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New Endowment Supports Patients, Practitioners & Cultures of Care (PPCC) Certificate

BDP graduate Priscila Khan accepting her PPCC certificate from Dr. Stephen M. Sonnenberg
BDP graduate Priscila Khan accepting her PPCC certificate from Dr. Stephen M. Sonnenberg.

2024 is bringing exciting changes to the Patients, Practitioners & Cultures of Care (PPCC) certificate program. A $2 million endowment from Ian Bratcher and his family will expand this certificate program and rename it in honor of Ian’s father, Joe W. Bratcher III.

PPCC is one of the Bridging Disciplines Program (BDP) certificates, which allow undergraduate Longhorns to explore subject matter beyond their major. Rather than pursuing a minor in a single discipline, students in a BDP take classes from departments across the Forty Acres that center on a particular interdisciplinary topic and complete internships or research projects to earn their certificate. Students in the PPCC program learn about health and health care, in the classroom and beyond, by combining medical humanities with an interprofessional approach to health care.

“PPCC is designed to give future providers a broad-based pre-professional education that will give them the perspectives and tools to work with all relevant populations to create a health care system in the United States, based on the conviction that health care is a human right,” explains Dr. Stephen M. Sonnenberg, who serves, among other roles at The University of Texas at Austin, as the chair of the PPCC faculty panel.

Dr. Sonnenberg was instrumental to the foundation of the PPCC certificate program and its new era. “Steve sees it as his life’s work to break down the silos in medical education, and to bring the humanities and health care together,” BDP Director Jeanette Herman says. “When he first approached us about the idea of a PPCC certificate, there were not enough classes available to make it possible. Steve worked tirelessly to get faculty and colleges on board to develop and offer new classes, and as a result, we were able to make this program available to students. His work with the Bratcher family to share this vision with them and engage them in this work is a continuation of his leadership.”

Joe W. Bratcher III, for whom the certificate program will now be named, was a Texas Ex, teacher, filmmaker, publisher, musician and owner of beloved North Campus literary hub Malvern Books. Dr. Sonnenberg remembers him with great affection and respect, saying, “Joe Bratcher was a very close friend of mine, a man whose quiet philanthropy made a real difference in Austin. He understood that health care providers would be better at what they do if their education included knowledge of the humanities, the arts, the humanistic social sciences.” After Bratcher III’s passing in 2022, his son Ian and Dr. Sonnenberg began discussing how best to honor his memory. Naming and expanding PPCC in his honor felt right.

The $2 million endowment will increase the accessibility of this vital program and enhance opportunities for students pursuing the certificate. The PPCC team plans to expand the number of students pursuing the program, build mentoring opportunities for students to connect with faculty research, and increase scholarship support for students who might not otherwise have been able to afford to participate in PPCC’s “connecting experiences”—hands-on learning opportunities where students complete internships and research.

Dr. Sonnenberg sees it all as a part of honoring the University’s motto: “PPCC is already a national model for undergraduate education in medical humanities and ethics, and support of PPCC means that we will be even more robust, nationally and internationally even more ‘game changing’.” And graduates of the program are a testament to these ambitions being met. In her speech at the 2023 spring BDP Certificate Ceremony, graduate Priscila Khan shared the ways her PPCC experience changed how she saw the medical world.

“I discovered how narrative writing could create doctors that are able to connect more with their patients, how cultural competency completely changes the game for those with a distrust for health care practitioners. I took history classes where I learned how past pandemics have impacted social, cultural, and political attitudes to health today. I took psychology and social work classes that taught me how to approach others with empathy and understand how loss and grief manifest physically in people’s bodies. These classes opened my eyes to a more human side of medicine where treatment is individualized, mental health is just as important as physical health, and there are other, more natural avenues that are more accessible to some than conventional medicine.”

With the Joe W. Bratcher III endowment, many more Longhorns will get to have similarly transformative experiences.

Interested in learning more about Joe W. Bratcher III Patients, Practitioners and Cultures of Care certificate program? Visit the PPCC website for details, including a complete list of courses and requirements.