The Busy Time of Year
I don’t know about you, but it sure seems like the pace picks up each year around this time. Students and faculty are going full-throttle, the calendar is full with meetings and events, and our hospitals and clinics are bursting at the seams with patients. There is so much going on that I feel the need to cover several topics today.
The dedication of the $50 million Translational Research Center last Friday served as a kind of exclamation point to the momentum we are gaining in our research mission. This magnificent new facility will be where we “translate” scientific findings into strategies to prevent, treat and cure some of the diseases and conditions that afflict Mississippians. A phrase to describe this process that resonated with me was “discovery to recovery.” Filled with wet and dry labs, common areas, exam rooms for clinical trial participants and incubator space for science and technology startup companies, the TRC will be an important part of our plans to expand our applied research capabilities. The four initial tenants of the building will be the Gertrude C. Ford MIND Research Center, the UMMC Neuro Institute, the John D. Bower School of Population Health and components of Research Administration. Their respective leaders, Dr. Tom Mosley, Dr. Michael Lehman, Dr. Bettina Beech and Dr. Richard Summers, joined me in thanking, among others, Sen. Thad Cochran, who could not be present for the dedication but who supported the nearly $20 million award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for this project.
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Recently I had the honor of meeting and touring parts of the campus with attendees of our Diamond Reunion, alumni who graduated from UMMC 50 or more years ago. What a wonderful perspective this group has on the changes that have occurred in health care and academic health sciences centers during the last 50 years!
Their visit gave me the opportunity to collect a few data points from the 1966-67 time period:
- We had 133 faculty, not including community physicians on the medical staff. Today we have 1,175 salaried faculty.
- Fifty years ago we had 712 students in just two schools – medicine and nursing. Today we have 2,890 enrolled students, not including the pharmacy students who are involved in studies on our campus.
- In 1967 we awarded 132 degrees. Last spring we awarded 971 degrees.
- And finally, in 1967 our total budget was $13.3 million. Today it is $1.7 billion.
What a difference 50 years makes!
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Yesterday the IHL Board of Trustees voted to name our new medical education building after Gov. Phil Bryant. There’s no question that the Governor was the project’s foremost champion. Even before he became governor, he embraced our vision that this building would allow us to increase class sizes and train more physicians for Mississippi. These additional doctors will not only improve access to health care but will add to the social and economic fabric of communities where they will eventually practice. Gov. Bryant used the authority of his office to direct $10 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding to be used for the site work and then led the charge for a total of $66 million in state bond funding from the Legislature. Thank you and congratulations, Gov. Bryant!
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Also in its meeting yesterday, our board voted to move forward with the financing, selection of a construction manager, and adoption of a construction plan for the $180 million expansion of our pediatric inpatient and outpatient facilities. If you heard a big “Woohoo!” coming from the direction of Ridgewood Road around 10:30 a.m., that was probably me. On behalf of our patients and families, our pediatrics faculty and our Batson Children’s Hospital staff, I am grateful to the board for its support and am thrilled that this project is getting underway.
You will begin seeing signs of construction on the site in the coming weeks, but the big event will be a groundbreaking ceremony two weeks from today, Dec. 1. It will be a great way to usher in the holiday season.
As we inch closer to the Thanksgiving holiday, we are getting into what can seem like the busiest and most hectic time of the year. I hope you will be able to get some quiet time for yourself and your family during the next week or so. We have much to be thankful for, and most of all, the meaningful mission of service that inspires us every day: A Healthier Mississippi.