Education

General Assembly considers funding Mercer medical school in Columbus

The state of Georgia may consider spending $9.3 million toward a Mercer University plan for a four-year medical school campus in Columbus. Mercer’s main campuses are in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah.
The state of Georgia may consider spending $9.3 million toward a Mercer University plan for a four-year medical school campus in Columbus. Mercer’s main campuses are in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah.

A medical school in Columbus is within reach if the Georgia General Assembly approves a proposal during a special session that started Tuesday.

The state of Georgia is considering an appropriation to spend $9.3 million toward a Mercer University plan for a four-year medical school in Columbus.

That became apparent Tuesday morning, when the Georgia General Assembly met in Atlanta for a special legislative session. Their main business is an adjustment to the state’s spending plan to provide some $270 million in relief to communities hit by Hurricane Michael. But copies of the proposed budget also included the new Mercer money.

Mercer, which currently trains third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus, was careful about commenting on the budget proposal, which still must win approval from the General Assembly and be signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

“Mercer University was approached by community leaders several years ago about adding a School of Medicine campus in Columbus,” the Mercer release stated. “If approved, we believe this initiative, which would be a partnership between Columbus, the University and the State of Georgia, will transform access to healthcare throughout the region. Columbus is adjacent to southwest Georgia, one of the most medically underserved areas of the state.”

Mercer’s medical school has graduated about 100 students in six classes since the Columbus program began in 2012. The Columbus Mercer campus is located in an office building and has a dean and administrative staff. The Mercer students based in Columbus work with local physicians and do their clinical rotations at Piedmont Columbus Regional and St. Francis Hospital.

Mercer spokesman Larry Brumley said the university, which is located in Macon, would not discuss details until the legislative process is complete.

The state has long granted money to Mercer, a private university that trains doctors who then go on to work in Georgia’s underserved rural communities. If the additional money is approved by the Legislature, the state would have spent $33.3 million on Mercer for the fiscal year ending in July.

The special session is set to end Monday.

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