The University of Mississippi Medical Center broke ground on its new pediatrics tower Friday before a crowd of patients, doctors and state leaders.
Gov. Phil Bryant, who attended the groundbreaking, praised the new 340,000 square foot tower, calling this ceremony different from the many other groundbreakings he has attended.
“None of those facilities are the places of miracles,” Bryant said. “But this is.”
The seven-story tower, which will be adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital, is planned to open in August 2020. It will house a new neonatal intensive care unit with private rooms, additional pediatric intensive care unit rooms and surgical suites, and an imaging center designed for children. The Children’s Heart Center, the center of UMMC’s pediatric cardiovascular program, also will be in the new building.
“We have outstanding physicians and the best staff, and they have a passion for caring for patients,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “What we need now are facilities to match that quality of care. The time has come for a transformation.”
The new pediatrics tower is the latest of many changes, both internal and external, occurring this year at the medical center. In August, a new $74 million medical school building opened. On Thursday, Dr. Mary Taylor became the new chair of the Department of Pediatrics. Taylor is the first woman and UMMC graduate to hold the post.
Much like the new medical school building, which allowed the school to increase first year class size to an all time high of 165 students, the new pediatrics building provides room for new physicians. Children’s of Mississippi plans to recruit 30-40 new physicians in the next five years as the facility is built and after it is opened.
Mississippi currently has fewer doctors per capita than any state in the country, and recruiting and retaining more physicians has been a priority both within the medical center and among state leaders.
“This project is not just for the children who need it today. It’s for future generations and is part of a strategic long-term plan for Mississippi’s future,” said Joe Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms, who with his wife, Kathy, co-chairs the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, a philanthropic effort launched in 2016.
The Campaign has raised more than $60 million toward its $100 million goal so far. Friends of Children’s Hospital, a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for Batson Children’s Hospital has raised an additional $20 million. Children’s of Mississippi is the umbrella organization that includes Batson Children’s Hospital and all UMMC pediatric care throughout the state.
“We have a world-class medical team here, but they do not have resources to match their skill. The opening of this children’s tower will mean better outcomes for our children, but also better research, more top doctors coming to Mississippi and more jobs,” Sanderson said.
Taylor, the new head of pediatrics, agreed.
“This is what the children of Mississippi need,” she said, “and what the children of Mississippi deserve.”