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GRU had 'productive year,' Azziz says

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The year since Masters Tournament visitors were last here has been “tremendously productive” for Georgia Regents University, President Ricardo Azziz said.

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Qingqi Wang adorns a scroll with calligraphy during the grand opening of the Confucious Institute on the GRU campus. The Confucious Institute is in partnership with Shanghai University.   TODD BENNETT/FILE
Qingqi Wang adorns a scroll with calligraphy during the grand opening of the Confucious Institute on the GRU campus. The Confucious Institute is in partnership with Shanghai University.

He can point to a number of deals done and multimillion-dollar gifts received, of buildings being completed and another just getting funded.

The Masters gave the university $6 million through the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area, in part to help fund a new $62.5 million cancer center. With $8 million pledged from the city of Augusta, that allowed the university to have the required money in the bank needed for the state to release bond funds and keep the project moving. That will be just the first part of a much bigger presence in cancer, Azziz said.

“The cancer center effort is a long-term, progressive effort which involves bringing in more scientists, bringing in more clinicians, obviously expanding our patient base, expanding our reach across the community and the state and the region, and expanding our educational efforts regarding cancer,” he said. “As part of that growth we also need to make sure we have adequate facilities. The first part that we’re beginning to focus on is making sure that we have enough research facilities for our cancer researchers as we expand their recruitment.”

The plan is to eventually have a second research building and expanded clinical facilities that will “be part of a much larger complex,” Azziz said.

“As researchers come in, they do like to see that you invested in research,” Azziz said. “And as patients come here from different areas, they’d like to see a facility that is competitive. That’s why in the long term, building a cancer center complex is important for both our ability to provide cancer care, for our ability to be recognized across the region and the state but also for (National Cancer Institute) designation.” GRU would then have the state’s second NCI-designated Cancer Center, along with Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University.

GRU is also scheduled to open the J. Harold Harrison MD Education Commons Building this fall, funded in part by a $10 million gift from Harrison, a Medical College of Georgia alumnus and former chair of the MCG Foundation. But that gift pales in comparison to the $66 million bequest Harrison made to the foundation – the largest single gift ever to a public university in Georgia – that will fund scholarships at MCG and endowed chairs.

“Endowed chairs are always used to bring in a superstar,” Azziz said. Having more of them allows for more of a global presence, he said.

“We are progressively and fairly rapidly beginning to assert our global presence,” Azziz said. “We’ve done it obviously in China in partnership with the Confucius Institute and the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine is part of that, but also across the globe, from a scientific point of view, we really are beginning to pluck the best of the best to add to already good people we have.”

As part of the effort in China, the university recently inaugurated its Confucius Institute, the first with an academic health center and the first in the Western Hemisphere to be focused on traditional Chinese medicine, he said.

GRU already has extensive research into epigallocatechin gallate, a powerful polyphenol found in green tea, and Azziz’s own lab is looking into the Chinese herb extract berberine for insulin resistance.

“The Confucius Institute effort will allow us to hopefully become a center for traditional Chinese medicine over time,” he said.

The university took over management of the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, once owned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and last year signed a 15-year partnership with Royal Phillips to be its technology provider.

“We partner with them in helping them develop and refine their technology so it is a symbiotic alliance,” Azziz said. “The main result of that from GRU’s point of view is better health care, more advanced health care, higher quality health care for our patients.”

The university completed the consolidation of Georgia Health Sciences and Augusta State universities and received full approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, he said. And it has started to push its students to graduate in four years with some success – 42 percent of the freshman class last year completed 15 credit hours during the fall semester, compared to 4 percent the year before, Azziz said.

“That’s pretty significant,” he said.


TUESDAY: Starbucks is closer to making instant coffee in Augusta. The Seattle-based company currently produces its VIA product line in Europe, but will be moving production here when its south Augusta facility is fully operational.

WEDNESDAY: Eyes across the nation are watching the construction of two new nuclear reactors rising out of the red-clay ground about 30 miles south of Augusta.

THURSDAY: Cabela’s opened its first Georgia store in Augusta last month amid much fanfare.

TODAY: GRU can point to a number of deals done and multimillion-dollar gifts received, of buildings completed and others on the way.

SATURDAY: A new fashion outlet mall in Augusta should be open in time for the 2016 Masters Tournament.

SUNDAY: The Army announced in December that it will relocate its Cyber Command to Fort Gordon. The five-year project, which is scheduled for completion in 2019, will include construction of a new Cyber Command headquarters, creation of a new Cyber Center of Excellence and formation of a new Cyber Mission Unit.

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bclicious 04/10/14 - 09:00 pm
I don't think so

The people of the CSRA are not pleased with you Dr. Azziz! You may very wll be carrying out the wishes of the GRU board; however, the wishes if your community members and students should be your primary goal.

Riverman1 04/10/14 - 10:00 pm
Next President Has Major Repair Job

Do these national and international partners realize what a complete disaster Azziz has been with the local community? His inept management has harbored more ill feeling than imaginable. The new South Texas medical school was wise not to select him as their leader even though his staying here is disappointing to Augusta. The next president of the school is going to have to dedicate mega resources to repairing the damage Azziz has done.

Pops 04/10/14 - 10:42 pm
The "Masters" is the name of a tournament

It does not give money to Azziz.....The AUGUSTA National Golf Club does.....he's willing to take money from an entity with AUGUSTA in it...and still ashamed to have AUGUSTA in the name of the school that employs his arrogant self.....

KSL 04/11/14 - 02:23 am
Gone would be the best news!

Gone would be the best news!

Butterman 04/11/14 - 12:47 pm

Don't you just love how The Chronicle trots out all these fluff articles during Masters Week? It's like there was never any controversy over the merger and Name change. All is just Peachy keen in the land of make believe.

Tom Corwin
Tom Corwin 04/11/14 - 01:08 pm

The money came from the Masters Tournament through its donation to the Community Foundation of the CSRA . That is why it is listed that way.

Esctab 04/11/14 - 03:28 pm
More Destructive Than Productive

Only Azziz would have the gall to describe the past destructive year as productive. But, this is not too surprising coming from someone who misuses institutional resources for things like a family wedding and a bigger garage. There are many Augusta-area residents who are familiar with many examples of Azziz’s disregard for people, policies, and meaningful institutional purpose.

The Chinese government is not exactly known for transparency or a tolerance for free speech; in a recent visit to China even the First Lady commented on the lack of free speech in China. But, since Azziz isn’t too fond of free speech either, his alliance with China is understandable.

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