UofSC launches bold health sciences initiative

The health care industry is rapidly growing in South Carolina with high demand for college-educated workers in the next 15 years. As the Southeast’s most comprehensive health sciences teaching and research institution, the University of South Carolina will build on its nationally recognized programs in medicine, nursing, social work, public health, pharmacy, biochemistry, business, computing and others, as well as its unique partnerships with health care providers throughout the state, to create the premier health sciences experience for both undergraduate and graduate students. The bold, innovative, interdisciplinary approach will make Carolina the destination of choice for those who want to enter the health sciences, health administration, health IT or other career in the health care industry.

“This is what it means to be a 21st century university: developing arenas of excellence that meet the interests and employability demands of students and parents while meeting the economic demands of the state,” said university President Harris Pastides. “We have set our goal on being the best university in the region — and perhaps anywhere — if you wish to pursue a great job, and a great life, as a health professional. We know the state’s health care needs are profound and the job market is hopping.”

According to a recent study by the Darla Moore School of Business, the health care industry already employs one out of every eight Americans and the industry is expected to grow by up to 40 percent during the next decade. In South Carolina, that means an increase from 215,000 current health care and social assistance jobs to nearly 340,000. By 2030, the health care and social assistance sectors are projected to be the largest employer in South Carolina.

The new initiative also helps the university continue to serve the state of South Carolina, which unfortunately trails much of the nation in key health indicators. More USC graduates will be equipped to help reduce preventable diseases among residents by delivering the kind of comprehensive, patient-centered care that is a hallmark of instruction at USC.

The new initiative includes:

  • The most comprehensive set of pipeline programs in the health sciences giving undergraduates a unique and interdisciplinary path to graduate school or the job market
  • A living-learning community with a faculty principal, mentorship programs, student organizations and a cadre of interdisciplinary faculty
  • Experiential learning programs for undergraduates including research, clinical offerings and service learning
  • An integrated curriculum that reflects and models the modern health care environment allowing students to pursue a variety of career paths as clinicians, scientists, managers, administrators, information technologists, biochemical engineers and more
  • A global perspective that allows students to engage in opportunities and problem solving in rural, suburban, urban and international environments

“We have an opportunity to play to our strengths in a new way by pulling together across disciplines and creating synergy in how we teach, how we do research and how we serve the state of South Carolina,” said Joan Gabel, USC’s provost. “For example, in the health sciences, we have one of the most comprehensive portfolios of programs in the region starting in the freshman year and continuing all the way through to the graduate degree. Imagine if we pulled those programs together and leveraged our uniquely comprehensive portfolio along with our national reputation for the quality of our student experience under a promise that this is the best university to attend if you want a career in the health sciences.”

One important component of the new initiative will be a health sciences research campus in the BullStreet development. The campus will serve as the new home to the USC School of Medicine-Columbia. The location is across the street from the Palmetto Health Richland campus, which includes the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital and Palmetto Health Heart Hospital. The new campus will also be across the street from the corporate office of the new Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, the region’s largest, multispecialty physicians group.

"We are thrilled with this plan for a new health sciences campus in Columbia,” said Les Hall, dean of the School of Medicine-Columbia and CEO of the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group. “This new campus will be a tremendous benefit to our students and will help meet the need for more health care providers in South Carolina, while also growing our state's contributions to biomedical research."

"As the health care industry has evolved, collaboration has become more important than ever,” said Charles D. Beaman Jr., chief executive officer, Palmetto Health. “We have enjoyed a 40-plus year partnership with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, training medical residents and conducting clinical research for our patients. To have the school in close proximity to the Palmetto Health Richland campus will provide even closer alignment. Together we will continue to meet the health care needs of people across our growing region.”

The development would occur in two phases beginning with the relocation of the medical school from its current off-campus location. That move calls for the construction of a 130,000 square-foot, $80 million building to house the medical school. The second phase comprises a science and laboratory building that could house basic sciences for the School of Medicine and research activities for other health science disciplines. That building is projected to be 165,000 square-foot, $120 million facility.

“A modern, efficient facility, located closer to the university’s clinical partners in Columbia, is a more effective long-term teaching and research location and a more cost effective facility to own and operate,” said Ed Walton, USC’s chief operating officer.

The university intends to seek a significant capital investment from the General Assembly to launch the first phase of the project.

“The future vision is a bustling, entrepreneurial health sciences campus where USC researchers, clinicians and students engage in discovery and the creation of knowledge,” said Pastides. “These discoveries will improve the practice of medicine, save lives and spin off new companies as we commercialize USC research. It will bring results from the lab to the bedside faster and will target the health needs of patients, physicians and students at an integrated campus.”

Pastides pointed to other examples around the country where health science and biomedical research has spawned economic development in urban areas.

A medical complex of this nature will be a catalyst for jobs in the Midlands from construction (1,700 jobs) and operation (2,200-2,600 jobs) to the new jobs created through research, commercialization, start-ups and clinical services (950-1,200 jobs). In addition, it is expected to have an eventual annual economic impact of up to $180 million with up to $9 million generated in tax revenue.

BullStreet developer Bob Hughes is donating 16 acres of land to the university for the health complex. Hughes offset the donation by acquiring an additional 16 acres of land from the Department of Mental Health that were not part of the original development earlier this year. The acreage is a gift to the university, with no cost to the university.

“We have been a strategic partner with the Greenville Health System for over 40 years and have seen the value added to a community by concentrated medical uses. As a perfect example, we have witnessed firsthand the extra boost provided by the USC School of Medicine-Greenville,” said Hughes. “We expect the development of a USC health campus will spur life science, residential, medical office, restaurant and other development both sooner and in much bigger scale than if this land had remained a DMH facility or even if the property developed conventionally.”

Hughes added that no City of Columbia funds would be spent on the health science campus.

“This development is simply exciting,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. “It is consistent with our vision to be the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in America. It is also classically aligned with the University of South Carolina's vision and charge to be a faithful index to the ambitions and fortunes of our state. This is a very big deal and significant investment. We are excited about the role that USC will play in meeting the public health needs of Columbia, South Carolina and the world."

In another new development, USC’s Arnold School of Public Health will open a satellite campus in Greenville this year in partnership with the USC School of Medicine-Greenville and the Greenville Health System. More details will be released soon.

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