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University of South Alabama Begins Work On $200M College of Medicine Building

Thu December 28, 2023 - Southeast Edition
University of South Alabama

University of South Alabama leadership and supporters broke ground on a new Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine building. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2026.
Photo courtesy of the University of South Alabama
University of South Alabama leadership and supporters broke ground on a new Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine building. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

Officials with the University of South Alabama (USA) in Mobile, along with many of its supporters, including Gov. Kay Ivey, broke ground in early December on a new building for the school's Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine building.

Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

The planned 250,000-sq.-ft. medical college at the South Alabama campus will allow the university to graduate more physicians and accelerate research and innovation, the college noted in a news release.

The $200 million facility will round out a medical education hub at USA that includes the College of Nursing, the Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions, the Health Simulation Building and the Charles M. Baugh Biomedical Library.

When the new structure opens, more than 500,000 sq. ft. of USA's buildings will be dedicated to healthcare education and research.

"This facility will offer our future students the most advanced learning and research opportunities anywhere in the country," said USA President Jo Bonner. "It will transform medicine to the unique needs of our community while educating and training the next generation of providers."

Plans call for the new Whiddon College of Medicine building to provide modern laboratory spaces that will create flexibility and efficiency for research today and in the future, the school noted. It also will allow for expanding the class size of first-year medical students from 80 to 100, with the capability of increasing to 120 in the future at the same time the nation faces a projected shortage of healthcare providers.

"This is an investment in the future of healthcare to meet the needs of Alabamians," explained John Marymont, dean of the Whiddon College of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs. "By national metrics, this medical school produces high-quality physicians that stay in the state, helping meet the needs in primary care as well as in rural and underserved areas at an affordable cost."

USA's Whiddon College of Medicine is one of 158 accredited medical degree-granting institutions in the United States, and one of only two in Alabama. More than 1,139 of its graduates are currently practicing medicine in the state, USA noted.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Mobile-based university consistently ranks in the top tier nationally for graduates practicing in underserved areas.

Alabamians Recognize Need for New Medical School

Key Alabama stakeholders have responded to help invest in the state's healthcare, according to the university.

In one of his final acts as a member of the U.S. Senate, former Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby set aside $60 million in federal appropriations for the new medical college. Additionally, another $30 million in funding was contributed by The USA Foundation, while the state kicked in $50 million in support of the project.

"Alabama proudly recognizes the value of the Whiddon College of Medicine, and by breaking ground on this state-of-the-art facility, we are further positioning one of our state's premier institutions to connect our people with the care they need," Ivey told assembled guests at the groundbreaking ceremony. "From larger cohorts to greater research capabilities, this new facility will take an already excellent program to the next level."

Many other individuals and organizations understood the critical need to build a new College of Medicine at USA as well, including the city of Mobile ($10 million) and Mobile County ($5 million). Transformational gifts also were pledged by Alabama Power, The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Bedsole Foundation, and the Daniel Foundation, to name just a few.

"We made a call for support to provide a building to match the quality of our student's education," Bonner added. "Their action shows that they understand the critical value an academic health system brings to its local community and throughout the state."

The university has set an additional $30 million philanthropic goal to see the project through to completion. Gifts may be pledged over five years and recognized through naming opportunities in perpetuity.

Shortly after USA was established in 1963, its then-President Frederick P. Whiddon began discussions with community and state leaders about creating a medical school in Mobile. Ten years later, his vision became a reality, and the charter class was admitted to the USA College of Medicine. In 1974, the university's first Medical Sciences Building was completed as the home of the Whiddon College of Medicine.

The University of South Alabama and USA Health have more than 11,000 employees, making it one of the largest employers in the region.

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