(To watch the video of the news conference, click
COLUMBUS — Mercer University announced today that it is partnering with The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital to establish a Columbus campus for its School of Medicine. Columbus joins Macon, where the school was established in 1982 to prepare physicians for rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia, and Savannah in hosting campuses for the medical school, which currently enrolls 400 M.D. students.
Under terms of the partnership, the Mercer School of Medicine will place up to 80 third- and fourth-year medical students at the Columbus Campus. Students will begin their clinical rotations in Columbus this summer.
“The expansion of Mercer School of Medicine to Columbus has been made possible by the hard work of many people, including the leadership of The Medical Center and St. Francis, Pete Robinson, State Rep. Richard Smith, Mercer Medical School Dean Bill Bina, Mercer trustees Jimmy Elder and Tom Black, and a number of other local business and community leaders,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “We are pleased to be taking the unique mission of our School of Medicine to Columbus and West Georgia. It will further enhance health care for the citizens of this region and help prepare much-needed physicians for our state.”
Local recruitment of faculty and staff for the Columbus campus of the School of Medicine will get under way immediately, beginning with about a dozen and expanding as the program grows.
“This partnership integrates the strengths of all three institutions to improve undergraduate medical education, enhance graduate medical education experiences and further develop local Columbus faculty physicians,” said William F. Bina, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the Mercer School of Medicine. “Because the Mercer School of Medicine only accepts students who are Georgia residents, this campus expansion will expose a large number of future Georgia doctors to Columbus and the surrounding western region of Georgia, increasing the likelihood that many of them will practice in the area once they complete their medical education.”
Georgia is facing a critical shortage of physicians within the next decade and beyond. The state currently ranks 37th in the nation in the number of physicians per capita. More than 25 percent of the current Georgia physician workforce is age 55 or older. Most of these physicians will retire from practice or significantly curtail their patient care activities in the next 15 years. The number of Georgia citizens over the age of 65 will double in the next 20 years. Persons ages 65 or older seek care from a physician at two to three times the rate of persons younger than 65.
“It is imperative that Georgia medical schools prepare more physicians to address this shortage and the increased demand,” President Underwood said. “Mercer School of Medicine is central to the solution, and this partnership with The Medical Center and St. Francis will greatly enhance our ability to meet this need.”
Over the School of Medicine’s 30-year history, a higher percentage of its M.D. graduates – 65.7 percent – have remained in Georgia or returned after completing residencies than any other medical school in the state.
Establishment of a Columbus campus for the medical school will not only enhance medical education, it will also promote increased medical research at the institutions.
“The School of Medicine will be working with the two hospitals to develop clinical and basic science research, as well as research in health care delivery in the Columbus region,” Dr. Bina said.
“The future benefits of this affiliation to our community and our region are without question,” said Lance Duke, FACHE, president and CEO of The Medical Center. “We know many of the students will grow to love this community as we do, and will choose to stay here to practice medicine. I appreciate the efforts of all involved, and I especially want to commend Dr. John Bucholtz for his leadership on behalf of our organization.”
Robert Granger, president and CEO of St. Francis Hospital, said, “Through partnering with the Mercer School of Medicine, this represents a unique opportunity for St. Francis and The Medical Center to work together for the improvement of health care in our community.”
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
About the Mercer University School of Medicine
Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. The School only accepts Georgia residents into its medical degree program. Mercer School of Medicine students benefit from a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. In August 2008, the inaugural class of 30 students began study at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah at Mercer’s second full, four-year doctor of medicine program. The School also offers master’s degrees in public health, family therapy, family services and biomedical sciences. In Fall 2012 it will begin offering the Ph.D. in clinical medical psychology on the Macon campus. For more information, visit http://medicine.mercer.edu.
About The Medical Center
The Medical Center is part of Columbus Regional Healthcare System, a not-for-profit organization providing health, medical and educational services to west Georgia and east Alabama. Columbus Regional has three acute care hospitals – The Medical Center, Doctors Hospital and Hughston Hospital in Columbus. The system also includes the John B. Amos Cancer Center and other facilities offering specialized care across the life span.
The Medical Center offers the region’s only advanced maternity services and neonatal intensive care unit, a dedicated pediatric center and pediatric intensive care unit, a dedicated trauma center and emergency services for children and adults. Since 1972, The Medical Center has been home to the Family Practice Residency Program, the first such program established in Georgia and one of the earliest in the Southeast. In addition, a comprehensive women and children’s center is in development to serve a diverse and growing population. For more information, visit www.yourhealthourmission.com.
About St. Francis Hospital
St. Francis Hospital is a 376-bed, faith-based, not-for-profit hospital in Columbus, Ga. Founded by a diverse group of community leaders in 1950, St. Francis is the area’s only hospital offering open heart surgery. The hospital also offers a full range of inpatient, outpatient and emergency room services, from cardiac catheterization at the Patrick Heart Institute, mammography at the Elena Diaz-Verson Amos Center for Breast Health and behavioral health services at The Bradley Center to orthopaedics at the St. Francis Orthopaedic Institute and treatment for digestive diseases at the Center for Digestive Disorders. With more than 1,900 employees, 300 physicians and the latest technology, St. Francis’ overriding goal is to provide consumers with world-class health care. In 2010, the hospital began a $110 million series of new construction and renovation projects that will add 375,000 square feet to the hospital’s main campus. The project includes two new towers. The first tower will house a state-of-the-art dedicated cardiovascular-surgical unit and more private patient rooms, bringing the total number of private rooms to 248. The second building will house Cardiac and Women’s Centers of Excellence, among other services. The project’s expected completed date is fall 2013.