MUSC board receives COVID-19 update; overall enterprise status stable and improving

CHARLESTON, S.C. (April 9, 2021) – The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Medical University Hospital Authority (MUHA) Board of Trustees recently held their regularly scheduled combined committee sessions and board meeting. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many attended the meeting via video conference. Those physically in the MUSC boardroom observed appropriate safety protocols, as needed. With the third quarter of fiscal year 2021 ended on March 31, the health system and university reported strong financial positions as well as progress toward its in-person commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 15. 

“MUSC continues to help lead the way forward through this pandemic for our state and community,” said David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, MUSC president. “We are also actively partnering and providing access to vaccines in rural and underserved communities. This will increase as vaccine supply improves, hopefully in the very near future,” Cole noted. 

“In the U.S., we still have a fair volume of new cases and a smaller curve of new infections in South Carolina, which shows a lower volume of cases compared to where we were before,” said Danielle Scheurer, M.D., MSCR, Chief Quality Officer, MUSC Health. “Vaccine efforts in the U.S. have shown at least a third of the country’s population has had one dose of vaccine and 17% are fully vaccinated, and that’s happened faster than expected. In South Carolina, 29% of our residents have had one vaccine dose and we have fully vaccinated about 17% of residents, again better than expected.”

Scheurer reported that vaccine hesitancy is “the biggest challenge in our state and the nation.” She noted that a March 2021 study on vaccine hesitancy that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that in the general population, overwhelmingly, whites are much more likely to want to get vaccinated both in the medical cohort studied and in the general population. Data showed that only 40% of African American/black and Hispanic/Latinx populations are interested in taking vaccines, while 20% of people across the country say they definitely will not get vaccinated. Study data has also shown that younger people and those with lower education levels are most hesitant about being vaccinated.

“It’s going to take a lot of education and public service advertising to help people understand the serious consequences of refusing to get vaccinated,” she said. 

“The way the CDC is looking at variants is to categorize them as of concern, interest and under investigation,” Scheurer noted. “The most commonly discussed of concern are the UK, South African and Brazilian variants. All of the variants spread more easily and cause more severe disease. The UK variant has minimal ability to evade the vaccines but the ability to evade the vaccines is moderate for the other two strains. For the most part, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which are the only ones being given by MUSC Health, have fared well with the variants. Variants do not appear to have impact on the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. We all need to continue the discussion and encourage people to do the right thing and take the vaccine when available,” she said.

Dewitt Zemp, an MUSC Health patient and COVID-19 survivor, shared his near-death experience with board members, saying, “I’m a child of MUSC. My father got his medical degree here and my Mom got me. The decisions you make here do impact us, patients. I was here in the hospital for four months. I got COVID in June and I don’t remember anything from the minute I walked into the ER until my recovery. I literally went dark. I was in a medically induced coma on a ventilator for 34 days. My lungs collapsed 18 times. I was on a feeding tube. I remember a lot of the dreams I had at that time but I was unconscious. My nightmare did not begin until I woke up and realized what had just happened.”

Zemp shared an outpouring of praise for the health care teams that saved his life, noting, “This state and university are a draw to very talented people who I owe my life to. I can’t thank you, the doctors and other professionals enough. I do want to talk a little about the nurses. Nurses spend three and four 12-hour days with people who are dying. They are holding your hand, making sure you are comfortable. They paid the price mentally, physically and emotionally for those people who were suffering through the worst of COVID.”

When asked about whether he expects to fully recover, Zemp candidly replied, “No. I don’t expect to be fully recovered ever. I can’t even get on a plane anymore because my body won’t take the pressure.” The damage his body has undergone has caused bouts with congestive heart failure, intensified his atrial fibrillation, left him with an inability to rid his system of prescribed medication, like opioids, and has required ongoing rehabilitation. From the day he entered the hospital to his exit date, he also lost 48 pounds. Nonetheless, Zemp expressed heartfelt gratitude to MUSC and plans to try to participate in a research study so his experience can benefit others. He is interested in sharing his story to help raise funds for MUSC Health saying, “More than anything, I appreciate all the doctors and the team that saved my life.”

In other business, the 16-member MUSC/MUHA board also voted to approve the following items:

  • An updated institutional mission statement, which reads: “The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic health system. Our purpose is to preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina and beyond. MUSC provides an interprofessional environment for learning, discovery, and healing through (1) education of health care professionals and biomedical scientists, (2) research in the health sciences, and (3) provision of comprehensive health care.”   The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education will also need to review and approve the revised mission statement. 
  • A new 100% online, five-semester degree program in the College of Health Professions, a Master of Science in Extracorporeal Science (MS-ECS). The program specifically targets non-residents of the United States and is designed to meet the growing demands of the international cardiovascular perfusion and critical care communities. The curriculum and degree reflect the depth and breadth of educational preparation necessary to prepare critical care professionals in treating patients in advanced cardiac and pulmonary failure. 
  • Decreases in tuition and fees in the College of Medicine for both in-state and out-of-state students to help lower student debt. The decreases will become effective in the fall of 2021 with in-state and out-of-state tuition lowered to $141,794 and $248,502, respectively, for the total four years of study.     
  • Selection of Rodgers Builders & Thompson Turner as the construction manager at-risk for the MUSC Health Nexton Community Hospital, a 128-bed inpatient facility to be constructed to serve the expanding needs of the greater Charleston area. The budget for construction of the new hospital is approximately $325 million.
  • Selection of SMHa as the architects to design the 50,000-square-foot space for the College of Health Professions at 162 Ashley Avenue.  
  • A 50-year right-of-way and utility easement across MUSC property – Ehrhardt Street tunnel easement – to support the City of Charleston Stormwater Collection and Conveyance System, which will connect a surface collection system to a deep tunnel conveyance system serving the Spring/Fishburne Basin within the Charleston Peninsula. The comprehensive master drainage plan is designed to improve the quality of life in the City of Charleston, including in the Charleston Medical District.    
  • Renovation of approximately 9,000 square feet of space on the fourth floor at 135 Cannon Street for the Department of Family Medicine, part of the College of Medicine.   
  • Relocation of fiber communication lines currently located at 194 Cannon Street in order to maintain connectivity between the main campus and WestEdge.
  • Replacement of HVAC systems at the Park Shore offices due to malfunctioning equipment at the end of its useful life. 

The MUSC/MUHA Board of Trustees serves as separate bodies to govern the university and hospital, normally holding two days of committee and board meetings six times a year. For more information about the MUSC Board of Trustees, visit this page.


About The Medical University of South Carolina

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit

As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality patient care available, while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 1,600 beds, more than 100 outreach sites, the MUSC College of Medicine, the physicians’ practice plan, and nearly 325 telehealth locations, MUSC Health owns and operates eight hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Florence, Lancaster and Marion counties. In 2020, for the sixth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit

MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $3.2 billion. The more than 17,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.