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UMMC opens new school of medicine building amid hopes of more doctors for the state

The University of Mississippi dedicated its new $74 million School of Medicine building.

“This remarkable building will be filled with students endowed with the seeds of greatness,” said Governor Phil Bryant. “The facility presents these students with the greatest opportunity for success.”

Dr. Ford Dye, a member of the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning said that as a graduate of the medical school in the 1990’s he realized his timing was bad.

The medical students’ new home replaced a disjointed collection of accommodations and services, including classrooms, labs, lecture halls and training centers.

The 151,000 square-foot facility on the UMMC campus will mean more space for students, will allow more students to be in each class, and therefore more potential doctors for the state of Mississippi.

UM Chancellor, Jeffrey Vitter said that adding physicians to the state’s workforce, will ultimately improve access to quality health care for the citizens of Mississippi.

Mississippi ranks last, at roughly 185 doctors per 100,000 residents, as reported in 2015 by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The only other medical school in the state is at William Carey University in Hattiesburg. William Carey University opened in the fall of 2009 and awards the Doctor of Osteopathy degree, while the University of Mississippi offers the Doctor of Medicine degree.

U.S. Representative Gregg Harper said the hope is that many of the school’s graduates will stay here.

“I say this to the medical students,” said Harper. “There’s no place like Mississippi. There’s no place better.”

With the new school building, UMMC officials say their plans are to expand entering class sizes from approximately 145 students to 155, and then to eventually top off at approximately 165 which is the total considered necessary to meet the state’s goal of 1,000 additional physicians by the year 2025.

“This is a project that had unanimous support in the Mississippi Legislature,” said Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves. “Everyone in the legislature recognized the need.”

Financing of the new medical school included state funds and a $10 million Community Development Block Grant awarded through the Mississippi Development Authority and administered through the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District for site and infrastructure work.

On top of that, by the early 2000’s, the AAMC predicted a nationwide doctor shortage and asked medical schools across the country to pump up class sizes by roughly 30 percent. Accreditation standards were also changing, and in order to meet them, the School of Medicine needed more room, an increase and upgrade in simulation facilities, and additional classrooms that accommodated interactive group learning.

The cutting-edge simulation training area has a dedicated floor and was made possible by grants totaling almost $5 million from the Hearin Foundation. The building is also equipped with a mock operating theater, virtual reality spaces with high-fidelity task trainers, a clinical skills center and flexible-use spaces which were funded by the UMMC Alliance and the Manning Family Foundation.

“Over the course of the next 50 years, we’re going to deliberately wear it out,” said Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, professor of emergency medicine and vice dean for medical education, referring to the building as a whole.

Fourth-year medical student Johnny Lippincott, president of the class of 2018 said he’s particularly proud of the way the building’s technological components have been designed to be able to adapt to future updates.

After many years of careful planning, UMMC officially broke ground on the new building in 2013.

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