MUSC trustees receive update on state’s only three-year medical degree program and elect new officers

Contact: Sheila Champlin

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (August 10, 2018) – The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Medical University Hospital Authority (MUHA) Board of Trustees held their regularly scheduled meeting to review the institution’s progress in fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30. In his annual report on the state of the enterprise, MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, said, “As the leading academic health center in South Carolina, MUSC continues to deliver outstanding health care, educate the future, and change what is possible through innovation.”  

Raymond N. DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the MUSC College of Medicine, updated the board on the college’s new FLEX curriculum, which includes a new three-year medical degree track, the state’s first and only program that permits a select cohort of mature, academically gifted students to earn their M.D. in three years instead of four.

“Over the past 100 years, the practice of medicine has changed dramatically, but the curriculum and the programs for training our medical students haven’t adapted to those dramatic changes,” DuBois said. “Some of us think it’s time to make significant changes. This accelerated program can decrease a medical student’s debt by up to 20 percent.”  

After extensive investigation and collaboration with other medical schools that employ the accelerated education and training option, MUSC received approval for the flexible curriculum and the three-year program. With the new FLEX curriculum starting this fall, the College of Medicine will admit the majority of its medical students on the traditional four-year track, with a group of students eligible for the three-year M.D. track. About a dozen medical schools across the country offer a three-year M.D. option.  

In recent years, U.S. student loan debt has increased by more than 250 percent, equaling more than $1.4 trillion. The average medical student graduates with nearly $200,000 of debt.  Factor in additional costs for undergraduate debt and multiple years of postgraduate training before entering practice, and a physician can be saddled with hundreds of thousands in debt before they can even practice in their chosen field.

“A substantial amount of money and time can be saved by avoiding a full year of medical school tuition, fees, and living expenses. Accelerated students match into a residency position here at MUSC, which defrays the costs associated with traveling all over the nation to interview and complete away rotations at other institutions,” DuBois said. “We realize this accelerated path isn’t appropriate for or available to everyone, but for those students who are able to meet the competencies in less time and have already settled on a specialty, this is an extremely attractive option.”

Thomas Di Salvo, M.D., director of the Division of Cardiology, updated the board on the state’s only heart transplant program, noting that during the past two years, the division has rebuilt its team to provide patients with nationally competitive outcomes after heart transplantation.

“In March, the program was recertified by CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) with zero deficiencies identified during the CMS visit,” Di Salvo said, “which is quite a rare event and a testament to the effort and work that went into comprehensively reviewing all aspects of the program. That followed upon by reviews from three expert teams including United Network of Organ Sharing, …all of whom recognized the talent and the resources that were here to build back a competitive program.”   

Di Salvo noted, “Heart failure prognosis remains poor in South Carolina, actually worse than cancers combined, except for lung cancer. South Carolina is dead last in the number of patients per capita who are listed and awaiting (heart) transplantation… Word has not been promulgated sufficiently across the state that patients with advanced heart failure need to be referred to selected centers like ours early, prior to the time that patients are too sick to be considered for transplant… What we’re passionate about, what we’re best in the world at doing is performing complex procedures, and there’s no complex disease or disorder we care for like advanced heart failure. Our results are slightly better than 90 percent survival after one year.” Since 2017, the program has performed 22 heart transplants.

Di Salvo introduced one of the program’s most recent heart transplant patients, James Dewees and his wife, Bridget. Dewees received a heart transplant on June 21, his 28th wedding anniversary, after spending 65 days in the MUSC Intensive Care Unit waiting for a heart to become available. 

“This has been a journey,” Dewees said. “For several years, I had been dealing with congestive heart failure. Last year, I had a percentile of 29 percent of my heart in good standing. Normal is about 55.  Once I got over the fear of going through that process, as you can see it was well worth it. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for this heart transplant… This program is very important. It’s not something to take lightly. It really does work. Please, let’s do whatever it takes to make sure that MUSC gets the support that they need to accomplish this goal… Two days after the surgery, I’m walking. Four days after the surgery, I was transferred out of ICU. Ten days after the surgery, I was walking out of the hospital. That to me is phenomenal… I was totally blown away… I’m thankful to MUSC and the staff. Everyone worked very well to make sure I was on the right track.”   

The board also unanimously passed a resolution to commend Gerrita Postlewait, Ed.D., who has been the Charleston County Superintendent of Schools for more than three years. “We appreciate all of the work Dr. Postlewait has done to engage community partners like us in her efforts to dramatically increase the number of students ready to step into STEM-related careers, as well as her work with us to bring health care and clinics to schools in her district,” said MUSC/MUHA board Chairman Donald R. Johnson II, M.D. “The Board of Trustees decided to recognize her for these efforts, which include an unprecedented level of collaboration with community partners, educators, students, and their families. We are encouraged by her leadership and strategy to improve the readiness of Charleston County’s bright and capable young minds, and we wish her continued success,” Johnson said. 

In the area of philanthropy, MUSC ended FY2018 with a total of $74,315,183, exceeding its goal by more than $4.7 million. Of that amount, 30 percent ($22.3 million) was designated to help build the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, scheduled to open in late 2019. Donors also showed especially strong support for Hollings Cancer Center ($11.4 million), which is working to raise money for cancer research and patient care, and for the university’s College of Medicine ($11.2 million), which is leading a campaign to raise scholarship funds.  

The 16-member board voted to elect Charles W. Schulze, CPA, as chairman and James Lemon, DMD, as vice chairman. Each officer will serve a two-year term. A native of Greenwood, Schulze began his first term as an MUSC trustee in 2002 as the lay representative from the 3rd Congressional District. A retired shareholder of a regional accounting and consulting firm, Schulze currently practices and is an expert in financial forensics. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon by training, Lemon is a native of Barnwell and has lived in Columbia for more than three decades. Elected to the MUSC board in 2014, he serves as the medical professional representative from the 2nd Congressional District.

In other business, the board reviewed and affirmed the fiscal year 2019 budgets for both MUSC (university) and MUSC Health (health system). When combined, the MUSC and MUSC Health FY2019 operating budgets equal more than $2.6 billion. MUSC operates in alignment with the operating calendar of the state, with each new fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30.

The MUSC/MUHA Board of Trustees serve as separate bodies to govern the university and hospital, holding two days of committee and board meetings six times a year. 

About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and 750 residents in six colleges (Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy), and has nearly 14,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $2.6 billion, with an annual economic impact of more than $3.8 billion and annual research funding in excess of $250 million. MUSC operates a 700-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (a National Cancer Institute-designated center), Level I Trauma Center, Institute of Psychiatry, and the state’s only transplant center. In 2017, for the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the number one hospital in South Carolina. For more information on academic programs, visit For more information on patient services, visit