A new engine of growth

New university lacks name, but not excitement or anticipation

Rarely has Augusta seen such monumental progress occur so swiftly and sweepingly.

The state Board of Regents’ move Tuesday to consolidate Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University is historic, decisive, profound and exciting for the Augusta area.

Things changed forever this week.

Amid understandable concerns over jobs and the nuts and bolts of it all, thoughts turned quickly to what the new institution should be named. We’d love your ideas (see inset).

What’s in a name? Well, consider: The former Medical College of Georgia only last year allocated up to $2.9 million for its name change to GHSU – though much of the money had already been earmarked for signage anyway. It just goes to show you how important a name is.

That will be particularly true, and a much more delicate matter, in the case of the combined institution. You want to somehow reflect the statewide reach of the combined mission, but still honor Augusta’s role in it.

Of course, the more important matter is that both ASU and GHSU will be strengthened by the merger. Together, they will be an even greater engine of growth for the city and state.

It’s also exciting news that Gov. Nathan Deal has asked the legislature to restore $5 million in cancer research at the GHSU Cancer Research Center, in an effort to have it someday designated as a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center. It would be the second in Georgia, after the one at Emory, and would take the center’s prestige, funding, faculty and reputation to unprecedented levels here.

The governor and lawmakers will no doubt get blowback from other areas and interests in the state, so they are to be congratulated heartily for having the wisdom and gumption to understand that these things are investments, not just expenses. Investments pay dividends, and nothing pays dividends like investing in education and health care.

Deal also has shown absolutely superb vision in asking lawmakers to partially fund 400 new residencies for doctor training – an investment of $1.2 million the first year, and $22 million total over four years. The program would split the cost of new residencies with the hospitals that host them – and would further bolster GHSU’s standing and its efforts to provide the growing state with desperately needed health care professionals in the future.

The Board of Regents quickly formed a committee to implement the residency expansion should the legislature go along – and signs are that it will.

Such radical and transformative change rarely happens so quickly.

It’s been a great start to the year.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon