Longtime residents of Jacksonville know all about the “Miracle on Eighth Street” and the virtues of Methodist Medical Center. For those who might need a reminder, Marcus Drewa can certainly provide it.
Methodist Medical Center has a long and proud history that goes back more than 100 years before it joined forces with University Medical Center, Shands HealthCare and the University of Florida in 1999 to form Shands Jacksonville. The legacy of Methodist Medical Center and the people who made it possible lives on in the halls of Shands Jacksonville, and particularly in the department of surgery at the College of Medicine-Jacksonville.
Drewa, who spent more than 30 years at the helm of MMC as its CEO, spearheaded a campaign to establish the Methodist Medical Center professor of surgery in transplantation. The endowment was created last year thanks to the generosity of key leaders of the former hospital, including William W. Gay and the late George T. Miller through the B.S. and M.W. Reid Charitable Trust, both longtime chairmen of the Methodist Hospital Foundation, and several other area donors. It represents the fifth professorship for the Jacksonville regional campus of the College of Medicine and the first since 1997.
“Any time Methodist (Medical Center) had the chance to stand out from the rest of the hospitals in the state and provide something no one else was providing, we did,” said Drewa, referring to some of the hospital’s “firsts.”
The Medical Center’s roots are traced back to 1901 when Brewster Nursing School opened to care for victims of the great fire of Jacksonville. In 1966, Drewa was appointed administrator of what was then Brewster Hospital. After closing the original hospital, refurbishing the facilities and restructuring its administration, Methodist Hospital officially opened in 1967 as the state’s first all-private room, private-bath hospital. It also switched from an all-black hospital to an integrated hospital, although segregation prevailed in Jacksonville.
Methodist Hospital expanded its services over the years, adding 10-story twin towers and evolving into Methodist Medical Center in 1988, one of Jacksonville’s most advanced medical facilities of its time. The strength of the Jacksonville Transplant Center at MMC and its high success rates helped distinguish the center as a leader in health care in North Florida. Drewa, Gay and others who guided the medical center during hardships and prosperity wanted to honor that reputation while at the same time support the department of surgery.
Gay’s lead gift was part of a 13-month fundraising effort that gained support from several of the MMC’s former leaders and friends. Some gifts, Drewa pointed out, were made in memory of Miller, former chairman of the hospital’s board of directors. The professorship is eligible for 70 percent matching funds from the state.
“We are very fortunate to have had people like George Miller and Bill Gay support our mission to improve health care for the North Florida community for all those years,” Drewa said. “That support and their belief in what we were trying to accomplish continues with this very important endowment.”
Dr. Tom Peters, chief of the division of transplant surgery who was brought to Jacksonville in 1989 to develop MMC’s transplant program, agrees.
“Endowed professorships and chairs are necessary to recruit top-notch people,” he said. “This professorship helps to elevate our program.”