Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

The Class of 2023 comes from 44 Georgia counties, 56 colleges and universities
The Class of 2023 has orientation next week and I know you join me in welcoming our new students and in thanking our Admissions Committee and entire Admissions Office for making this process happen, not just at an unprecedented pace, but also happen so very well. Admission to medical school, as you know, is a process that is a huge commitment for all involved that often starts for our students when they are still children, and for our Admissions faculty and staff here it is essentially continuous. This year we again had more than 3,000 applicants for our freshman class of 230 students, and this time around that applicant pool included 1,847 non-Georgia residents and more than 1,200 Georgia residents. As you know, our class is 95 percent Georgia residents, so the number of folks not from Georgia we can accept is small but we appreciate their continued interest in MCG. We ultimately interviewed 545 of the applicants this year over a total of 34 days (that alone is an amazing fete), interviews wrapped up January 22, and the class, which includes students from 44 Georgia counties, was finalized earlier this month. Our new students come from 56 colleges and universities including Cornell, Princeton and Dartmouth as well institutions a bit closer to home like University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Emory University. For the third year, our university’s BS to MD program is sending us more outstanding students, 20 this year. I welcome all our new students and thank them for choosing MCG.

Ellyn Strother, former ECMO baby, is now a member of the Class of 2023
We hinted last week that we are technically welcoming back one student who actually spent her first few days of life with us. Ellyn Strother was born Nov. 6, 1995 to Carla and Brian Strother at University Hospital, and she wasn’t crying. Ellyn had aspirated meconium, which was obstructing her airway, and when more standard treatment did not work, she was transported to our Children’s Hospital of Georgia and placed on ECMO. ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, takes over the work of the heart and lungs for babies like Ellyn, for potentially many days until their organs hopefully recover. Drs. Charlie Howell and Bill Kanto had helped set up one of the first half-dozen ECMO programs in the country here and the first baby was put on EMCO here in 1985. Flash forward to the summer of 2015, which found Ellyn back at the children’s hospital, but this time as a healthy 20-year-old shadowing Dr. Robyn Hatley, the pediatric surgeon who put her on ECMO. We all know what an amazing doctor, mentor and inspiration Dr. Hatley is, and when Ellyn left us that time, she was a college student convinced she wanted to be not just a medical student, but an MCG student. Now she is. Congratulations and welcome back Ellyn. Stay tuned next week for a story on Ellyn by Ashley Osborne on WJBF-TV.

MCG’s education presence is growing in Dalton, Georgia
We aren’t the only ones who love our students. As I travel the state, and talk with physicians and health care practitioners pretty much anywhere, they appreciate their quality, and want to help with their education, which is very inspiring as well. This week I was fortunate to visit Dalton, Georgia, about an hour up I-75 from Rome, where in 2013 we officially opened our third clinical campus. (Our campus in Athens in partnership with UGA is a four-year campus). If memory serves, the great people of Rome actually approached us about having a campus up their way and it has been quite a run. Now, we are working with the great people of Dalton to develop an expanded model for the Northwest Campus, much like the model of our Southeast Campus based in Savannah and Brunswick, where we are actually headed tonight for the Alumni Association’s welcome dinner for our students hosted by Dr. Buffi Boyd, urologist and 1999 MCG graduate.

MCG alumni, hospital leaders in Dalton show support for the expanding initiative
We sent a cohort of five, third-year students to Hamilton Health Care System in Dalton for the first time last year, where they completed clerkships in internal medicine, surgery, neurology and psychiatry, and raved about their experience. Five more students are going this fall and this spring, and clerkships already have been expanded to include family medicine, OB/GYN and pediatrics. Hamilton also provides free housing and $400 worth of meals per month to our students. Hamilton’s CEO Jeff Myers and brand new CMO Dr. Andy Bland are both very supportive of the emerging partnership, and the staff is outstanding. While I was up that way this week I was fortunate to visit the excellent facilities and individuals at Hamilton as well as its Anna Shaw Children’s Institute, which provides diagnosis and treatment for children with developmental delays and many associated behavioral issues. Talk about paying it forward: I also had dinner with Dr. James Gable, a general surgeon and MCG graduate practicing in Dalton, and Dr. Steven Paynter, also a general surgeon in Dalton and MCG graduate,  whose son Dr. Jordan Paynter, is also an MCG graduate and MCG Foundation Merit Scholar now doing his orthopaedic residency with us. These MCG alumni and physician leaders are excited about helping educate future graduates. The icing on the cake was a welcome reception for our students at the Northwest Campus hosted by Dr. Joe Burch, Rome radiologist and 1985 MCG graduate. The beauty of this part of the state is breathtaking and so is the support we continue to find there. Thank you Northwest Georgia.

