Board of Trustees gets updates on groundbreaking research, finances and new health care facilities

April 16, 2024

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Medical University Hospital Authority (MUHA) Board of Trustees held their regularly scheduled committee sessions and board meeting on April 11 and 12, respectively.

Trustees heard presentations on inspiring medical research that is changing patient care, advances in the world of organ transplants, the latest MUSC financial updates, information about new health care sites and good news for students on the tuition front.

Curiosity creates cures

One presentation that quickly captured trustees’ attention involved an FDA-approved, MUSC investigator-initiated clinical trial using “purified” CAR-T-cell therapy for people with B-cell lymphoma – a type of cancer that forms in immune system cells. CAR-T-cell therapy is a transformative approach that engineers a patient’s own immune cells to treat his or her cancer. Before CAR-T-cell therapy, the cure rate for B-cell lymphoma was 15%. With CAR-T-cell therapy, it jumped to 40%.

Brian Hess, M.D., and Shikar Mehrotra, Ph.D., who are leading the trial, say that percentage can be even better. They’re using CAR-T-cell therapy with a twist: the addition of a cytokine cocktail that Mehrotra’s group has patented for improved effectiveness and fewer side effects. They are able to make the CAR-T cells in the MUSC clean cell facility, which saves money and gets the treatment to patients more quickly.

Lori McMahon, Ph.D., vice president for Research, applauded their efforts. “Curiosity creates cures,” she said.

MUSC Solid Organ Transplant Program 

Another major area in which MUSC is a national leader is solid organ transplantation. Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., chairman of the Department of Surgery and a transplant surgeon, gave the board a view of the MUSC Health transplant program’s history – and an update. “The field is very young, with modern transplantation starting only in the 1960s,” he said.

Modern is the key word there, though. The first kidney transplant at MUSC was performed in 1968 by a multidisciplinary team of surgical pioneers led by Tommy Fitts, M.D. Baliga said a game-changing medicine came along in 1983: cyclosporin. It improved success for kidney transplants and opened the door for other organ transplants, including heart, lung, liver and small intestine.

MUSC did its first heart transplant in 1990, liver transplant in 1991, pancreas transplant that same year, lung transplant soon after, and Baliga performed the first liver transplant on a child in 1992. It was a reminder of how far the field of transplant and MUSC have come.

MUSC performs all solid organ transplants with national-caliber quality and short wait lists. “We provide South Carolina with high-quality care and strong access to transplant. The field is changing rapidly, both scientifically and administratively. MUSC is up to date and incorporates these changes into our practice; MUSC will continue to be on the forefront in this dynamic field.”

Finances, jobs and new hospitals

MUSC President David Cole, M.D., FACS, focused on finances and jobs in his presentation to the trustees. “MUSC’s total annual state economic impact is $10.1 billion,” he said.

“MUSC supports 52,698 jobs and enables economic mobility through higher-wage roles and a significant employment multiplier.” Multiplier refers to MUSC’s indirect effects on job creation. For example, a new hospital can mean a new customer base for a nearby restaurant that then hires more employees. MUSC also ranks 1st among South Carolina research universities in retaining high-skilled graduates – the majority work in state for at least five years after graduation,” Cole told trustees.

Cole also highlighted the new primary care residency program at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center and said more residency slots at MUSC Health regional hospitals are in the works. The intent is to increase the training opportunities for new physicians in high-needs fields in order to address the health care provider shortages more effectively in rural and underserved areas of the state.

Other key developments at the Board of Trustees meeting:

• MUSC Health CEO Patrick Cawley, M.D., asked for and received BOT approval for the new 70-bed Nexton Medical Center and 30,000-square-foot cancer medical office building in Berkeley County.
• Cawley also received BOT approval for the 50-bed Indian Land Medical Center and a 60,000-square foot medical office building project in Lancaster County.
• Kate Azizi, vice president of Institutional Advancement, shared that MUSC has raised nearly $76.7 million, which is nearly 86% of a $90 million goal. This includes gifts from almost 5,000 new donors.
• Azizi also reported that land was donated by Kiawah Partners on which MUSC will build a new hospital in the Sea Islands. The Board of Trustees approved her request to name this new facility MUSC Health Kiawah Partners Pavilion. It is scheduled to open in late summer/early fall of 2025.
• Provost Lisa Saladin, Ph.D., summarized tuition and fee charges with good news for the rising generation of health care providers. “No increase in tuition or fees for in-state students for the fifth year in a row,” she said. “In fact, there is a substantial 17% decrease in tuition for the endodontics program in the College of Dental Medicine for in- and out-of-state students and six fee decreases. There’s only one tuition increase, 11%, for the out-of-state Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice program.”

About MUSC 

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system, with a unique mission to preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates more than 3,200 students in six colleges – Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy – and trains more than 900 residents and fellows in its health system. MUSC brought in more than $300 million in research funds in fiscal year 2023, leading the state overall in research funding. MUSC also leads the state in federal and National Institutes of Health funding. For information on academic programs, visit

As the health care system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest-quality and safest patient care while educating and training generations of outstanding health care providers and leaders to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Patient care is provided at 16 hospitals (includes owned or governing interest), with approximately 2,700 beds and four additional hospital locations in development, more than 350 telehealth sites and nearly 750 care locations situated in all regions of South Carolina. In 2023, for the ninth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health University Medical Center in Charleston the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit

MUSC has a total enterprise annual operating budget of $5.9 billion. The 31,000 MUSC family members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers, scientists, students, contract employees, affiliates and care team members who deliver groundbreaking education, research, and patient care.