Celebrating a new home: The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute officially opens in downtown Tampa

The new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute officially opened Jan. 8, 2020, when USF friends, supporters, faculty, staff and students cut through a long white ribbon, signifying the culmination of nearly five years of design and construction on the 13-story building that will help attract the best in education and research.

Gathering in the building’s auditorium, guests filled the seats and lined the walls along the side and back of the room. Many held their cell phones high above the crowd to capture the symbolic moment themselves. And local news media stood atop a riser, getting a clear video shot of the stage.

Then everyone paused, waiting as dignitaries held steady with scissors in hand. On cue, they all sliced through the ribbon, and the room filled with applause – a world-class facility that will transform medical education delivery and generate millions of dollars in annual economic impact is officially opened.

“The Morsani College of Medicine is simply the most exciting building in the Tampa Bay region,” said University of South Florida President Steve Currall, in remarks at the Jan. 8 ribbon-cutting event. “It is so much more than a shiny new building that serves as an anchor of the impressive Water Street region. This Morsani College of Medicine is a human capital magnet that will attract world-class physicians, researchers, and students to carry out trailblazing discoveries and deliver creative health education. And let us even dream that, someday in the future, research carried out in this building will be worthy of a Nobel Prize.”

Dr. Steve Currall

“It is our bold vision to be national leaders in collaboration and innovation, training the next generation of physicians and pioneering high-value discoveries,” said Charles J. Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine. “There is nowhere better to do this than in downtown Tampa. To be joining this fast-growing Water Street community is a privilege and we look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship with our community partners for years to come. As you saw as you arrived here today, there is a buzz of construction activity around us. We are proud to be the pioneers opening our doors first and helping to bring this new neighborhood to life.”

Dr. Charles Lockwood

The 395,000 square foot facility serves as hub for approximately 1,800 students, faculty and staff to live, work and study along the vibrant downtown waterfront as a key anchor of Strategic Property Partners’ $3 billion Water Street Tampa development. The design construction firm is Skanska/HOK.

MCOM’s MD program has already moved in and classes begin Jan 13. The Heart Institute researchers will begin their phased move in Feb. 2020. The following year, in May 2021, the PA program will move. And the Taneja College of Pharmacy is tentatively set to begin classes in Fall 2020. USF Health will also share this new facility with Tampa General Hospital (TGH) for collaborative efforts focused on cardiology, urgent care, imaging and executive wellness. TGH leased approximately 25,000 square feet of space in the building.

The downtown location brings Morsani College of Medicine students and faculty closer to the college’s primary teaching hospital, TGH. The impact can already be felt as USF’s incoming MD students boast the highest median MCAT scores of any medical school in Florida, and new physician scientists recruited for the Heart Institute have helped USF’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) research rankings rise to the top 50.

The new facility will generate increased research funding, which will in turn create new jobs and potentially help attract biotech companies to the Tampa Bay region. The new building includes projections for more than $70 million in local, regional and statewide economic impact.

Plans for a new USF medical school began in 2011, when Carol and Frank Morsani gave $20 million, a gift that aimed to create a dramatic new education center for USF Health. Then, plans shifted to downtown Tampa in 2014, when Jeff Vinik, through Strategic Property Partners, made an offer to USF – an acre of land in the heart of his $3 billion redevelopment of the Water Street district. Over the next five years, the Florida Legislature provided approximately $110 million toward the new building’s construction cost. Financial support now focuses on philanthropy.

Since its inception, the new facility set out to transform how medical education is delivered, to impact cardiovascular research and to bring MCOM students and faculty closer to the college’s primary teaching hospital, Tampa General Hospital. Added value of the new building includes projections for more than $70 million in local, regional and state economic impact. Even before the building plans were complete, medical student applications skyrocketed, and USF’s incoming MD students boasted the highest median MCAT scores of any Florida medical school. As new physician scientists are recruited for the Heart Institute, USF’s national NIH research rankings have risen to the top 50.

 

What others said at the Jan. 8 ribbon cutting event…

“This building is indicative of the University of South Florida as a whole. It’s new. It’s innovative. It’s on the rise. And the possibilities here are endless.”Chris Sprowls, Florida Representative, and Florida House of Representatives Speaker-Designate

 

“For decades, green and gold have been woven into the fabric of our community. And now we’re so excited to welcome USF into the heart of the City of Tampa. The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will continue USF’s legacy as a leader in STEM, research and innovation…and this state-of-the-art facility will attract the best and brightest from around the world to our very own city. Resources available here will shape the minds of future doctors and empower our students to tap their full potential.” Jane Castor, City of Tampa Mayor

 

“This facility is one of the most significant construction projects in the history of Florida’s State University System, and it could not have been completed without the support and tremendous efforts of the Tampa Bay area Legislative Delegation.” – Jordan Zimmerman, Chair, USF Board of Trustees

 

“This building will increase the quality and quantity of medical school applicants, increase the opportunities for federal research grants, and will truly provide a huge economic boom for the Tampa Bay region and for the state. It also helps build a strong relationship with Tampa General Hospital…I have no doubt that the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will play key roles in USF’s continued rise.”Syd Kitson, Chair, Board of Governors, State University System of Florida

 

“What truly struck me about this project is the interdisciplinary work that is coming forward from the Morsani College of Medicine…Medicine today is a team sport that’s not just doctors working in silos. We work as team members, with pharmacists, nurses, physical therapists, and everyone else on the team. This building will really help with that interprofessional education.”Joseph E. Kerschner, MD, Chair, Board of Directors for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

 

 “For students, the opening of this building means having the opportunity to create new traditions that we’ve never had before. It means enhancing the partnerships we already have in Tampa Bay, while creating new partnerships that were not previously possible. And it means fostering a culture of inclusion, diversity, innovation, and excellence.” Amy Mickelson, 4th-year medical student in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and MCOM Student Council President

 

Timeline for the MCOM+HI project:

Carol and Frank Morsani give $20 million for a new medical school, Dec 11, 2011. More:

Dec. 4, 2014 – USF Board of Trustees vote to approve moving a co-located college of medicine and heart institute to downtown Tampa.

Jeff Vinik reveals vision for downtown Tampa, Dec 17, 2014. More: 

Florida Board of Governors approves project, Feb. 19. 2015. More: 

Gov. Rick Scott signs the state budget that includes $17M for the new medical school and heart institute, June 23, 2015. More: 

Site dedication, Dec. 8, 2015. More: 

Construction officially begins, Sept 20, 2017. More: 

Topping off ceremony, Nov 14, 2018. More: 

Moving begins, Dec. 20, 2019. More: 

Jan. 8, 2020 – New building officially opens with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

 

Photos by Freddie Coleman and Allison Long, video by Torie Doll, story by Sarah Worth, USF Health Communications