USF Dedicates Downtown Tampa Site of New Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute [Video]
Under a clear blue Florida sky, with the sunlit Tampa skyline behind them, friends and supporters gathered in downtown Tampa the morning of Dec. 8 to celebrate a key milestone for the University of South Florida – the site dedication for the future home of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and its Heart Institute.
With their shovels full of white sand that surrounded a sand-sculptured USF Health logo, community leaders, legislators, USF leaders and USF Health medical students made the symbolic turn of earth. It marked the first official celebration for building the new academic facility that will propel medical education and heart research.
Setting a tone of celebration, USF System President Judy Genshaft called the event the first of many that will create a vibrant center of learning and research to transform the Tampa Bay region.
“Today, we come together with a new chapter for downtown Tampa and the incredible partnerships that are helping this city and community reach its fullest potential,” President Genshaft said. “Our destiny is to be a city like no other – to put our heads and hearts together to create a happier and vibrant future for all of the Tampa Bay area. We are so appreciative to all who have played important roles and we look forward to taking the next steps together to make something quite amazing.”
Amid a standing ovation, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik stood at the podium. Following a light quip that the standing ovation was because “we’ve built a tent” on the site, he turned his heartfelt thanks to the group in front of him.
“Because of Judy Genshaft, our Mayor and all the legislators in this area, that standing ovation is for every person I’m looking at right now,” Vinik said. “To get the USF medical school and heart institute where we are standing, it takes everybody under this tent and in this community. We’re all in this together. I couldn’t be more proud to have USF as the first anchor of this (development) district.”
The transformative initiative for USF will be a key anchor in a thriving downtown redevelopment project and will strengthen the university’s presence in downtown’s business district, as well as allow USF Health to expand essential educational and research programs at its main campus location.
The downtown site will position the medical school in close proximity to USF Health’s primary teaching and clinical affiliate, Tampa General Hospital, as well as its world-class simulation center, the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) and other surrounding facilities.
And locating the Morsani College of Medicine in this downtown district will have a positive impact on recruiting top-tier students, Charles J. Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, pointed out. At the dedication he reported that the College had already received more than 6,100 applications for the 2015-16 admissions cycle, all vying for 170 available positions.
“We are one of the most competitive medical schools in the country,” Dr. Lockwood told the guests, who followed with cheers and applause. “This downtown location is precisely where millennial medical students and young faculty want to be.”
Co-locating the USF Health Heart Institute with the new MCOM building downtown will also enhance recruitment of top cardiovascular researchers, support clinical and translational research opportunities to advance public health, increase MCOM’s National Institutes of Health funding levels and improve the rankings of MCOM and our partner, TGH.
In June, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott supported plans for the new co-located facility by including $17 million in the annual state budget. The new MCOM and Heart Institute, which will be built with a combination of state and private dollars, have received a total of about $57 million in state funding and $18 million in private donations to this point. The total cost of the project is $153 million.
Located at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive, the new facility is part of a $2 billion real estate development led by Jeff Vinik. The group is developing 40 acres in downtown Tampa into a multi-use, urban waterfront district that will promote a walkable, sustainable, healthy environment for downtown Tampa residents, workers, students and visitors.
With a 360-degree view of the hustle and bustle of downtown Tampa, speakers at the dedication captured the enthusiasm echoed across the region for this move downtown for the Morsani College of Medicine and the USF Health Heart Institute.
Site Dedication Speakers: More of what they said
“The USF Morsani College of Medicine and the USF Health Heart Institute will rise here as one of the anchors of the development being planned by Strategic Property Partners, the joint venture between Mr. Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investments. By working together on every level of state and local government, and across both public and private sectors, we are creating a vibrant center of learning and research that will eventually touch the lives of everyone in the Tampa Bay region.”
USF System President Judy Genshaft
“Please allow me to… peer ahead to the year 2020. We would be standing on the first floor of the brand new medical school for USF and heart health institute, there would be a companion office building, and also one and two 600,000-square-foot office buildings. You would be seeing bike paths, you would see diversity and inclusion from all kinds of people, you would see a 500-room hotel, 1,000 residential units, retail, restaurants, entertainment, vibrancy, water features, public art — all of which are require to turn an area into a district. A place where people live, work and play.”
Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik
“This is an important day for this region. This is the beginning of Tampa taking that next step. This is where we join together as a community, driven by the belief that we are better together, that we are stronger together, that we are more competitive together, driven by Jeff Vinik’s vision. The willingness of USF to believe in what a downtown university could do for this community. The recognition that these resident (physicians) right here, that this is the intellectual capital that will drive the community for decades to come. Our ability to attract them to come to a great university but, most importantly, to stay in this city depends on an urban environment that works, an urban environment that’s alive 18 hours a day. That will drive our economy.”
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn
“The university system throughout our nation is one of the great economic engines in this country. I truly believe, having spent 35 years in the home building development business and off and on about 20 years in the Florida Legislature, having worked with many of the men and women in this room, I really believe that the University of South Florida anchoring downtown (Tampa) is going to create wonderful synergies, clusters of opportunity for further economic activity and truly create this mixed-used opportunities that our community is looking for to revitalize and fully develop the downtown area.”
Florida Senator Tom Lee
“It has long been a priority of the Board of Governors to support higher education programs and facilities that provide the most return on investment for the state’s economy, especially those in STEM and health care. The newest USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and the USF Health Heart Institute exemplify that mission. President Genshaft, the USF Board and all of the partners across the Tampa Bay community have made it easy for the Board of Governors to lend its support… Congratulations to USF and, indeed, all of Tampa Bay on this historic milestone.”
Florida Board of Governors Chair Mori Hosseini
“We are another step closer toward the creation of a new kind of medical school and research program, both of which together will have a transformative effect on medical education and research, as well as the health of our Tampa Bay region and its economy. Together, we are building a medical school of the future, one that will allow us to educate future doctors in an era when medical student knowledge doubles every 73 days, that will pioneer new discoveries and personalized therapies to allow people live better and healthier lives, and that will set new standards of health care quality and outcomes while reducing health care costs. But the greatest impact of this project will be on the lives of our students, current and future physicians, researchers, and other health care professionals.”
Charles Lockwood, MD
Senior Vice President for USF Health
Dean, Morsani College of Medicine
“This integrated facility will help recruit top cardiovascular researchers and clinicians and support translational and clinical research in order to advance public health and increase NIH funding levels. It will elevate the level of cardiovascular care throughout the Tampa Bay region — providing a world-class program that leads to new and more effective treatments for heart disease for generations to come.”
Arthur Labovitz, MD
Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences for MCOM
Co-director, USF Health Heart Institute
Video by Sandra C. Roa, photos by Eric Younghans, and graphic by Mark Leaning, USF Health Office of Communications