By   – Managing Editor, Atlanta Business Chronicle

Mercer University School of Medicine has announced plans to expand its two-year Columbus campus to a full four-year campus.

“This important initiative originated with leaders in the Columbus community, who successfully carried it to fruition by garnering the support of the State of Georgia and Mercer University. The new campus will provide desperately needed physicians for the entire state, but especially Columbus and Southwest Georgia. We are proud to partner with Columbus and the State to address this need,” Mercer President William D. Underwood said in the announcement May 17.

The state is contributing operational funding to the Mercer expansion, and additional funding is coming from the Columbus community, according to Mercer. Renovations are slated to begin later this year on a downtown facility housing new classrooms, labs and office space.

MUSM has begun recruitment of new faculty and scientists for the expanded medical school campus. It’s scheduled to enroll its inaugural class of first-year Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) students in August 2021.

Mercer third-year medical students have been doing clinical rotations in Columbus for more than 20 years. The university began offering clinical education to third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus in 2012, which established its third medical school campus, in partnership with the then-Midtown Medical Center (now Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital) and St. Francis Hospital. In 2012, the campus admitted 12 students; currently enrollment is 40.

Mercer expects total enrollment at the expanded Columbus campus in coming years to reach 240 medical students, equaling the size of each of school’s two other campuses in Macon and Savannah.

“Mercer University School of Medicine students have not only enjoyed being a part of the Columbus community but have benefited tremendously from their experiences in the medical community here,” said Dr. Alice House, dean of the Columbus campus and professor of family medicine. “We have begun to see the dividends of our labor as we are welcoming some of our graduates back to practice in the Columbus area.”

The School of Medicine was established in Macon in 1982 as a result of a public-private partnership between Mercer and the State of Georgia to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. In 2008, a second four-year campus was established in Savannah.

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