Addressing the need for updated teaching hospital facilities is one of the most significant issues that an academic medical center faces. The authors describe the process they underwent in deciding to build a new facility at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Initial issues included whether or not the teaching hospital would continue to play a role in clinical education and whether to replace or renovate the existing facility. Once the decision to build was reached, MUSC had to choose between an on-campus or distant site for the new hospital and determine what the function of the old hospital would be. The authors examine these questions and discuss the factors involved in different stages of decision making, in order to provide the academic medicine community guidance in negotiating similar situations. Open communication within MUSC and with the greater community was a key component of the success of the enterprise to date. The authors argue that decisions concerning site, size, and focus of the hospital must be made by developing university-wide and community consensus among many different constituencies. The most important elements in the success at MUSC were having unified leadership, incorporating constituent input, engaging an external consultant, remaining unfazed by unanticipated challenges, and adhering to a realistic, aggressive timetable. The authors share their strategies for identifying and successfully managing these complex and potentially divisive aspects of building a new teaching hospital.
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