Prior to 1903 the state of Mississippi had no medical school. That year, the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus began offering a two-year certificate program, a common configuration in the first half of the twentieth century. Graduates finished their medical education at four-year schools affiliated with hospitals. At midcentury, however, the state had a desperate need for more hospital beds and physicians. In response, the Mississippi legislature created the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1950. The center would train health professionals, provide specialized care to Mississippians, and conduct research that would lead to new ways of treating illness. Five years later, the Medical Center—a single T-shaped building that housed the School of Medicine and the two-wing University Hospital—opened on 155 acres of state-owned land in Jackson.
By the second decade of the twenty-first century, the Medical Center had grown into a major complex of five schools and four hospitals. Nursing, which had been a department in the medical school in Oxford, moved to the Medical Center in 1956, and in 1958 it became the state’s first baccalaureate program in nursing. The School of Health Related Professions was added in 1971, with the School of Dentistry following in 1973. In 2001 the graduate program became the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences.
The vast majority of the state’s health professionals have come from one of the Medical Center’s educational programs. In 2012–13 student enrollment—medical students, dental students, nursing students, residents or fellows, health-related-professions students, and graduate students—topped twenty-five hundred. The faculty includes about one thousand full- and part-time members, while the Medical Center employs more than nine thousand people.
The campus now covers 164 acres and includes the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children (completed in 1997), the Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants (1999), the Wallace Conerly Critical Care Hospital (2001), and the flagship University Hospital (2006). The hospitals have a total of 722 beds and treat approximately twenty-seven thousand patients annually. In addition, more than five hundred thousand outpatient and emergency room visits occur each year. In partnership with Jackson State University and Tougaloo College, the Medical Center bought the nearly abandoned Jackson Mall, one mile west of the Medical Center, and turned it into a thriving center that houses the Medical Center’s teaching clinics and cancer institute as well as Mississippi Department of Health clinics and offices.
In 1955 the Medical Center depended solely on state appropriations for its nine-million-dollar budget. By 2016 the overall budget was approximately $1.6 billion, and only 10 percent of that amount came from state appropriations. The Medical Center accounts for 10 percent of the Jackson metro area’s economy and 2 percent of the state economy.
Dr. David L. Pankratz, dean of the medical school when it was still in Oxford, oversaw the move to Jackson and the expansion of the curriculum, becoming dean and Medical Center director. He was succeeded by Dr. Robert Marston, who led the Medical Center’s peaceful racial integration of its workforce, patient facilities, and student body. Marston was succeeded by Dr. Robert Carter and Dr. Robert E. Blount. The Medical Center has subsequently been headed by a single physician holding the titles of vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, the University of Mississippi: Norman C. Nelson (1973–94), Wallace Conerly (1994–2003), Dan Jones (2003–9); James Keeton (2009–15), and LouAnn Woodward (2015–).
The Medical Center has been the site of historic medical advances and home to some of the world’s most distinguished scientists. Dr. Arthur C. Guyton was the first chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and authored the Textbook of Medical Physiology, originally published in 1956, revised numerous times, and still the most widely used physiology textbook in the world. Guyton also changed the field of physiology with discoveries and scientific observations that gave the world a new understanding of the cardiovascular system. Dr. James D. Hardy, chair of the Department of Surgery from 1955 until 1987, performed the world’s first lung transplant at the Medical Center in 1963. In 1964 he performed the world’s first heart transplant, placing the heart of a chimpanzee into a human recipient. Other notable achievements at the Medical Center have included the pioneering of deep brain stimulation, innovations and refinements in the treatment of patients with end-stage renal disease and one of the nation’s first thirteen artificial kidney units, major contributions to the understanding and treatment of high-risk pregnancies and preeclampsia, the development of interventional radiology for the removal of tumors when conventional surgery is not possible, the development of farm-raised catfish as a model to study the human immune system, and important research on the toxicity of organophosphates. Medical Center scientists have also made significant contributions to the understanding of diseases that disproportionately affect Mississippians (for example, heart disease and hypertension) and have been leaders in national clinical trials of new drugs and treatments. The Medical Center is a partner with Jackson State University and Tougaloo College in the landmark Jackson Heart Study, the largest study ever undertaken of heart disease risk factors in the African American population.
- Lucie Robertson Bridgforth, Medical Education in Mississippi: A History of the School of Medicine (1984)
- Martin L. Dalton, Annals of Thoracic Surgery (November 1995)
- James D. Hardy, in Jonathan E. Rhoads: Eightieth Birthday Symposium (1989
- Janis Quinn, This Week at UMC (22 September 2000)
- Neurosurgery News (July 2001)
- University of Mississippi Medical Center website, www.umc.edu