COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The Mercer Medical School plans for Columbus have changed — and changed dramatically.
The university has been gifted a prime piece of riverfront property north of the downtown Total Systems Services, Inc. (TSYS) campus. Plans now call for the campus to be put on a more than 7-acre tract formerly owned by TSYS.
“We would like to thank the W.C. Bradley Co., TSYS, Global Payments and the Columbus community-at-large for the spirit of collaboration and overwhelming generosity they have shown during the planning phase of this process,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood in a statement released this morning. “Mercer University School of Medicine in Columbus will be among the most beautiful medical school campuses in the country and will stand as yet another testament to the ethos of this vibrant community and its investment in solving one of this region’s most pressing needs by training future generations of medical doctors.”
“TSYS and Global Payments are proud to make this significant gift to Mercer University for the benefit of the entire Chattahoochee Valley and the broader medical community,” said M. Troy Woods, chairman of Global Payments.
“For many years, TSYS has been a leader in the development and building of our community, and today our commitment is stronger than ever,” Woods said in a statement.
The new facility, expected to be completed in late 2021 or early 2022, will feature state-of-the-art classrooms, research facilities and office space, according to Mercer.
The School of Medicine is recruiting and hiring new faculty and scientists for the expanded medical school campus in Columbus. The inaugural class of first-year M.D. students is scheduled to enroll in August 2021, the university said.
The plans have changed since Mercer confirmed plans to WRBL News 3 in April to build a new medical school in downtown Columbus. University officials made a public announcement in May and the targeted site was The Rothschild Building at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 11th Street.
Backed by operational funding from the state, as well as nearly $15 million in support from the Columbus philanthropic community, the plan was to renovate the downtown facility housing new classrooms, labs, and office space.
That changed to tearing down the existing building and constructing a campus on that site.
In recent months, the plan changed again as the TSYS riverfront property off First Avenue became a possibility.
A combination of public and private funding in excess of $25 million has paved the way for the Macon-based university to open the four-year medical school in Columbus.
A private fund-raising effort in Columbus secured more than $14 million and a former TSYS building on 11th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
“That is a substantial gift,” Underwood said. “The community raised the necessary funds for the facilities.”
Last year, the Georgia General Assembly committed $9.3 million to the project.
The state is involved because the new medical school will train doctors to work in rural areas.
Underwood outlined three things that had to happen for the medical school to become a reality.
The initial step was to locate third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus in 2012. That was to test the waters, Underwood said. Mercer signed agreements with the two major Columbus hospitals for clinical rotations.
“The first step is determining if there are adequate, quality clinical rotations for medical students,” Underwood said. “And, through that process, we have determined there are.”