USD announces gift to med school for renovations

USD announces gift to med school for renovations The University of South Dakota announced April 16 it has received a gift in the amount of $265,000 from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota to help fund renovations to the core medical education building at The University of South Dakota School of Medicine in Vermillion.

"Most of the professional health care capacity of South Dakota and, to some extent, northwest Iowa, currently rests on an aging and increasingly inadequate facility," said James W. Abbott, USD president. "Delivering excellent health care education in the new millennium would be impossible without the help of firms in the health care community such as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota.

"With their assistance, we can continue to fulfill the USD School of Medicine's fundamental mission of training South Dakota primary care physicians and other health care professionals in an exemplary fashion," he added.

The total cost of the renovation is $31.5 million, of which $12.5 million will come from the Higher Education Facilities Fund of the South Dakota Board of Regents, $7 million will come from federal grants and appropriations and $12.5 million will come from private donations, such as Wellmark's, via Campaign South Dakota.

Complete renovation of the Andrew M. Lee Medicine and Science Hall will provide a state-of-the-art education and research facility to train the next generations of health care professionals for the state of South Dakota. It will bring together, in one location on the Vermillion campus, all aspects of medical and health sciences education currently scattered across campus and Vermillion.

"This gift directly supports the mission of Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is to improve the health of the people of South Dakota and Iowa. By helping to ensure quality medical training at this new facility, not only for physicians, but the other health professionals who will be trained here, we will be doing just that," said Philip M. Davis, president and chief operating officer of South Dakota's largest private health insurance company. "We view this gift as an investment in the health of the people of South Dakota."

In 1971, USD responded to the urgent medical needs of the state and the region when the state was ranked 50th in the nation in doctor-to-patient ratio. The university pursued the development of a complete degree-granting, family practice-oriented program of medical education, and the four-year School of Medicine was established and accredited in 1974.

The primary mission of the school is to provide the opportunity for South Dakota residents to receive a quality, broad-based medical education with an emphasis on family practice. The School of Medicine has carried out its mission well. It is the first and only medical school in the nation to receive five consecutive "Gold Achievement Awards" from the American Academy of Family Physicians for the number of graduating students choosing family practice residency programs.

U.S. News and World Report ranked the school ninth best of accredited medical schools in the nation in training rural physicians and 23rd best in producing family physicians. The expansion and renovation of Lee Medicine will provide USD and the state of South Dakota with a state-of-the-art life science facility that will meet the medical needs of the entire region well into the 21st century.

The Student Affairs Administrative Suite will display the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield name. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota has been providing health insurance services for more than 50 years. It currently provides services to more than 260,000 South Dakotans.

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