SAVANNAH – Mercer University broke ground today on an $18 million expansion of School of Medicine (MUSM) facilities on its Savannah campus at Memorial University Medical Center. This endeavor will include renovation of the William and Iffath Hoskins Center for Biomedical Research as well as construction of an addition to the Hoskins Center to serve as a medical education and research facility for the University.
"The Mercer University-Memorial University Medical Center partnership has been fruitful since its beginning, allowing the University to pursue important medical research in a clinical setting and enabling us to produce more primary care physicians for our state, including the coastal region," said Mercer President William D. Underwood. "Completion of this project will allow a 50 percent increase in enrollment – from 160 to 240 medical students – on our Savannah campus, and, in time, bring the total number of M.D. students at Mercer to 480, with up to 120 graduates each year."
"Growth of the Savannah campus for the medical school will not only enhance medical education, it will also promote clinical medical research at both institutions, plus increase research in health care delivery in southeast Georgia," said Dr. William F. Bina III, dean of the School of Medicine. "Additionally, this campus expansion will expose an even larger number of future Georgia doctors to Savannah and the region. It will increase the likelihood that many of them will practice medicine in the area once they complete their training."
The new facility, which will include more than 30,000 square feet of new space in addition to the renovation of approximately 26,500 square feet of classrooms, offices, labs and library space, will also enable the School of Medicine to expand significantly the scope of research taking place in Savannah.
"The expansion of Mercer University School of Medicine's Savannah campus, in collaboration with Memorial Health, will tremendously improve our ability to fulfill our educational, research and outreach missions," said Dr. T. Philip Malan, Jr., dean of the Savannah campus and vice dean of the School of Medicine. "The additional space will allow us to increase the number of physicians we educate and increase our research activities, both of which will positively impact patient care. The new space will also add facilities such as high-technology human patient simulators that will improve education of Mercer medical students, Memorial Health residents and other health professionals. The additional students, faculty and staff we will bring to Savannah will increase our local economic impact. As we grow, our local service and outreach activities will grow. We are very excited about improving our ability to serve Savannah and the region."
The Savannah campus currently has 15 research scientists, supported by 13 postdoctoral research associates and laboratory technicians. These scientists lead research teams in collaboration with Memorial's clinical departments and with clinical oncology faculty within the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute.
MUSM scientists have active research programs in the areas of cancer (breast, prostate, lung, uterine/endometrial, sarcoma and pancreatic), cardiovascular disease (hypertension and ischemic heart disease), hematological disorders, infectious diseases, and endocrine disorders (diabetes and adrenal diseases), with funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Georgia Research Alliance, the Department of Defense, the American Cancer Society, the Mary Kay Ash Foundation, the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute and Merck & Co.
"Memorial and Mercer have a shared mission of teaching and research. The Savannah campus expansion marks another important milestone in our partnership and enhances the educational opportunities in our community," said Maggie Gill, president and CEO of Memorial Health. "Together, we are training physicians of tomorrow."
To address a need for more primary care physicians in Georgia, the University launched the Savannah campus in 1996 by sending a group of third- and fourth-year students to complete their clinical requirements at Memorial University Medical Center. The campus opened as a full four-year program in 2008, graduated its first full class in 2012, and is the only four-year medical school campus in the southern half of Georgia.
The School of Medicine has been remarkably effective in achieving its mission. MUSM ranks first in Georgia and second in the nation with 65 percent of graduates returning to their home state to serve the medical needs of its citizens. By comparison, nationally only 38.7 percent of all medical students practice medicine in the state in which they received their medical education.
Access to primary care remains among the nation's and state's most pressing heath care challenges. According to a recent study by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States will be short 30,000 primary care physicians to meet patient demand next year, and that gap will widen in the future as more people gain coverage and the population continues to age. This challenge is especially acute in Georgia, which currently ranks 41st among the 50 states in physicians in active primary care per capita. Estimates place the physician shortage in Georgia at 2,500 by 2020.
About the Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon, Savannah and Columbus)
Mercer University's School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia. Mercer medical students benefit from a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. The School opened a full four-year campus in Savannah in 2008 at Memorial University Medical Center. In 2012, the School began offering clinical education for third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus. Following their second year, students participate in core clinical clerkships at the School's primary teaching hospitals: Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon; Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah; and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The School also offers master's degrees in family therapy, preclinical sciences and biomedical sciences and a Ph.D. and Psy.D. in clinical medical psychology.
About Memorial Health
Memorial Health is a two-state healthcare organization serving a 35-county area in southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina. The system includes its flagship hospital, a 654-bed academic medical center; Memorial primary and specialty physician networks; a major medical education program; business and industry services; and NurseOne, a 24-hour call center. To learn more, visit www.memorialhealth.com. You can follow us at facebook.com/memorialhealth, twitter.com/mymemorial, and youtube.com/memorialhealth.