Now in its structural phase, the seven-story pediatric expansion is scheduled to open in fall 2020.
Now in its structural phase, the seven-story pediatric expansion is scheduled to open in fall 2020.
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One year after groundbreaking, UMMC pediatric expansion structure rises

Published on Saturday, December 1, 2018

By: Annie Oeth,

The future of pediatric care in Mississippi is under construction.

Last December, ceremonial shovels plunged into sand tinted pink, blue, green and gold, signaling the start of construction for the University of Mississippi’s pediatric expansion.

Not long after the Dec. 1, 2017, groundbreaking, much larger excavator shovels dug below what was a parking lot. More than 700 steel-reinforced concrete piers, each 18 inches to 2 feet in diameter, were planted 45 feet deep, forming a strong foundation for a transformation.

Children's Groundbreaking web 1
Breaking ground on the $180 million pediatric expansion at UMMC on Dec. 1, 2017 include, front row from left, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, Deborah Bryant, Gov. Phil Bryant, Megan Bell, Avery Bell, Joe Sanderson Jr., Kathy Sanderson, Dr. Mary Taylor, Guy Giesecke and Doris Whitaker.

Now the structure is rising higher by the day until it reaches its full height of seven stories. On the first anniversary of the groundbreaking of this vital project, it now stands several stories tall.

 “We have outstanding physicians and the best staff, and they have a passion for caring for patients,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “What we are seeing now is the construction of a facility to match that quality of care.”

The $180 million expansion will be in its structural phase through August 2019. Then the tower’s interior work – including the installation of 3.26 million feet of wiring, 58,400 sheets of Drywall and 6,300 light fixtures – will begin.

An artist's rendering of the children's expansion

The tower’s opening is planned for fall 2020. Children’s of Mississippi leaders anticipate recruiting 30-40 new physicians in the next five years as the facility is built and after it is opened, since it will provide additional capacity. At a minimum, about 50-75 staff positions, not including physicians, would be added after construction.

“We have a growing number of experts who are providing world-class care to some of the most critically ill and injured children in the state,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of pediatrics. “This new tower will be the space we need for these physicians, surgeons and other health professionals to provide care to Mississippi’s children at a moment’s notice.”

The tower will double the square footage of the state’s only children’s hospital, adding 88 private neonatal intensive care rooms, more pediatric intensive care space, 10 new operating suites, an imaging center designed just for children and a pediatric specialty clinic for outpatients.

Two massive cranes frame the structure of UMMC's pediatric expansion. The workers nearby show the scale of the construction.

The Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, the $100 million philanthropic effort to help fund the expansion, has the motto of “Growing. So they can grow,” and it rings true. For Mississippi’s children to grow up healthy, Children’s of Mississippi and Batson Children’s Hospital have to grow to meet their needs, said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s.

The campaign was launched in April 2016 by Sanderson Farms CEO and board chairman Joe Sanderson Jr. and his wife Kathy, who are chairing the effort. The couple donated $10 million to the campaign.

Friends of Children’s Hospital, the nonprofit that raised the funds to build Batson Children’s Hospital, made a $20 million pledge to the campaign in August 2016.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his wife Abby are honorary chairs of the campaign, to which they donated $1 million.

Sanderson Farms Chief Operating Officer Lampkin Butts and his wife, Susie, donated $1 million to the campaign after touring the children’s hospital and seeing the needs. Dave and Priscilla O’Donnell did as well, funding with $1 million the Priscilla and David O’Donnell Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Cardiac Wing. Carl Allen and his wife, Gigi, announced a $500,000 donation in 2017 at the Sanderson Farms Championship, then announced another $500,000 gift at this year’s tournament.

A group known for their commitment to children’s health, the Junior League of Jackson made a $1 million commitment to UMMC’s pediatric expansion in 2017.

On Nov. 26, Entergy Mississippi announced a $500,000 gift to the campaign during a news conference at the Medical Center.

Workers build UMMC's pediatric expansion upward. Interior work will begin in August 2019.

Through gifts of all sizes, the campaign funds have grown to more than $67 million.

“This expansion of the state’s only children’s hospital is an effort we can all get behind,” said Joe Sanderson. “Mississippians are such a generous people, and we all want the best for our children. Kathy and I, in our efforts to chair the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, have seen such broad support for this project. That we have raised such a large sum in only about two years is a testament to that.”

Mississippians across the state can give online by visiting