University of Mississippi Medical Center to name medical education building in honor of Gov. Phil Bryant

Published 6:00 am Sunday, November 19, 2017

Staff Report

University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi has announced the naming of the medical education building at its Medical Center campus in Jackson in honor of Gov. Phil Bryant. The naming of Phil Bryant Medical Education Building became official on Nov. 16 with approval from the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

Email newsletter signup

The new building – a 151,000-square-foot, $76 million state-of-the-art facility – was dedicated Aug. 4, 2017. Working with the Legislature, Gov. Bryant was instrumental in securing funding for the project, including $10 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding through the Mississippi Development Authority to launch the effort, as well as helping to secure $66 million in state bonds.

Gov. Bryant’s commitment to bringing more physicians to Mississippi and to growing the state’s health care economy extends back to his term as lieutenant governor.

“Gov. Bryant has worked tirelessly over many years to ensure that the new medical education building would become a reality,” said Jeffrey Vitter, UM chancellor. “He recognized the vital need to train additional doctors as well as the tremendous impact this medical school will continue to have upon our state for generations to come.

“The new building and expanded classes will stand as a part of his legacy.”

At roughly 185 doctors per 100,000 residents, Mississippi is the most medically underserved state in the nation. Addressing this issue has been one of the governor’s highest priorities. His commitment to increasing the state’s number of physicians was a focal point of his 2013 State of the State address in which he observed that having more providers will create better health care access for Mississippians, resulting in lower costs.

“This honor is incredibly humbling and unexpected, and I am so grateful,” Gov. Bryant said. “I will continue to serve the university and its medical community in every way possible in order to be deserving of this distinction.

“It is my hope that this wonderful new facility will help grow and sustain our ability to provide the best healthcare possible for the people of Mississippi.”

Medical school leaders began increasing class sizes several years ago in anticipation of the new building. With the opening of the facility last summer, the entering class size grew from around 145 students to 155 this year, and will eventually top off at approximately 165 – the size considered necessary to meet the goal of 1,000 additional physicians by 2025.

It is projected that the larger class sizes accommodated by the new facility will generate about $1.7 billion in economic impact by 2025 and that the additional physicians trained will support more than 19,000 new jobs by the same year. The economic impact of practicing UMMC-trained physicians is more than $6.3 billion annually, and those physicians are estimated to support more than 60,000 jobs in the state.

“Gov. Bryant has been a great champion of the effort to build a new medical education building, which will ultimately lead to more physicians for Mississippi and greater access to health care for more of the state’s residents, particularly those in rural areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We are extremely grateful for the governor’s exceptional leadership in helping us achieve our mission of training Mississippians to take care of Mississippians.”

Besides his central role in garnering funding for the new building, Gov. Bryant has more broadly supported medical education efforts in the state. During the 2012 legislative session, Gov. Bryant signed House Bill 317 into law to establish more medical residency programs throughout the state, a move intended to allow more Mississippi-trained physicians to remain in the state.

That same year, Gov. Bryant championed and signed legislation creating Health Care Industry Zones to spur expanded access to health care and grow health care jobs.

Gov. Bryant also has a longstanding history of leadership and advocacy in support of growing Mississippi’s health care economy, including two years of legislation that removed barriers to the full adoption of telehealth as a means of providing patient care. As a result, Mississippi has been recognized by the American Telemedicine Association as one of only nine states with an A-rating as a top state for telehealth.

UMMC also was recently designated one of only two Telehealth Centers of Excellence nationwide by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Gov. Bryant also was instrumental in passing the Health Care Collaboration Act, which will provide new opportunities for UMMC to partner with rural hospitals and others to further expand medical services. During his terms, the governor has also devoted significant support to growing the Mississippi Healthcare Corridor, which includes UMMC as an anchor institution.

Gov. Bryant’s commitment to a healthier Mississippi is shared by first lady Deborah Bryant, whose career in health care spanned more than three decades. Health care is one of the pillars of her platform to improve the quality of life for Mississippians of all ages.

She is active in a number of health-related causes, including serving as a board member for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, which honored her in 2014 as a recipient of the “Women of Excellence” Award. She is also a frequent volunteer at Batson Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Ford Dye, member of the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning and an alumnus of the UM School of Medicine, praised Gov. Bryant for his commitment to improving medical education in the state.

“When Gov. Bryant first came into office, he set as a top priority the need to increase the physician workforce in our state to provide quality health care for our citizens,” Dye said. “He led the way to obtain necessary funds to build this incredible new building, which will house the School of Medicine at UMMC.

“Without his strong leadership, this new building would not have been completed. We are grateful to Gov. Bryant for his vision and service to the people of this state and are delighted this building will be named in his honor.”

The new medical education building was designed and built to house the School of Medicine, which was originally in the Medical Center complex that opened in July 1955. Over the years, demands for space have grown, and, as the Medical Center expanded, the medical school splintered into a network of disconnected sites, including some makeshift offices and labs.

“Naming the building housing the medical school after Gov. Bryant is a fitting tribute,” said Glenn Boyce, commissioner of higher education. “He has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the health of all Mississippians and has pursued this goal with vision and passion. His vision will change the medical landscape of our state and help generations of Mississippians lead healthier lives.”