AUGUSTA, Ga. – A $10 million leadership gift from an alumnus of Georgia Health Sciences University’s Medical College of Georgia has resulted in the naming of a building that will enhance the university’s commitment to growing health sciences education.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has approved the naming of the J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons for the late philanthropist, renowned vascular surgeon and 1948 graduate.
“Dr. Harrison’s legacy will live on through his commitment to education,” said Susan Barcus, GHSU Senior Vice President for Advancement and Community Relations and Chief Development Officer. “The impact of this transformational gift is immediate and will be felt for years to come. We have successfully leveraged Dr. Harrison’s gift to generate additional support for the Education Commons, including $5 million in support from Augusta donors and an $8 million gift from the Woodruff Foundation.”
“We are leading the charge in expanding health care education in this state,” said GHSU Provost Gretchen Caughman. “With the addition of the J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons, we will be able to increase class sizes in the College of Dental Medicine and the Medical College of Georgia, educating more health care professionals to care for the citizens of Georgia.”
Harrison, who practiced medicine for more than 50 years, helped refine the repair and replacement of diseased arteries. He chose his specialty in 1953 when, during his residency at Grady Health System in Atlanta, he learned about a new technique for freeze-drying arteries for later use. Harrison and a Ph.D. student tried the technique on a patient with a blockage in his aorta. He decided to be a vascular surgeon the day he successfully completed that surgery.
He joined the Emory University faculty in 1957 and later headed the Department of Surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta, where he developed the nation’s first vascular training program in 1959. He operated on more than 7,000 blocked neck arteries before retiring as St. Joseph’s Chief of Surgery in 1999.
Harrison was an active member of the MCG Alumni Association and the MCG Foundation, having served as President of both. He received the alumni association’s 1996 Distinguished Alumnus Award. A native of Kite, Ga., he lived with wife Sue on a cattle farm in Bartow, Ga., until his death on June 2.
The commons is slated to be a three-story, 172,000-square-foot building with classroom space for the College of Dental Medicine and the Medical College of Georgia and an interprofessional state-of-the-art simulation center. The total construction cost of the project, including the simulation lab, is $76.5 million. The state of Georgia is providing $42 million in bond funding, and the university is raising the additional $34.5 million through private philanthropy.