BY DR. JAMES B. EDWARDS

I am a proud graduate of the College of Charleston and have more recently been active as president of the Medical University. I was going to stay out of this merger discussion, but after much thought, I want everyone to know how I feel about this situation.

There is an old and wise saying about people who are jacks of all trades and masters of none. When we spread ourselves too thinly, we lose the ability to be effective in any one area.

The Medical University of South Carolina is nationally ranked and has world recognition. This does not happen by accident. The person who leads the Medical University must have an in-depth knowledge of the medical profession.

This leadership cannot be watered down by offering other types of degrees. When you have 17 different medical departments, the president of the university needs to be able to understand their unique needs.

In addition, you have medical research and hospitals that require a person who has in-depth knowledge of the medical profession. Some distinctions from the MUSC website:

For the 16th consecutive year, MUSC has been recognized as a Best Hospital by U.S. News & World Report in their annual rankings.

Four adult specialty programs at MUSC are ranked among the top 50 in the nation: cardiology and heart surgery (No. 47); ear, nose and throat (No. 30); gastroenterology (No. 49); nephrology (No. 44).

MUSC has received a Rising Star Award and was ranked 15th out of 116 academic medical centers overall at the annual meeting of the University Health System Consortium.

MUSC is ranked the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina by U.S. News & World Report. This is the first year state rankings have been included.

Nine other adult specialties at MUSC are designated as "high performing," meaning that they rank in the top 25 percent nationally: cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, geriatrics, gynecology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology, rheumatology and urology.

The U.S. Media Group's 2012-2013 edition of America's Best Children's Hospitals ranks MUSC Children's Hospital among the top 20 programs for heart (No. 15 this year), the fourth time it has attained this distinction. For the first time this year, its pediatric gastroenterology program also ranked as one of the top 50 in the nation. MUSC Children's Hospital was in the best category of postoperative survival in the survey, with an overall 30-day survival rate of 99 percent, including the most complex surgeries.

U.S. News & World Report identifies the top 1 percent of physicians in the country. Of those practicing in the Charleston area, 93 percent are at MUSC. More than 270 Charleston-area doctors either employed at or affiliated with the Medical University have been named to the 2012-2013 "Best Doctors" list by Best Doctors, Inc.

MUSC ranked No. 5 in the "Top Ten Most Popular Medical Schools" by the 2012-2013 U.S. News & World Report.

MUSC has the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in South Carolina.

MUSC was voted Charleston's Hospital of Choice 14 years in a row for Best Overall Quality, Best Doctors, and Best Nurses by the National Research Corporation.

MUSC's trauma program has been verified as a Level 1 Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons. This verification is the highest level any trauma program in the country can achieve, and MUSC is the first hospital in South Carolina to achieve this rating. (January 2012)

MUSC was awarded Joint Commission Advanced Inpatient Diabetes Certification for its Main Hospital, Ashley River Tower, Institute of Psychiatry, and Children's Hospital. MUSC is approximately the 40th hospital in the U.S. to gain this distinction. (June 2011)

The MUSC Depression Research and Treatment Center has been awarded membership into the National Network of Depression Centers. MUSC is one of 22 such designated centers.

MUSC received recognition as a Quality Respiratory Care Provider. Approximately 15 percent of hospitals in the U.S. have received this award.

The MUSC Cystic Fibrosis Center was recently awarded the 2011-2012 Quality Care Award at the North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference.

The MUSC College of Nursing ranked 30th nationally, among more than 700 nursing programs, in NIH research funding

Becker's Hospital Review named MUSC as one of the 100 hospitals with Great Heart Programs.

Likewise, the College of Charleston is ranked as a liberal arts school and the president of the College of Charleston needs leadership that is not distracted by or overshadowed by the needs of the Medical University.

I feel that both schools will suffer if they are combined as one school.

Dr. James B. Edwards, DMD, is president emeritus of MUSC. A Republican, he served as S.C. governor from 1975-79, U.S. energy secretary in 1981-82, and president of MUSC from 1982-99.