Mercer University Breaks Ground on New Medical School Campus in Columbus

Staff Report

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

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 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. 

“Mercer University School of Medicine has a mission – the education of physicians and health care professionals for rural and underserved Georgia. We are committed to that mission,” added Jean Sumner, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “To have the opportunity to work with Columbus and Georgia leaders to address the needs of West Georgia is truly a privilege.” 

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.