School of Medicine expands to Columbus

On Feb. 10th, Mercer University announced their partnership with the Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Ga. to establish a Columbus campus for the School of Medicine. In an interview, Mercer Medical School Dean Bill Bina said, “in July 2012, we’re going to have about 12 third year students start their third year experience.” Those students will be full time and will be there to finish out the last two years of their education.

“The whole [Columbus] population is growing, and what they felt they needed to distinguish their city in the future would be to have a medical school,” Bina said. “This was about 18 months ago when they came to ask President Underwood [if he would consider starting a clinical or medical school campus in Columbus]….So over the past 18 months I and members of the team here at the Medical School have been working with St. Francis Hospital and THE Medical Center with the purpose of starting the third and fourth year clinical rotations.”

In a recent interview, President Underwood said, “We are pleased to be taking the unique mission of our School of Medicine to Columbus and West Georgia. It will further enhance health care for the citizens of this region and help prepare much-needed physicians for our state.”

One of the motivating factors for creating this partnership is an insurance of quality physicians being exposed to other areas of Georgia.

“Because the Mercer School of Medicine only accepts students who are Georgia residents, this campus expansion will expose a large number of future Georgia doctors to Columbus and the surrounding western region of Georgia, increasing the likelihood that many of them will practice in the area once they have completed their medical education,” Bina said.  “Pressure and crowding of learners in the hospital settings these days is becoming problematic, so the more diverse our clinical experiences are, the better the students have it because there are less people on the teams. They get more individual experience and practice.”

To get this program developed and working, according to President Underwood, a team comprised of The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital, Pete Robinson, State Rep. Richard Smith, Mercer Medical School Dean Bill Bina, Mercer trustees Jimmy Elder and Tom Black and a number of other local business and community leaders have developed and engaged the faculty and staff that are essential for teaching these third and fourth year medical students.

“One of the advantages we have is that we have a curriculum that we use for third and fourth years that can be transferred directly so they don’t have to start a new curriculum,” Bina said.

Lance Duke, FACHE, president and CEO of THE Medical Center, in a recent interview, commented, “The future benefits of this affiliation to our community and our region are without question. We know many of the students will grow to love this community as we do, and will choose to stay here to practice medicine.”

“This partnership broadens our clinical basis so we have more hospitals, more clinics, more opportunities. We have the potential to grow up to 40 students. Going from 12 to 40 students is a big deal in this kind of thing,” Bina said. “It won’t happen immediately, but what we need is to prove that our partnership works, and we have no indication that it won’t because everybody is enthusiastic about it.”