“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

-Christopher Reeve


Dear Colleagues and Friends,


The Lights of the Holiday Season…

We can’t help but be captured at times by the beautiful lights of this holiday season. We so hope that some of the lights that have captured you are those that brighten the huge, beautiful evergreen in front of our children’s hospital. Trees, which make our oxygen, scrub our air and ground, and beautify our world, are true symbols of life. And, this tree symbolizes two very special lives. It was a sultry August Saturday in 1993, when Registered Nurse Debbie Matthei and Respiratory Therapist Art Hardy died transporting a day-old baby to our neonatal intensive care unit from Adel, Ga. The baby and airplane pilot also were lost. The people who knew Art and Debbie best tell us that these two were the best, consummate individuals and professionals who absolutely loved giving our tiniest patients their best chance at life. The day they died, doing this so very important job, was a day that none of you who were here likely could forget, and one that none of us should. So there is the tree, a symbol of lives well lived doing for others. A symbol, really for all of you who care for patients, who relentlessly pursue better understanding of our bodies and minds, and who teach and who are the next generation. We absolutely recommend you take a few moments to watch this beautiful piece about Art and Debbie recently crafted by the talented and insightful Digital Media Coordinator for our university, Arthur Takahashi.


Help Illuminate… The Amazing Individuals

No doubt this individual is also a worthy colleague for Art, for Debbie and for you.  Shannon Hilliard Johnson was a former undergraduate student and baseball player at our university, and most recently a resident of Los Angeles. He was also one of the individuals killed in the terrorist attack earlier this month in San Bernardino. Shannon, who was on the baseball team of the former Augusta College for just a short period back in 1992, made a big impression. As today’s team starts the 2016 season, they will wear a small helmet decal in his honor. Our university also will raise scholarship funds as a lasting tribute to our former student and catcher who was working as an environmental health specialist when he died shielding a coworker from gunfire. That coworker, Denise Peraza, shares that his last words were: I got you. And we have you, Shannon, in our hearts and minds and in the education of future university students.  Amazing. Please read.


That You Are…

Part and parcel of what all of you do, is look out for others. Perhaps not in the same way that Shannon so clearly intervened to save another, but certainly by always striving to identify need and fill it. Our psycho-social oncology service, directed by Dr. Amy Allison, is absolutely in keeping with that pure spirit. It quite literally gives our patients a distress thermometer and a checklist of what is causing them stress. Our Dr. Allison recently told The Augusta Chronicle’s Tom Corwin that troubles can range from financial to insomnia. And terrific folks like Dr. Allison enable our patients to get help for those sorts of very real troubles as others help them mount a war on cancer. Talk about a win-win. That is what you do. Please check out Tom’s great story on this great effort.

But Your Inner Warmth…And Actions

You are mostly just good folks! We told you last week how our Class of 2018 early on adopted our children’s hospital as their class charity and our students were happily handing over presents to Children’s Hospital of Georgia earlier this week. Well yesterday, so did our Department of Physiology, whose faculty have been bringing unwrapped toys for our children’s hospital to the department holiday party since 1999. Now that is one terrific holiday tradition. This year they piled up dolls, stuffed animals, cars and trucks, infant toys and even a couple classic games like Sorry! and Trouble, Department Administrator Cathy Davidson tell us. We thank our students and our physiology colleagues for making the holidays brighter for hospitalized children. What could be better.


Tells Your Story Best… And You are Best

Here’s another great example of seeing a chronic need and taking it on! It was impossible for folks like Laura Brower, chief nursing officer for our hospital, to ignore the reality that literally every day we had 10-15 patients waiting in our emergency room because we did not have a bed open for their general medical problem. Sometimes, we would go ahead and put them into one of our specialty beds but, of course, that just generated shortages there. Sometimes the emergency room had to go on bypass. But the most salient issue, was that our patients had to wait too long for the room that they needed. So this week, an old 15-bed unit on 8 South found new life as a medicine unit. It’s a pretty cool place anyway, because it has big rooms with big windows but just needed a refresh, Laura said. She shares that hospitals across our country are finding themselves in similar situations with our aging baby boomers sometimes needing hospital care for their chronic illnesses. A similar smart use of space strategy also occurred earlier this month on 5 North where a way under-utilized waiting area has become a super relaxing discharge lounge, where our patients can recline, watch television and have a snack while they wait for a loved one to come pick them up. Of course, the added benefit is that this frees up their previous room earlier for another patient. This is the kind of thinking/doing that makes us/you great and will make us even better. Thank you.


