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UMMC pediatric expansion grows to full seven-story height

By: Annie Oeth,

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s $180 million pediatric expansion may be building on the progress of the past, but the tower, now reaching its full seven-story height, is built with the future in mind.

“This expansion is for families that haven’t been made yet and for children who haven’t been born yet,” said Sanderson Farms CEO and board chairman Joe Sanderson during Growing Up Together, a topping-out celebration celebrating the tower’s halfway point.

Held Thursday in what will be the hospital lobby, the event was punctuated when a crane lifted a construction beam, covered with signatures and well-wishes in a rainbow of Sharpie ink, to the tower’s pinnacle.

UMMC project manager Brian Reddoch, left, takes hospital leaders including, second from left, Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs Dr. Charles O'Mara, Children's of Mississippi CEO Guy Giesecke and Dr. Mary Taylor, chair of the Department of Pediatrics.
Brian Reddoch, left, UMMC project manager, takes hospital leaders on a tour of the expansion. They include Dr. Charles O’Mara, second from left, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs; Dr. Guy Giesecke, second from right, Children’s of Mississippi CEO; and Dr. Mary Taylor, chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

The expansion is set for a fall 2020 opening.

“To use a sports analogy, we’re at halftime and heading into the third quarter,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi.

This summer, work will move from the project’s structural phase to its interior. For the next year, workers will be creating indoor spaces designed for the comfort, care and healing of Mississippi’s children.

The 355,303-square-foot tower will house 88 state-of-the-art private neonatal intensive care rooms, additional pediatric intensive care unit rooms and surgical suites and an imaging center designed for children. The Children’s Heart Center, representing the Medical Center’s pediatric cardiovascular program, will also call the new building home.

A pediatric outpatient specialty clinic bringing experts in cardiology, neurology, oncology, hematology, urology, orthopaedics, pulmonology and more in one location. A convenient parking garage will be located nearby.

Vice Chancellor Dr. LouAnn Woodward thanks supporters of UMMC's pediatric expansion during the project's topping-out ceremony June 27.
Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs, thanks supporters of the pediatric expansion during the project’s topping-out ceremony June 27.

“UMMC has always been a beacon for children’s health care,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. The Medical Center opened its first children’s hospital in 1968, with the opening of Batson Children’s Hospital following in 1997.

Since the expansion’s planning stage, Woodward has called it “transformative,” noting that it will more than double the square footage devoted to pediatric care at UMMC.

“With this tower, UMMC will continue to be a source of hope and healing for children and their families,” she said.

Campaign for Children's of Mississippi chairs Joe and Kathy Sanderson sign the beam before the topping-out ceremony for UMMC's pediatric expansion.
Joe and Kathy Sanderson, Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi chairs, sign the beam before the topping-out ceremony.

Sanderson, who, with wife Kathy chairs the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, the $100 million philanthropic drive to bring the tower to completion, said the project is also a boost to the state’s economic health.

“This will ensure better outcomes for children, but also better research now and research that hasn’t even been thought of yet,” he said. “It will bring more doctors to the state, and more jobs.”

Children’s of Mississippi leaders anticipate recruiting 30-40 new physicians as the facility is built and after it is opened, since it will provide additional capacity. At a minimum, about 50-75 staff positions, not including physicians, would be added after construction.

Jim Gorrie, CEO of Brasfield & Gorrie, the project’s general contractor, said state businesses are profiting from what is the largest construction project underway in Mississippi.

“More than 90 percent of the work you see here has been done by local contractors,” he said. “We have about 350 people working on the site. It’s an incredible thing to see.”

Pediatrics chair Dr. Mary Taylor signals for the beam to rise to the top of the pediatric expansion.
Taylor signals for the beam to rise to the top of the pediatric expansion.

Dr. Mary Taylor’s first day as UMMC’s chair of the Department of Pediatrics was the day ground was broken on the project. Since then, she’s watched as work has moved from excavation to the pouring of massive steel-reinforced piers that form the tower’s strong foundation.

“We deliver world-class care here today,” said Taylor. “Our pediatric care team achieves outcomes that rival the best children’s hospitals in the country, and soon, we will have a facility that matches their skills.”

Philanthropy is fueling the project. The Sandersons launched the campaign in 2016 with a $10 million personal donation, followed soon after by a $20 million commitmentfrom Friends of Children’s Hospital. Since then, the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi has raised more than 74 percent of its $100 million goal.

“The fact that we have come this far in the three years since the campaign’s launch shows how much Mississippians value children and their health and how generous the people of Mississippi really are,” Sanderson said.

Marcus James of WJTV interviews Mississippi's 2019 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion Aubrey Armstrong of Oxford before the start of the topping-out ceremony.
Marcus James of WJTV interviews Aubrey Armstrong of Oxford, Mississippi’s 2019 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion, before the start of the topping-out ceremony.

Families around the state will benefit from this expansion whether their children are hospital inpatients or seeing a team of experts at the new outpatient clinic, said Holly Armstrong of Oxford, whose daughter Aubrey, 14, represents the state as its 2019 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion.

Tara Cumberland of Meridian also hailed the project. Her daughter, Sybil, 7, a pediatric cardiology patient, dances competitively following surgery during infancy and follow-up care since.

A beam covered with streamers and signatures is prepared for being lifted to the top of UMMC's seven-story pediatric expansion.
The beam, covered with streamers and signatures, is prepared for lift-off.

“This will be great for us when we go in for check-ups,” she said, “but this is for the families whose children will need care here in the future, too. It will be an even better experience for them.”

Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Alfred Rankins said the hospital expansion will be a place where physicians are trained and research is conducted, but it will also be an investment in the state’s children.

“The trustees of the state’s Institutions of Higher Learning and I can think of no better investment than in the health of our children, because they are the future of Mississippi.”