Graham: Med school staying

The UM system is seeking a bond to improve the school’s research capacities.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:32 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Echoing campus and other leaders in the University of Missouri system, a state legislator said Tuesday that the MU School of Medicine is not going anywhere in the near future.

Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, made the statement at a forum on the future of the medical school in the school’s Acuff Auditorium. Graham had requested the forum in October in the wake of offers that he said came from Kansas City to move the medical school there. At the time, MU Chancellor Richard Wallace, UM system President Elson Floyd and medical school Dean William Crist said the school would stay in Columbia.

Graham and Hugh Stephenson, who had served as interim dean of the medical school and president of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, said the school has been approached “numerous” times in its history about a move. Graham said that although he’s confident the school will remain where it is, he doesn’t rule out the possibility that it will again be courted for a move to Kansas City.

Missourians need to understand that the school doesn’t serve only Columbia but the entire state, he said.

“History tends to repeat itself, so I wouldn’t be surprised if people would continue to covet such a great asset,” Graham said.

Graham said that members of the Missouri General Assembly wouldn’t support investments in the school if they thought a move might happen. The UM system is trying to obtain legislative approval for a $190 million bond to strengthen the school’s research capacities in life sciences; MU would receive more than $100 million. Some of the money would help fund the construction of a new health sciences research building, which medical school leaders say is needed for research space.

James Coleman, MU vice provost for research, said the medical school is a key element in the life sciences initiative. MU is special because of the numerous departments that work together to further medical research, he added.

Coleman presented economic predictions on the impact of a new health sciences center. He said the 400,000-square-foot project would bring in about 500 jobs. It would also draw annual external grants of more than $40 million, he said.

Coleman said that in one year, the research center would generate more than $75 million for the state and in 10 years, that figure would be 10 times as high.

Floyd expressed his support at the forum for the medical school and said it has a brilliant future. Floyd said it was never on his mind or that of the governing board to move the medical school.

Floyd also said the University Hospital and Clinics is the economic impetus for the medical school. The hospital recently has begun to make money after a dark financial period. The change came under management of the Hunter Group, a Florida management and consulting firm known for making academic hospitals financially viable.

Cynthia Grueber, director of University and Children’s hospitals, , said the hospital is on an upward swing, with a profit of $8 million reported at the end of the last fiscal year, which ended June 31, 2003, and $7 million in the first quarter of this fiscal year.

Crist said the medical school needs to continue to grow and outlined his vision for the future.

He said the proposed health sciences building is at the core of the medical school’s plansbecause it’s needed for research space. The school also is looking to add 105 faculty members by 2008 to its current staff of more than 400.

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