Mercer University Breaks Ground on New Medical School Campus in Columbus

Columbus groundbreaking
Kemp in Columbus
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during Thursday’s ceremony in Columbus celebrating the groundbreaking for an expanded Mercer University School of Medicine campus.

COLUMBUS – Mercer University today held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its planned medical school campus in Uptown Columbus on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

The University’s relocation and expansion of its Columbus campus, first announced in May 2019, will enable the School of Medicine to increase the campus’ enrollment to 240 Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) students over the next several years, eventually equaling the size of its campuses in Macon and Savannah.

“Our colleges and universities throughout the state have been a key resource in fighting COVID-19 through the whole pandemic,” said Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp, who spoke at the ceremony on Thursday along with Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston.

“This new medical campus is a great example of Mercer’s ongoing partnership in that fight and its commitment to caring for people not only in this area but all of Southwest Georgia and rural Georgia, in particular. At a time when all lives are looking to our health care system for guidance and support, I, for one, am very grateful for that.”

The site at 1701 First Ave., offered to Mercer by Columbus community leaders in March, was owned by TSYS, a Global Payments company, just north of the company’s existing Riverfront Campus. This location will allow for construction of a free-built structure to better suit the needs of medical school students, faculty and staff, and will also provide an iconic locale.

“Today demonstrates the good that can come when local communities, institutions and government come together to solve a problem,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “It couldn’t have happened without the can-do attitude that I see every time I visit this community – the can-do attitude that Columbus is known for.”

The School of Medicine is currently recruiting and hiring new faculty and scientists, and the inaugural class of first-year M.D. students in Columbus is scheduled to enroll in August 2021.

“It is truly wonderful to see this worthy initiative become a reality,” said Jean Sumner, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “We are committed to our mission to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas in Georgia. This new campus will help to increase health care access in West Georgia and strengthen Columbus’ important role as a regional referral center. Working with a great community like Columbus, visionary state and local leadership, regional hospitals, local physicians and many public servants has been a privilege for Mercer University School of Medicine.”

Brasfield & Gorrie will serve as general contractor on the planned 85,000-square-foot, two-story facility, which is expected to be completed in late 2021 or early 2022 and will include classroom and office spaces, as well as simulation, research and cadaver labs and a vivarium.

“Our nation has never been more aware of the need to train and grow health care heroes,” said Brasfield & Gorrie Vice President and Division Manager Wes Kelley. “Brasfield & Gorrie is honored to contribute our expertise in education construction to benefit the doctors who will serve our communities, in Columbus and beyond.”

The project is backed by generous support from the local community, which will be matched by the University, as well as operational funding from the state.

Mercer’s involvement in the Columbus community dates back more than 20 years when the School of Medicine began sending third-year students to do clinical rotations with local physicians and with then Columbus Regional Hospital.

In 2012, Mercer started offering clinical education to third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus, establishing the University’s third medical school campus in partnership with Midtown Medical Center (now Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital) and St. Francis Hospital and admitting a total of 12 students. Currently, the School enrolls 40 students in Columbus.

About Brasfield & Gorrie

Founded in 1964, Brasfield & Gorrie is one of the nation’s largest privately held construction firms, providing general contracting, design-build, and construction management services for a wide variety of markets. We are skilled in construction best practices, including virtual design and construction, integrated project delivery, and Lean construction, but we are best known for our preconstruction and self-perform expertise and exceptional client service. Brasfield & Gorrie has 12 offices and approximately 3,000 employees. Our 2019 revenues were $3.8 billion. Engineering News-Record ranks Brasfield & Gorrie 22nd among the nation’s “Top 400 Contractors” for 2020.

About Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon, Savannah and Columbus)

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. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia. Mercer medical 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. The School opened a full four-year campus in Savannah in 2008 at Memorial University Medical Center. In 2012, the School began offering clinical education for third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus. Following their second year, students participate in core clinical clerkships at the School’s primary teaching hospitals: Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon; Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The School also offers master’s degrees in family therapy, preclinical sciences and biomedical sciences and a Ph.D. in rural health sciences.