The extraordinary generosity of Frank and Carol Morsani is once again better positioning this community for the future. The University of South Florida announced that the couple donated $20 million toward the university's medical school, which on Thursday was renamed the Morsani College of Medicine. Their gift marks a new era for medical education and charity care, and a challenge for local philanthropists to raise the bar in Tampa Bay.
Giving back is hardly new to the Morsanis. The former auto dealer and his wife have given to a wide range of groups over the years, supporting the arts and helping to build athletic and medical facilities at USF's campus in Tampa. This latest gift brings the couple's donations to USF to $43 million, $37 million of which has gone toward health-related initiatives. This is serious money for a serious public cause.
USF will use the Morsanis' gift as seed money toward a $60 million campaign to replace the medical school's four-decade-old facilities. The university hopes to break ground next year on a five- or six-story facility that would give students and professionals enough room to truly collaborate on academics and clinical care in modern surroundings. The gift could not have come at a better time. With dated facilities and little hope in this economic environment of securing major state investments, USF needed a boost to remain competitive in the fast-paced world of medical science.
The open design of the new facility will enable students and staff from schools of medicine, nursing and other health-related disciplines to work together and combine teaching with real-life care. A full-time health clinic will enable USF to expand its student-run services for the uninsured. But perhaps more than anything, the facility will act as the backbone for USF's vision to explore new health care partnerships. Medical school dean Dr. Stephen Klasko was right to back away from his idea of building a new academic hospital at USF. He is now seeking to expand USF's appeal by developing techniques for improving the doctor-patient experience, a promising niche in an increasingly decentralized health care delivery system.
The Morsanis also have sent a message to wealthy Floridians about the needs right here in the Sunshine State. A report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that most Floridians donating at least $1 million to a single cause gave to charities out of state. This amounts to a brain drain in Florida for educational, human welfare and cultural endeavors. By making their own community a priority, the Morsanis have set an example. Their generosity has made the bay area a better place, and they have laid a foundation for others to build upon.