PRIDE Summer Institute mentees here to learn more about the genomics of blood disorders
Like our newest students, those of us fortunate to choose medicine know that it’s a lifelong learning process, which is a big part of the fascination and fun that comes with it. This month we also are privileged to welcome to campus participants in the Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research, or PRIDE, a mentoring program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that helps more junior faculty be successful as it helps diversify our science workforce. Our Dr. Betty Pace, Francis J. Tedesco, MD, Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, started one of the first three PRIDE programs in the country and brought it here with her in 2006. Nine PRIDE participants from across the land are on our campus through the end of this month for the PRIDE Summer Institute, learning more about the functional and translational genomics of blood disorders. We welcome these young scientists and thank them for their contribution to science and commitment to others. We thank Dr. Pace for her contributions on many fronts.

Dr. Shaoyong Su gets $3 million NIH grant to understand link between early blood pressure and dementia
Science is definitely a team sport, especially these days, and we are getting increasingly good at that approach. Dr. Shaoyong Su, genetic epidemiologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute, is an outstanding collaborator and generally nice guy who is principal investigator on a new $3 million grant from the NHLBI that will help him and his colleagues figure out if a higher or more rapidly increasing blood pressure early in life translates to an increased risk of dementia as we age. There are a lot of important health concerns in this one including increasing blood pressures in children and the already huge number of individuals with dementia, an estimated 50 million worldwide, with some 10 million new cases each year. Because of the longtime work of many at the GPI, Su and his colleagues already have early and ongoing relevant data like blood pressure and arterial stiffness measures from about 600 people starting at childhood. The group is reaching their 40s now, so thanks to the help of Dr. Nathan Yanasak, magnetic resonance imaging scientist in the Department of Radiology and Imaging, the study cohort is now also getting sophisticated imaging to look at blood flow in the brain. Dr. Katie Davis, clinical health psychologist also at the GPI, is helping with cognitive testing, brain imaging, stress assessment and more. Cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Jennifer McDowell at UGA is another great colleague and co-principal investigator on this project. More to come on this but we send our congratulations and thanks for good collaborations — and funding — to enable this very relevant work.

Chair Emeritus Dr. Virendra Mahesh made important inroads at MCG, internationally
As we begin to close this week, we must say goodbye to two more significant contributors to science, to medicine and to MCG. Dr. Virendra B. Mahesh was a Regents professor and Chair Emeritus of our Department of Endocrinology and Physiology (now Department of Physiology). He came to us in 1959, after finishing his PhD in organic chemistry at India’s Delhi University and a DPhil from Oxford University in England. He would become a prolific investigator and pioneer in enhancing understanding of the role of steroid hormones in health and disease, and a pioneer as well in the areas of both infertility and birth control. He would be honored internationally and here at home, with honors like the Distinguished Service Award of the Society for the Study of Reproduction. The society also would honor him with a neuroendocrinology mini symposium at their annual scientific meeting as well as a new investigator award that bear his name. He was an avid educator, who established our PhD program in endocrinology. In 2017, he would establish an endowed chair in neuroscience, which bears his name and which mentee Dr. Darrell Brann holds. Last year he received the AU President’s Award, the highest honor given to friends and supporters. Our thoughts and thanks are with the family and many friends and colleagues of this renowned scientist and educator. A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Aug. 8 at Magnolia Trace, One Clubhouse Ave., Huntsville, Ala. Dr. Mahesh’s family has asked that those who wish to honor him make donations to the Virendra Mahesh Lectureship and Graduate Student Award fund, Medical College of Georgia Foundation, 720 St. Sebastian Way, Suite 150, Augusta GA 30901 or online at www.mcgfoundation.org/Donate-Now.

Dr. Peter M. Payne, MCG graduate and longtime OB/GYN passes
Finally today, we send our best as well to the many who knew and loved Dr. Peter M. Payne. Dr. Payne moved to Augusta from Atlanta when he was 14. He would go to Richmond Academy, UGA and graduate from MCG in 1964. He would serve as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy and in the Naval Reserves for a dozen years. He would practice OB/GYN in Atlanta, Athens and Augusta for a total of 35 years. He was a longtime member of the MCG Foundation Board, a lifetime member and past president of the MCG Alumni Association and active member of the Medical Association of Georgia’s House of Delegates. He was a great choice for our Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus Award for Loyalty in 2015. We thank Dr. Payne again for his many contributions to his chosen profession and to his medical school.

 

Upcoming Events

July 31 – MCG Alumni Association Freshman Lunch to welcome students to the AU/UGA Medical Partnership campus, noon on campus.

Aug. 1 – MCG Alumni Association Freshman Reception in Augusta, 5 p.m., Harrison Commons.

Aug. 5 – First day of class for MCG freshmen.

Sept. 23 – State of the College, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Oct. 19 – White Coat Ceremony, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium.

Nov. 1 – Body donation memorial service, 1 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

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