Every Day…

Speaking of great, our President, Dr. Brooks Keel visited our University of Georgia colleagues in awesome Athens this week. While there, Interim Campus Dean Leslie Petch Lee gave him a terrific tour of the beautiful facilities, he met with other campus leaders, and with some of our amazing students, such as Shannon O’Brien, president of the Medical Partnership Ambassadors, who actually was one of his many gracious hosts during his visit. Rumor has it that he even got a few selfies! We appreciate our president’s time, interest and enthusiasm for our medical school and the ongoing vital collaboration of our UGA colleagues in educating the next generation.


In Every Way…

Also up that way, our Partnership campus along with our partners at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens shared their terrific experience with starting a residency program with other new teaching hospitals across our state. Talk about sharing the love. This kind of interchange is just invaluable as we all move forward in the super important task – and privilege – of educating more physicians for our state. It’s been a bit since we also thanked the University System of Georgia Board of Regents for its leadership in initiating a statewide program that is enabling hospitals such as St. Mary’s to follow its desire to be part of that process and ultimately the solution. You may remember that St. Mary’s internal medicine residency started this past summer. Just a total win-win.


And We Wish For You… A Truly Happy and Prosperous New Year

And finally today, we wanted to share that we will have a short respite on this weekly writing until the new year, while you are all busy with families and fun and home. But we cannot close out this piece or this year without saying to each of you again what a privilege and pleasure it is to work with you, to learn from you, to know you. We are truly a family here, and that is so much a part of what makes our medical school great. While the old adage goes, “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family,” please know that we absolutely choose you.


Upcoming Events


Jan. 11 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., JSAC Ballroom, Summerville Campus. 

Jan. 12 – Town Hall meeting with students, noon-1 p.m., Harrison Commons, GB 1220A.

Jan. 22 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Jan. 24-27 – LCME Site visit

Feb. 1 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., EC-1222, Health Sciences Campus.

Feb. 11 – Augusta University Day at the Capitol.

Feb. 18 – MCG Faculty Senate meeting and Awards Ceremony, 5:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium.

Feb. 25 – MCG Alumni Association Board Meeting, Macon, Idle Hour Country Club, 3:30 p.m., Regional reception, 6 p.m.

March 4 – The Alan Roberts Memorial Lecture, noon-1 p.m., Lee Auditorium, Kathy Kinlaw, Director of Emory University’s Program on Health Science and Ethics.

March 7 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., JSAC Ballroom, Summerville Campus.

March 18 – Match Day, location TBD!

March 25 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

April 11 – University Senate Meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m., EC-1222, Health Sciences Campus.

April 15 – MCG Alumni Association sponsors the Raft Debate, Harrison Education Commons.

April 29 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

April 29-May 1 – Alumni Weekend. On April 29, Department of Neurosurgery 60th anniversary lunch and CME, noon-4 p.m., BI3079; MCG Dean’s Reception, 5:30 p.m., Harrison Education Commons followed by MCG Alumni Association Banquet, 6:30 p.m., also at the Harrison Education Commons. April 30, MCG Alumni Association Board Meeting, 9:30 a.m., Harrison Education Commons; President’s Cookout, noon-2 p.m., at president’s home, Twin Gables, 920 Milledge Road; MCG Class Reunions, starting at 6:30 at the Augusta Marriott for Classes of 1946, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006. May 1, MCG Emeritus Club Breakfast, Augusta University Alumni Center on 15th St., 9:30 a.m.; Memorial Service, 10:30 a.m., Alumni Center.

May 6 – Dean’s State of the College Address, noon, Lee Auditorium.

May 12 – Hooding 2016, Keynote speaker, Dr. Claire Pomeroy, President, Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, 2 p.m.

May 13 – Graduation, 2 p.m., Civic Center


Have a safe and wonderfully happy holiday!

Leave a Reply