The Daily Gamecock

'Building for a century': USC moving forward with plans for new health sciences campus

The USC School of Medicine has been leasing its location on the VA Hospital campus in Columbia for almost 50 years. By the end of the decade, however, the school will be changing its address.

Plans are in the works for a state-of-the-art health sciences campus to be built in the BullStreet district on the northeast corner of Harden Street, which is close to the Prisma Health Richland Hospital. 

The campus is targeted to be completed by 2026 or 2027, said Derek Gruner, the university architect and associate vice president of Planning, Design and Construction in the Facilities department. 

While the campus will initially serve students enrolled at the USC School of Medicine, it will eventually become open to additional health science track students Gruner said.

“We're calling it the health sciences campus because we're trying to emphasize that this will be a site for multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary study and research," Gruner said. "We can envision that this campus would one day also incorporate nursing, public health, pharmacy and all of the other programs out there that are synergistic with the school." 

Joakim Kennedy, a fourth-year chemistry student, said that interdisciplinary studies at the new health sciences campus will help students understand what it really means to be in the field of medicine.

“Medicine is a full team effort in so many more ways than we even think about, so we definitely need more collaboration between the disciplines,” Kennedy said.

The health sciences campus is being planned with expansion capabilities in mind. According to Gruner, it would be possible to allow the USC School of Medicine to increase its capacity. 

Currently, the USC School of Medicine admits about 100 students per year. With the new health sciences campus, this number could gradually increase to about 160 students per year, Gruner said. 

Tyler Epperson, a USC graduate and current MUSC nursing student, said he believes the new “bigger and better” health sciences campus will be alluring to prospective students and will benefit USC’s health care education programs. 

“Having USC's campus, and then the medical campus and then the hospital all in a row sounds really enticing. It's a really accessible option,” Epperson said.

The health sciences campus will also include components that will create a well rounded environment for students and faculty outside the classroom.  

“There'll be places that the students and the faculty can walk outside and be in a green space, or they can walk across to BullStreet developments," Gruner said. "So, the health sciences campus is really within this village within the city of Columbia, and I think it's going to be holistically a really great experience for people to learn and work.”

There is still progress to be made in the planning of the health sciences campus. Currently, proposals are being sent to potential teams that would bring in the architects, engineers, designers, and contractors for the project, according to Gruner. 

"After we select a team, we'll begin what's called programming where we try to determine exactly what will be inside of these buildings. For instance, how many labs, how many classrooms," Gruner said. "All of the ingredients that go into the project so that the buildings can then be designed."

According to Gruner, construction may not begin until early 2025. 

"Each of these steps for a project of this complexity and magnitude really take a long time to get right. And that's what we're focused on is, we're building for a century here," Gruner said.