'We just needed it so badly': Celebrating groundbreaking for Sea Islands Medical Pavilion

September 12, 2022
Seven men wearing hard hats hold gold shovels preparing for ceremonial dig.
Charles Schulze, vice-chair MUSC BOT; MUSC Pres. David Cole; MUSC Health CEO Patrick Cawley; South Streets' Chris Randolph; Don Johnson, MUSC BOT; Kiawah Mayor John Labriola and Seabrook Mayor John Gregg. Photos by Sarah Pack

DeeDee and Chris Gibson have spent time on Kiawah Island, about 25 miles south of Charleston, for about four decades. “DeeDee and I built a house here, and one request she had was that we had a hospital close by for emergency needs,” he said.

But there wasn’t one. Now, thanks to the generosity of the Gibsons and other donors, that’s about to change. The mayors of Kiawah and Seabrook islands joined leaders from MUSC on Sept. 8 to break ground for the MUSC Health Sea Islands Medical Pavilion.

DeeDee Gibson, who with her husband contributed $2 million to the project, was on hand to see it. “I’m just glad to be a part of it. We just needed it so badly.”

People sitting in white chairs under a tent at groundbreaking ceremony for Sea Islands Medical Pavilion. 
DeeDee and Chris Gibson, front row, listen at the groundbreaking ceremony for a medical pavilion they are helping to fund.

The pavilion, on Seabrook Island Road near the Bohicket Marina, will serve Kiawah, Johns and Seabrook islands and the surrounding area. Pat Cawley, M.D., CEO of the MUSC Health system, said the goal is to bring health care to the people who need it. “We would establish this by providing a 24/7 emergency room, more primary care, more specialty care and all of this would be backed up by a world-class academic health system.”

Here’s a little more detail about the features Cawley mentioned. The free-standing Emergency Department will have a helipad for people who need to be flown to MUSC Health’s downtown Charleston hospital, four exam rooms, two trauma rooms and fast-track triage, along with X-ray, CT scan and lab services.

Other services in the medical pavilion will include:

  • Infusion.
  • Cancer screening.
  • Cardiology.
  • Ultrasound.
  • Ear, nose and throat.
  • Orthopedics.
  • Physical therapy.

David Cole, M.D., president of the Medical University of South Carolina, said the pavilion symbolizes the future health of the community and thanked everyone who helped make it possible.

“Your dedication to the health and wellness of this community will have an impact for generations to come. This marks a major milestone for this community and the many who will come after you and also the many who will serve here on a daily basis, certainly a beginning of a journey.”

That journey is possible due in part to the real estate investment firm South Street Partners. It donated the land for the medical pavilion and has strong ties to the area, including a luxury senior living site under development near the medical pavilion.

But the journey to this point hasn’t always been easy. Charles Schulze, chairman of the MUSC Board of Trustees, noted the time and effort that have gone into it. 

“As an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam war, I know the importance and necessity of teamwork. When you have a complex mission ahead of you, in those situations, your unity as a team is your biggest strength. And it didn’t matter where you live, where you were from or what your background was in our military. You learned that persistence, perseverance, collaboration and expertise are critical to the success of a mission,” he said.

“And it’s been no different in this case. When the board began to discuss the feasibility of this project, we knew it wasn’t going to happen without teamwork and vision. Not only from everybody at MUSC, but also from the community here in the Sea Islands.”

Two men wearing sport coats talk to a woman wearing a long white sweater. They are outside and smiling. 
MUSC Health CEO Dr. Patrick Cawley talks with Kiawah Island Mayor John Labriola and Kiawah Island administrator Stephanie Tillerson after the groundbreaking.

Leaders of those islands were happy to help realize that vision. They thanked MUSC Health for bringing badly needed care to the area. 

“We look forward to having better availability of care, ranging from emergency room treatment to advanced diagnostics for the ailments, bumps, pains, scrapes, stings and strains that come with having an active and diverse population,” said Mayor John Gregg of Seabrook Island.

Kiawah Mayor John Labriola said he also looked forward to seeing the healing, restful green space and garden adjacent to the new facility that his town donated $1 million for.

MUSC is still raising money to build the medical pavilion. Of the estimated $30 million needed,  MUSC is committed to raising $17 million in private support. So far, it has more than $9.5 million in confirmed gifts, with many coming from local residents such as the Gibsons. They said it’s rewarding to be able to help. 

“We’re really excited to be a part and contribute to MUSC and really look forward to having the medical needs for everybody on Kiawah, Seabrook and Johns islands,” Chris Gibson said.

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