The Mercer University Board of Trustees approved on Friday the construction of a new four-year medical school in downtown Columbus.
The $32.4 million facility will be in a former Synovus building along 11th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. WRBL News 3 first reported the new school in April and it was publically announced by the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce in May.
The initial class is scheduled to start in the fall of 2021. In addition to the medical school, there will also be a research component.
The original plans called for a $25 million facility to be carved out of the existing building along with new construction. The Mercer Board upped the ante by voting to demolish the existing structure and construct an entirely new facility on the site. The new building will be 76,000 square feet and First Baptist Church Pastor Jimmy Elder, who is on the Mercer Board, and said the university’s goal is two-fold.
“First, Mercer has a real desire to do the right thing and make a contribution to the community and not just have a school here,” Elder said. “They want to complement the community.
“And when the building is built, it will help fulfill the goal and mission of the Mercer medical school, change the face of rural health care in Georgia.”
The mission of the Mercer campus in Columbus will be to educate and train doctors who will go out into the state’s underserved areas and set up practices. The effort is a public-private partnership between Mercer, Columbus philanthropists, and the state of Georgia.
More than $14 million was raised privately in Columbus. The building was also purchased and gifted to the Mercer effort. The General Assembly approved another $9.3 million to help improve rural health care.
When full enrollment is achieved in the mid-2020s, the number of Columbus M.D. students will match enrollment on the School’s Macon and Savannah campuses (240 each) and make Mercer one of the largest private medical schools in the nation, Mercer said in a news release Friday.
Mercer University is located in Macon. There are three Mercer Board members with Columbus connections. In addition to Edler, attorney Pete Robinson and businessman Brad Turner are on the Board. Turner was elected on Friday.