are multiracial.

Based on his research, Dr. Ginsburg said the school is the only one of its kind in the country. Although there are STEM-based schools in Dallas and other cities, he is unaware of a program such as this on the campus of an academic medical center.

“We had a world-famous biochemist teach the students how to make slime. Kids are able to learn so much because we have fabulous resources.”

Charles Ginsburg, M.D., UTSW Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics

Parents such as Alan Kramer, Associate Vice President of Health System Emerging Strategies at UTSW, have found the school provides a unique and rewarding learning environment.

“Biomedical Preparatory is exceeding our expectations in the school’s ability to deliver a challenging and nurturing environment for our son, Parker,” Mr. Kramer said. “He is exposed to many different aspects of a STEM-based education through the support and resources of UT Southwestern while also still developing a strong foundation for his general education and emerging love of art.”

A day at the school

While science plays a key role in the curriculum, the school also focuses on the students’ literacy and social-emotional development, said former Principal Roberto Gonzalez, M.D., who was a family doctor in Colombia and then a Principal at DISD’s Stevens Park Elementary before he led Biomedical Prep.

Woven into each student’s day is a commitment to curiosity, creativity, empathy, innovation, and leadership. The hope is that students will become innovative thinkers.

school principal Dr. Gonzalez joins in with young students doing craft projects in class
Roberto Gonzalez, M.D., former Principal of Biomedical Preparatory, visits with some students doing a craft project.

“We want students to make up their own minds,” said Dr. Gonzalez, who was recently promoted to Executive Director of Academic Services at DISD. “We don’t just want them to swallow information.”

His last day leading the school was May 1, but he will continue supporting the campus until a new principal is identified.

“I am departing from Biomedical Preparatory with a heavy heart, yet with excitement for the new journey ahead,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “It has been an absolute privilege to serve as the founding Principal of Biomedical Preparatory, and I am deeply grateful for the memories and experiences we’ve shared together.”

Those memories begin with the close-knit group of the school’s 26 staff members, which includes 12 teachers who are all English as a Second Language (ESL) certified. “When a child discovers something, it’s just like magic,” said Ana Moya, a pre-K teacher who was named the school’s Teacher of the Year. “They are learning, but it’s like play to them.”

Success beyond the classroom

When Dr. Ginsburg proposed the idea of a biomedical prep school, he envisioned a place that could utilize what UT Southwestern has to offer.

“I’ve always felt that UT Southwestern has incredible resources, not just buildings, but intellectual,” he said. “I always thought those should be shared with the community.”

When the school opened, physicians, nurses, researchers, and others volunteered to share science lessons with the young students. Thus, Biomedical Fridays offer lots of hands-on learning experiences such as studying how kidneys function using coffee filters or creating lava lamps to understand why some objects float and others sink.

“We had a world-famous biochemist teach the students how to make slime,” Dr. Ginsburg said. “Kids are able to learn so much because we have fabulous resources.”

The school’s mission is to create a nurturing, safe, and positive environment that promotes curiosity, research, and discovery.

Field trips to the Simulation Center at UT Southwestern, one of the largest such facilities in the United States, have opened the door to lessons that the children would never get in a traditional classroom. Using manikins at the center, students have practiced saving someone from anaphylactic shock. They have also observed mock robotic surgery and other procedures.

At age 7, Aahana Kathania enjoys coming to school every day and discovering new things.

“I really like doing projects about science,” she said. “And I love learning about the brain.”

“When a child discovers something, it’s just like magic. They are learning, but it’s like play to them.”

Ana Moya, named Teacher of the Year at Biomedical Preparatory

Dr. Ginsburg said the school has already proved to be more successful than he imagined.

“All you have to do is go into the building to see that,” he said. “To see the excitement on the kids’ faces and how much these kids are learning is to know it is succeeding.”

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