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Old Posted Jan 3, 2010, 10:37 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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MERI Works to Become World-Renowned Training Facility
TOM WILEMON | The Daily News

The reach of the Medical Education and Research Institute expands far beyond the former post office it occupies on Cleveland Avenue. The largest surgical training center in the country using donor bodies, MERI has taught new procedures in the past year to more than 9,500 physicians from the United States and abroad. Their visits and other business generated by MERI will bring an estimated $54 million into the Memphis economy, said Elizabeth Ostric, the institute’s executive director.

Solid financial support for MERI has helped keep Memphis at the forefront of medical innovations since the training center opened in the old post office in 1994. Its primary benefactors are Baptist Memorial Health Care, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and Semmes Murphey Neurologic and Spine Institute. During the past year, MERI has raised about $1.7 million. The institute began a $10 million capital fund drive about two years ago, but has since changed its fundraising strategy to make it a continuing annual effort. “We have been given a lot of different (types of) donations,” Ostric said. “Some have been cash so we could finance the refurbishment of this building and make for more lab space so that we could actually train more students.” Companies have also loaned training equipment, such as a da Vinci robotic surgical system and an O-arm, a system manufactured by Medtronic Inc. that allows simultaneous multidimensional monitoring during surgical procedures. “Our vision is to be the leading hands-on medical education and training institute in the world,” Ostric said. “It’s important to keep that new technology coming all the time.”

Last year, MERI spent $700,000 to expand its 27,000-square-foot facility with another 2,000 square feet. This year, it purchased an adjacent building at 1381 Madison for $800,000. The city of Memphis within the past month approved plans to reroute an alley between MERI and the adjacent building so a parking lot can be expanded and gated. “What we will eventually do is we will knock down that building,” Ostric said. “As donations and tuition permit, we will actually expand our teaching facilities there.”

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