Shot of funding: Med school receives HUD dollars by David Lias Plans to upgrade the 50-year-old building that houses The University of South Dakota School of Medicine have received a boost.
Sen. Tom Daschle and Sen. Tim Johnson have announced that $925,000 in funding they helped secure for the medical school has been released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
USD's medical school building is sadly in need of renovation, said Ronald Lindahl, the dean of basic sciences at the school.
"This contribution from our Congressional delegation is part of the bigger picture in terms of the process of securing funds to develop our resources for re-doing the medical school here in Vermillion," he said.
Daschle and Johnson helped obtain the funding during last
year's appropriations process.�� It was approved by Congress as part of legislation funding HUD and the U.S. Veterans Administration for fiscal year 2000.
"It's really pretty undefined as to how we have to use that money," Lindahl said. "We have five years to commit this money to some aspect of the building project. If they need us to specify a place where it would go, it would probably go into the renovation and expansion of the research facilities and the research wing of the building that we're going to start thinking about putting together."
"As a USD alumnus, I am pleased this funding will help
enhance the medical school's research facilities," Johnson said. "It is important for the school � the only medical school in South Dakota � to have top notch facilities in order to attract the best and brightest faculty and researchers in the Upper Midwest."
Lindahl said both Johnson and Daschle realize that improvements need to be made to the medical school facility to allow the school to better compete for research funding and projects.
"I know that we have been discussing with both Sen. Johnson and Sen. Daschle the need to secure as much federal support for this as we can, because a lot of the research that goes on in the building is federally supported and helps us compete more successfully for more funding," Lindahl said. "They are certainly well aware of that."
"I am extremely pleased that this funding is on its way to USD and that it will allow the medical school to expand its research facilities," Daschle said.
"USD's medical school is a highly respected educational and research facility, and this funding will help to enhance its ability to conduct state-of-the-art research and attract more quality students."
Lindahl said hopefully there will be more federal appropriations granted to the medical school in the next two or three years.
Renovation of the medical school building is expected to cost $28.5 million.
"We have to generate about $12.5 million from private sources," Lindahl said.
The medical school, he added, is eligible to apply for grants from such federal sources as the National Institutes of Health that could generate $6 million.
"I guess that you could call this Housing and Urban Development Award a part of that federal grant support that we're going to receive," Lindahl said. "I know that there are at least two other proposals that we have pending. If they are successfully funded, you will see the senators announcing them as well."
The remainder of the needed funds � approximately $10 million � will come from state sources.
"We would expect the remaining needed funds to come from state support either from the Board of Regents or some other sort of appropriation from the state," Lindahl said.
The existing medical school building won't be torn down. "It will be a renovation of the existing building so it stays on the same site," he said. "It may expand a little bit, but it will be a renovation of the existing facility."
The time has come to make improvements, Lindahl added.
"So far, we haven't suffered too greatly in recruiting students, but I think that day is coming, especially when they look at other schools that have new buildings and new facilities," he said. "It soon will be coming to the point where we won't be competitive in recruiting the best faculty if we don't have some of the best facilities to compete with, either. The timing is right just about now to make something happen, so we're taking advantage of that opportunity."
The improvements to the medical school are just one segment of a master plan calling for several improvements to the facilities at the university.
Those plans contain a host of projects, from construction of a new business school building to improvements to Slagle Auditorium.
The timeline for the planned improvements to the medical school building will depend, Lindahl said, on the rate that needed funding is received.
"The school of medicine celebrates its centennial in 2007, and that would be the long end of the process,"he said, "to have the renovation completed sometime in 2007 so we can tie it to the centennial of the school.
"My sense is that, God willing and the creek don't rise, it will be done well before 2007, but that year seems to be a good target date because it's a link to the centennial of the school," Lindahl added.
According to Johnson and Daschle, the funding boost for the USD Medical School is critical to the region because it is a major supplier of primary care
physicians in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.