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University still raising money for Phase 1, hopes to break ground on Phase 2 in near future

WCU breaks ground on new COM facility

In the midst of an economic crunch, William Carey University (WCU) has begun work on its new, approximately $10-million College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM). The university broke ground on the new building last week, and hope to provide Mississippi with physicians for areas that are lacking.

All but 10 counties in Mississippi are classified as medically underserved, and Mississippi is not alone. Surrounding states are dealing with similar issues, Dr. Tommy King, president of WCU said. “The greatest need is for primary care physicians in rural areas and small communities. It is estimated that the shortage will increase over the next decade. The primary focus of training for osteopathic physicians is primary care. William Carey hopes to provide primary care doctors for Mississippi and surrounding states,” he said. Aside from offering and providing trained physicians to the state, WCU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine will create well-paid job opportunities at the medical school, as well as in the communities where the graduates will locate their practices. King said, “It has been estimated that the medical school will be equivalent to having a Fortune 500 company locate in the state,” he added.

Following only 29 other osteopathic schools in the nation, WCU’s facility is looking forward to a bright future. The current faculty, staff and students are excited about the addition. The common sentiment is this is the most significant development in the college’s history, which goes back to the early 1900s. While the university has already broken ground for the COM, fund-raising efforts continue. “We hope to obtain grants and private donations, which will allow us to complete all three phases of the building in one project,” King said.

WCU has approximately $4 million on hand, and has received approximately $1.5 million in grants and gifts. This will be used to construct phase one of the building. King said in order to complete phase two simultaneously with phase one, WCU will need an additional $5 million.

When fully operational, the new building will host around 400 students and 130 faculty. Dr. Michael K. Murphy, the founding dean for this new college, said the COM, which just this month earned pre-accreditation status, will offer anatomy, physiology and simulation labs. Along with standard classrooms, the approximately 58,000-square-foot building will house teaching theaters, group session rooms, a unique video conference room for long distance teaching as well as clinical skill teaching areas, which will also be used as student health centers.

Murphy said, “Students will be fully accounted for as our facility will offer plenty of locker space, student lounges, wifi access and plenty of restrooms.”

To be located on the northwest corner of the main campus, the COM is looking to have phase I, and hopefully more, completed by August 2010.

Murphy brings more than 30 years of experience as an osteopathic physician and educator and comes to WCU from a similar school in rural Kentucky.

Along with the new COM, WCU is looking to move into its newly constructed Coast campus in the Traditional Development in Harrison County in July, and are looking forward to a new theater building for the Hattiesburg campus.

Contact MBJ staff writer Leslie Galloway at leslie.galloway@msbusiness.com .

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