The University of South Alabama Medical Center’s Level 1 Trauma Center will more than double in size thanks to a $5 million gift from Herbert A. Meisler presented at the Board of Trustees meeting this morning. Combined with a $4 million bond issue announced by Gov. Kay Ivey in August, Meisler’s gift will help expand the existing center from 11,000 square feet to more than 27,000 square feet, converting the current 22 private and semi-private exam rooms to 41 private exam beds.

The center will be renamed the Fanny R. Meisler Trauma Center in honor of Meisler’s late wife, who passed away in 2016. Meisler, with his brother-in-law Harold Ripps, launched RIME Companies, an apartment construction and management company, in 1964.

According to a news release, his philanthropy at USA began three decades ago with a gift to establish the Ripps-Meisler Endowed Chair in the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, followed by a donation to establish the Fanny and Bert Meisler Endowed Professorship in Jewish Studies and to name USA’s student services building Meisler Hall.

Courtesy of Univeristy of South Alabama | Herbert A. Meisler has donated $5 million to expand the USA Medical Center’s Trauma Center, which will be renamed the Fanny R. Meisler Trauma Center. Here, the couple stands in front of Meisler Hall shortly after its construction.

“The USA Medical Center serves thousands of people each year and saves the lives of our citizens every day,” Meisler said in a prepared statement. “The expansion of its Level 1 trauma center — the only one of its kind in the region—is vitally important to our community. I am so pleased to be able to give back to the University of South Alabama and to the USA Health system in this way.”

In brief remarks Friday, Meisler recalled his early involvement with the university, including working with USA founder Frederick Whiddon to establish the hospital with Arnold Luterman.

“It’s something we wanted to do and something we’ve been interested in and we love the university,” he said.

According to USA, a Level I center such as USA Medical Center provides a systematic response to trauma utilizing resources from all medical specialties to meet the special needs of the seriously injured patient at a moment’s notice. The approach greatly improves the patient’s chance for survival, and a larger facility is better capable of responding to mass casualties. The next closest Level 1 trauma centers are in Gainesville, Jackson, Mississippi, and Birmingham.

Noting how the center is vital not just for health care but for education and economic development, USA Hospital Administrator Sam Dean said the expansion will be “transformative” for the region. Dean said the center will require additional staff — particularly nurses — and open opportunities for at least one major educational component.

“We are beyond excited about what we can do with this gift, it’s really not measureable at this point” he said. “It will have impacts from an education standpoint — this will allow us to provide a program … to provide ER residency in our community, which will then put out board certified physicians not just for our area but for the state of Alabama.”

In anticipation of the gift, Dean said, USA has already engaged an architect for the project, which is expected to expand upon the hospital’s existing footprint. The total cost is not expected to exceed $12 million, but a timeline is not currently available.

Other recent renovations at USA Medical Center include new outpatient rooms, a new helicopter landing pad and renovated lobby, which will be unveiled at a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday, March 6, at 2:30 p.m