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Mercer University Medical School expands Savannah campus

  • Photos by Dash Coleman/Savannah Morning News- Robert Shelley, interim dean of Mercer University School of Medicine’s Savannah campus, left, and medical students Sheritta Carmichael and Laila Moraczewski listen during a media tour of the newly expanded campus Friday morning.
  • Students at Mercer University School of Medicine's Savannah campus take a test Friday morning in one of the rooms in a newly expanded part of the campus.

They might not have a spot for tele-tailgating Bears games yet, but Savannah’s medical students have gotten a swankier campus as of late.

Since fall 2014, about $18 million worth of work has been put into Mercer University School of Medicine’s Savannah campus. The efforts have involved renovating roughly 26,000 square feet of the existing facilities at Memorial University Medical Center and building 30,000 square feet of new space.

The goal is to substantially increase local enrollment, said Dr. William Bina, dean of Mercer’s medical school.

Starting in August, the Savannah campus will increase from 40 students per class to 60 — within four years bringing it to the same enrollment as the medical school in Macon.

That’s something that will prove important to bringing new doctors to coastal Georgia, Bina said.

“As a school, we’re proud of the fact that we have over 1,000 graduates,” Bina said during a tour of the newly expanded Savannah campus on Friday. “More than 63 percent have actually returned to the state to practice, and of those that are in the state, 80 percent are in what we call rural or under-served areas of the state.”

Expansion on Savannah’s campus focused heavily on technology, with new space including exam and tutorial rooms, simulation spaces, offices for research scientists, postdoctoral work stations and a medical library.

There’s also a long-distance learning room where students from all three campuses — Savannah, Macon and Columbus — can interact during the same lesson. Each student has a microphone with a button that will allow for a face-to-face video chat with the presenter, said Dr. Robert Shelley, interim dean of the Savannah campus.

“A presentation can be done here, and they not only can see the speaker and hear the speaker, but they can see any slides or video that the speaker has at all three campuses and they can also ask questions from all three campuses,” Shelley said. “It’s real-time communication.”

Lorien Kim, a third-year medical student from Duluth, said the upgrades were nice but noted the campus wasn’t exactly low tech before, either.

And Sheritta Carmichael, a third-year student from Cartersville, said she was happy to have a larger campus with more study space. That means future students won’t have to cross the streets as much, she said.

“I think it will be beneficial for the students to have everything in one space,” Carmichael said. 

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