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Published in Alumni Publications on January 16, 2013
Located on the second floor of the Medical Center’s original 1955 building, as seen in the 1960s-era photo, left, the pathology lab is still used by medical students for their microbiology lab.
Located on the second floor of the Medical Center’s original 1955 building, as seen in the 1960s-era photo, left, the pathology lab is still used by medical students for their microbiology lab.

Building Hopes: Dedicated facility would herald statewide impact

By Jack Mazurak

The University of Mississippi School of Medicine is grappling with an array of space problems on the UMMC campus in Jackson. These issues jeopardize the school’s ability to produce enough physicians for the state’s needs and give students a modern, high-quality education that prepares them to ultimately play a leading role in improving the health of Mississippians.

The current economic impact of the 3,000-plus practicing Mississippi physicians who trained at the School of Medicine is $6.3 billion annually. They support an estimated 60,395 jobs and generate about $706 million in annual tax revenue. The larger class sizes generated by the new building would create an additional $1.7 billion annual impact after 2025, generate another 19,290 jobs, and increase annual tax revenue by $241 million.

A new School of Medicine building would:

  • Cost $63 million, provide 151,000 square feet of usable space and permit growth from 135 students per class to 165-170.
  • Consolidate most classes and labs into one building, making set up easier for faculty members and limiting cross- and off-campus travel by students.
  • Offer 18 flexible, technology-rich classrooms with all-movable furnishings adaptable for lecture-style learning, teamwork sessions, small-group presentations, group discussion and other non-traditional learning methods.
  • Provide a dedicated floor for simulation labs where medical and other health-professions students can learn techniques on software programs and computer-controlled interactive mannequins. Dedicated space would permit extended hours with key-card access so students can sharpen skills and practice techniques in their off hours.
  • Give students space for individual study, group study, congregating and social interaction.
  • Provide large, tiered auditoriums with unobstructed views, room to swivel and work in groups, and wide desktops suitable for laptops, texts and notebooks.
  • Provide a computer lab where national board exams can be administered digitally.
  • Offer a medical student lounge, meeting accreditation standards for larger class sizes, as well as a café and organizational spaces. A recent renovation of the current lounge, located in a basement by the UMMC morgue, meets minimum accreditation standards only for current class sizes.


  • Facilities compromise the school’s ability to meet accreditation standards that continue to change.
  • The original School of Medicine building was constructed and opened in 1955 and, though outdated, most of its classrooms, teaching laboratories and offices are still used today.
  • Lack of space prevents the school from boosting class sizes from 135 to the target of 165-170; this threatens the state’s goal of training approximately 1,000 additional doctors by 2025. In a state already underserved by physicians and with a growing percentage of elderly residents, that failure would have a dramatic bearing on the population’s health.
  • Two large amphitheater-type classrooms, built in 1982 to accommodate lectures, hinder small-group sessions and active-learning tasks, such as using a laptop and textbook at once, which are essential for accreditation.
  • Space shortages hobble efforts to recruit the state’s top students.  For example, there is no dedicated space for admission interviews or test proctoring.
  • The Classroom Wing building, added in 2005, is overwhelmed by a space famine. Its larger classrooms are not tiered, which blocks students’ views. Though medical simulation sessions are increasingly important in teaching health professions students, many sessions are held in basement storage areas and a converted closet.
  • Because no single building houses the School of Medicine, professors hold classes, labs and tests in a mishmash on and off the main campus. The Clinical Skills Assessment Center, for one, is housed off campus in the Jackson Medical mall and needs a waiting room, check-in station and more.
  • A space crunch in the gross anatomy lab, where first-year students dissect human cadavers, prevents them from experiencing every cadaver procedure – putting at risk the school’s ability to deliver training that is the foundation of a medical education.  
  • In the simulation center, where training for the dental, nursing and pharmacy schools is also held, a space and classroom gap means that some students must wait while equipment and supplies are shuttled between floors, reducing their training time.
  • The second-floor pathology lab, where second-year students take medical microbiology, is furnished with wooden benches that are throwbacks to the building’s 1950s origins. The industry standard is laminated, resin-composite tabletops, which even high schools have long used.
  • Students in the pathology lab are thwarted by pillars and floor-to-ceiling electrical conduits that block their views of the front of the room. There’s only one blackboard, so faculty members break out each session into groups and set up temporary dry-erase boards on counters and in a sink.
  • Due to space constraints faculty in some laboratory-based courses teach in shifts at the current class size. Larger class sizes would further overload faculty by requiring them to teach the same labs multiple times.
  • Since the pathology lab can hold only 62 students at a time, two sessions are necessary , one right after the other, shortchanging the first group, which spends less time on the microscopes. Even two sessions can’t accommodate each 135-student class, so faculty members have turned to a seventh-floor histology lab as well.
  • In the histology lab, cabinets and narrow aisles hinder group work for the larger classes that have emerged since the space was renovated about a decade ago.

Contribute to Excellence: Help us build a new medical school

Private support for project like UMMC’s School of Medicine is always needed to purchase things such as state-of-the-art instructional equipment and furnishings. This “margin of excellence” helps us attract outstanding students and faculty and provide them with an exceptional environment conducive to learning.

Your support for the new medical school is welcome and appreciated. To find out how you can help, or to send a contribution, contact Sara Merrick, UMMC Executive Director of Development, via the information below:

UMMC Office of Development
2500 N. State Street
Jackson, MS  39216-4505
Phone: 601-984-2300