Among the advantages Dr. David Cole will bring to his new job as president of the Medical University of South Carolina: He already knows the institution well, having worked there for two decades. And as the current chairman of the school's Department of Surgery and president of MUSC Physicians, he has already served in high-ranking authority roles there.

Dr. Cole and his school also carry this advantage as they move forward together: MUSC has long benefited from outstanding presidential leadership.

The opening Dr. Cole will fill was created last summer when Dr. Ray Greenberg left after 13 years as MUSC president to become vice chancellor for health affairs in the University of Texas system.

When Dr. Greenberg took over at MUSC, like Dr. Cole now, he had a tough act to follow. Dr. James B. Edwards, South Carolina's governor from 1975-79, directed many important advances, including needed expansion, as MUSC's president from 1983-2000.

Dr. Cole said, after learning of his selection Thursday, that "the future is very bright" at MUSC.

There's ample reason to share that optimism. Under Dr. Greenberg, the school added major new construction, including the state-of-the-hospital-art Ashley River Tower.

MUSC also has played a growing role over the last decade in enhancing health care across the state, including long-underserved and poverty-stricken rural areas.

And like Dr. Edwards before him, Dr. Greenberg recruited highly regarded experts in assorted medical fields, raising MUSC's national reputation in the process. Indeed, Dr. Edwards recruited Dr. Greenberg, who first came to MUSC in 1995 as provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Dr. Cole, taking over from interim president Mark Sothmann, the school's provost, will try to sustain that upward momentum once he takes charge, perhaps as soon as July 1. Certainly he won't receive the negative reaction that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell is still drawing from many faculty members and students at the College of Charleston as he prepares to become its next president.

One of the challenges Dr. Cole and MUSC face is to find more ways to collaborate with other local educational institutions, particularly the College of Charleston. Though a legislative proposal to merge MUSC and the College of Charleston is now off the table, that doesn't mean the schools shouldn't work together to help fulfill the community's research-center potential.

Dr. Cole, who is president-elect of the Southeastern Surgical Congress, said he hopes to keep practicing medicine. It's a worthwhile aim for any physician - and any medical university president.

Under Dr. Cole's leadership, MUSC can be expected to build on the positive legacy of his predecessors.