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$10 million donation for new medical tower from Laurie C. McGrath
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$10 million donation for new medical tower from Laurie C. McGrath

A $10 million gift from local philanthropist Laurie C. McGrath will help Sharp HealthCare realize its goal of rebuilding a key piece of its medical campus in Serra Mesa.

The contribution will go toward a new seven-story, 152-bed medical tower that will replace the original Sharp Memorial Hospital building, which has been in continuous use since it opened in 1955.

The new building, expected to open in 2030, is several steps down the $900 million redevelopment road for the sprawling and severely land-locked metro campus which sits on state Route 163 at Genesee Avenue. Those plans are part of a $2 billion, 10-year cycle of reinvestment that will eventually touch most of the health care system’s facilities operating throughout San Diego County.

Work began in 2022 with ground breaking on the two-story annex, adding 31 additional treatment rooms and other amenities to Sharp Memorial’s existing emergency and trauma department, which opened in 2009. A six-story addition to Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, which is situated on the same campus, is expected to begin in 2026 with what is now to be called McGrath Tower following approximately one year later.

The original hospital building, now called memorial’s central tower, and the complex’s south tower, will largely be demolished, though their first few stories will be retrofitted.

“We’re taking this campus that has been operationally upgraded for the last 70 years and pushing it forward for the next 30 to 40 years,” said Bill Littlejohn, CEO of the Foundations of Sharp HealthCare.

Last year, the foundation launched a $250 million capital campaign to help cover construction costs, and Littlejohn said that progress has been significant. About $88 million had already been donated when ground broke on the first project, but additional gifts have arrived since then.

“Today, including the McGrath gift, we’re at $141 million,” Littlejohn said. “We still have a ways to go, but in a challenging environment and health care economy, we’ve really had our community step forward.

“We’ve had more than 12,000 contributors and 20 gifts of more than a million dollars from organizations, foundations, individuals, physicians.”

Laurie McGrath said Tuesday afternoon that helping her mother, Carlee McGrath, through the seven-year aftermath of a debilitating stroke and treatment for atrial fibrillation had a significant impact on the decision to contribute to Sharp’s building project.

Helping her mother, who passed July 31, navigate seven years of health complications following the stroke forced her to learn a lot about health care and also to experience the delivery of that care at Sharp and several other medical providers.

Helping a loved one through a difficult medical journey forces a person to dig deep, reading up on every angle of the condition they face. It was the same approach, McGrath said, learning about Sharp’s plans, which are driven by a state mandate that requires all inpatient facilities to meet more stringent earthquake safety standards by 2030.

“When I become aware of something like this, I try to learn everything I can about it and, sometimes, when you learn so much, you become passionate about it,” she said. “We just happen to be able to support it.”

It is fitting for a McGrath to contribute to a project that is literally laying new foundations expected to last far into the future.

Her father, the late C.W. McGrath, through successful earthwork and development companies, was responsible for the grading and general engineering work that underpins much local infrastructure from roadways to whole subdivisions.

The McGrath foundation has supported myriad local organizations, including a multimillion-dollar gift to help build the McGrath Family YMCA in Rancho San Diego.

Sharp’s development plans beyond the metro campus, as detailed in its “Envision” plan posted online at, include a neurosciences center at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, emergency department and intensive care unit upgrades that are already underway at Sharp Coronado Hospital, build-out of the sixth floor of the brand-new Ocean View Tower at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center and intensive care unit and other additions also underway at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.

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