Start of new medical school building holds promise of more Mississippi physicians

 

In a public gesture that appears to seal the contribution of state funds for a new University of Mississippi Medical School building in Jackson, Gov. Phil Bryant led a ceremonial ground breaking for the $63 million project Monday.

The building will be the first new facility on the Jackson campus since the school began training physicians in the Capitol City in 1955.

Bryant still must get an allocation for the state’s approximate $40 million share of the building into the state bond bill that requires approval of both houses of the Legislature. Lawmakers declined to pass a bill last year.

This year, however, legislative leaders have noted their support for including the medical school money in a bond issue. Legislators provided $4.5 million in 2011for preliminary design and infrastructure work for the approximately 151,000 square-foot, five-floor medical education building that will front Lakeland Drive.

In remarks at the groundbreaking, House Speaker Philip Gunn promised to work to secure the bond funding. “On behalf of the Legislature, we pledge to do everything we can to support the new medical school,” Gunn said.

In October, Bryant directed $10 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to the university to launch the effort.

Bryant has placed health care and medical sector expansion among his top priorities for his first term. He envisions establishment of medical-care campuses throughout the state that would build on existing medical resources. The campaign for increasing the size of the state’s medical sector is designed not only to improve the health of Mississippians but to spur economic development as well, the governor said.

“I have said before that health care is an industry of necessity, and Mississippi is taking an important step today to proactively grow its health care economy.”

UMMC projects that the larger class sizes accommodated by the new facility will generate about $1.7 billion in economic impact in Mississippi by 2025 and that the additional physicians trained will support more than 19,000 new jobs by the same year. The current economic impact of practicing UMMC-trained physicians is more than $6.3 billion annually, and those physicians are estimated to support more than 60,000 jobs in the state, UMMC says.

The new building will provide space for larger medical class sizes and help UMMC reach its goal of training nearly 1,000 additional doctors by 2025, with gradual increases in class sizes from the current 135. Upon completion in 2016, the school should be able to accept an incoming class of 165 students.

Bryant last year signed a bill to establish more medical residency programs throughout the state, a move designed to keep more Mississippi-trained physicians in the state. Bryant said he will continue in the new session to pursue ways to increase the number of physicians practicing in Mississippi’s most medically underserved communities.

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice dean of the School of Medicine and associate chancellor for health affairs, said in a recent interview that the medical college must still raise significant sums of money to complete the project. Woodward has said previously that fundraising would include naming rights to the building and other facilities on campus.

Bryant noted in remarks Monday that in addition to improving the delivery of health care in the state, graduating more physicians will have a significant economic impact in the communities where they practice.

 

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