As I've discussed before in VC Notes, this is the Medical Center's 60th year of operation in Jackson.
When it was decided that the University of Mississippi's two-year medical school would close in favor of a full, four-year school, it was clear at the time that the teaching hospital associated with the new school could not be in Oxford. The home of Ole Miss was little more than a village without sufficient population to support the clinical activities of the school.
Jackson, the capital and the largest city in the state by far, was the obvious choice.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Through these many years, the Medical Center has thrived in Jackson. Oh, there have been more than a few bumps along the way, but I think it's fair to say the success and reputation that UMMC enjoys today surpasses even the wildest dreams of our founders.
And that's my point today. Jackson has been good for UMMC. It continues to be good for UMMC. And at some level, I believe, we should all be invested in Jackson's success.
While it is true that many members of the Medical Center family, including myself, live outside of Jackson, it is important to our state that the capital city be vibrant and successful. And it's even more important to the Medical Center that its “hometown” be a good place to live and work.
The better that hometown, the easier it is to recruit students, faculty and staff to live and work here.
It's no secret that Jackson has its challenges. They have been well-chronicled: An aging infrastructure - including streets and water and sewer systems - crime, neighborhood blight, poverty, and population shifts that have eroded the tax base. In all fairness, most of Jackson's problems can be found in any large city to one degree or another. From my experience, the leaders of Jackson understand these challenges and care deeply about solving them.
I understand people's frustrations, but I hope they won't write off Jackson. In my mind, as Jackson goes, so goes Mississippi. And, to some extent, so goes UMMC.
As I look around, I see many positive things happening in Jackson. Certainly UMMC is wedged between two of the most vibrant neighborhoods in our state, Fondren and Belhaven. Jackson is a higher education mecca, with not only UMMC but Millsaps, Jackson State, Belhaven and Tougaloo bringing youthful exuberance to the city. Redevelopment of the downtown district, though slowed by the recession, appears to be picking up steam again. Jackson remains a major health-care market with five excellent health systems including the VA. And the city is making headway on its infrastructure problems by passing the 1 percent sales tax.
Last but certainly not least, Jackson is the home of Mississippi state government, which acts as a magnet for people, ideas and economic activity. Having the state government here is a huge advantage for Jackson, and for UMMC.
I'm grateful to and for Jackson, and I'm optimistic about its future. I hope you will join me in that optimism. But more than that, I hope you will take an active hand in shaping that future for all of us, and for A Healthier Mississippi.