Ground was broken Friday for a new medical school building at the University of South Alabama. University officials teamed with Gov. Kay Ivey and other state and local dignitaries to turn over the ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt.
The $200 million project will create a 250,000-square-foot Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine building, set to open in 2026. The new building, along with the colleges of nursing and allied health professions, the health simulations building and the biomedical library, will comprise a 500,000-square-foot section of the Mobile campus dedicated to health care education and research.
“This facility will offer our future students the most advanced learning and research opportunities anywhere in the country,” said USA President Jo Bonner. “It will transform medicine to the unique needs of our community while educating and training the next generation of providers.”
The new building also allows the university to increase the number of first-year medical students from 80 to 100 with the option of increasing to 120 in the future. The increase comes at a time when the national faces an expected shortage of health care providers, the university notes.
“This is an investment in the future of health care to meet the needs of Alabamians,” said Dr. John Marymont, dean of the Whiddon College of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs. “By national metrics, this medical school produces high-quality physicians that stay in the state, helping meet the needs in primary care as well as in rural and underserved areas at an affordable cost.”
Announcing the new facility, the university noted, “The Whiddon College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama is one of 158 accredited MD-granting institutions in the United States and one of only two in the state. More than 1,139 of its graduates are practicing medicine in Alabama. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the USA consistently ranks in the top tier nationally for graduates practicing in underserved areas.”
Funding for the new building comes from a variety of sources — $60 million earmarked in the federal budget by former Sen. Richard Shelby; $50 million from the State of Alabama; $30 million from the USA Foundation; $10 million from the City of Mobile; $5 million from Mobile County and major gifts from Alabama Power, The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the Bedsole Foundation and the Daniel Foundation, among others.
Frederick Whiddon, for whom the building is named, was the founding president of the University of South Alabama in 1963. Almost immediately, he said that the university should have a medical school, and the first class was admitted to the USA College of Medicine in 1973.