February 2, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Good people are not hard to find
You often just know good people when you meet them and you meet a lot of them at the Medical College of Georgia. People like Dr. Bill Pearson, in our Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy. Dr. Pearson teaches anatomy and neuroanatomy to our freshmen and, most often, can be found with a smile on his face and truly immersed in a job he clearly loves. Well Dr. Pearson took a moment the other day to make sure I knew about the great humanity of another fine individual, 1995 graduate Dr. Rees Oliver.

MCG graduate’s act of kindness goes viral
Drs. Pearson and Oliver connected years ago when Dr. Oliver was a medical student and, at that time, Dr. Pearson was leading student outreach at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta. Dr. Oliver is now a neonatologist in Birmingham but the two still keep up, as Dr. Pearson does with many former students. Dr. Pearson remembers when Dr. Oliver, who is from Atlanta, was still a student and had taken a trip to Statesboro. Driving back, he came across a wreck, pulled a man out of a burning car and resuscitated him. “That is just Rees,” he says. Like he is with the intricate details of the human anatomy that he shares with our students, Dr. Pearson is clearly right.

Birmingham neonatologist Dr. Rees Oliver gives hope and his coat to another
Much more recently, Dr. Oliver spotted a man alone, inadequately dressed for that cold day in Birmingham and holding a cardboard sign asking for help. So Dr. Oliver jumped out of his car, gave the man his jacket and told him he would be right back with some food. A passerby caught this act of kindness on her cell phone for all of us to see here. As I have said, some days are harder than others, even at a great place like MCG. But stories and people like these – like you – are reminders of the hope and promise that also abounds.

Family medicine faculty, MCG students are Docs for the Day at the capitol
Speaking of promise, three of our seniors who are headed to careers in family medicine, are volunteering alongside MCG family medicine faculty members Drs. Bruce LeClair and David Kriegel, to serve as Docs of the Day at the state Capitol. Angela Holder and Dr. LeClair were in Atlanta this week looking out for the well-being of state leaders. Their service coincided with the Medical Association of Georgia’s Physicians Day at the state Capitol, where many physicians and organizations gathered to share their impact and issues. Angela grew up on the family farm in Paulding County, Georgia and is at our Athens campus. She is already doing great things like creating a science-based English course for elementary school students in South Korea that includes interactive science experiments and serving the underserved at the Mercy Clinic in Athens.

The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well at MCG
Dr. Kriegel, a 1998 MCG graduate, will have two students with him on the Georgia Chapter of American College of Physicians Day at the capitol Feb. 15. Carmen Collins is at our Northwest Campus, based in Rome. She is a native of Meriwether, Georgia, who has done neat things like create an IV pole decorating program for our children’s hospital. Matthew Rivera-Bloodworth, a native of Statenville, Georgia, is on the board of ALAS, which runs La Clinic Latina, and has made a commitment to serving an underserved community when he finishes his training. These individuals and their stories are the story of MCG.

Dr. Alexis Stranahan awarded $1.7 million NIH grant
So is this. Most of us know that visceral fat – the fat that gets packed around our abdominal organs – is particularly bad for us. If you have ever wondered why, at least one reason is that carrying around a lot of extra poundage can cause our gut to become leaky and organisms can seep into and inflame this nearby fat. How is that for a Friday afternoon visual? Well Dr. Alexis Stranahan, neuroscientist in our Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, is doing some fascinating work on how that fat also translates to impaired cognition, even dementia. Truly fascinating and all too relevant work going on right here, per usual for so many of you. Congratulations on your $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Stranahan.

Studies will elucidate why visceral fat appears to be the worst for our brains
Please see her great recent appearance on WJBF-TV’s Jennie Montgomery show, here and more on MedicalXpress here. You can also hear about Dr. Stranahan’s work on public radio stations all across our state Feb. 24 and 25. Locally that is WACG, 90.7 FM. I am talking about the Medical Minute, of course, featuring the distinctive sound of Dr. Joseph Hobbs, chair of family medicine and 1974 MCG graduate, and highlighting MCG research. It airs each and every Saturday and Sunday at 8:18 a.m., 1:20 p.m. and 5:18 p.m. MCG is now into its fourth year of the Medical Minute and we appreciate the great partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Our newest educational partners, WellStar, pay a visit
I wanted to also share that we had a great visit this week with the WellStar Health System, one of our newest partners in medical education. This not-for-profit and rapidly expanding health care network based in the Atlanta area has opened the doors of their extensive physician and hospital network to our students. Like the many great physician and hospital partners MCG has statewide, they want to help educate the next generation, and our students are providing stellar feedback on the experiences they are getting at WellStar clinical facilities and with their physicians.

The relationship is providing students more learning opportunities in Atlanta
They already offer clerkships to our students in pediatrics, OB/GYN, emergency medicine, internal medicine, family medicine and palliative care, primarily at WellStar Kennestone in Marietta. In fact, 73 WellStar physicians now have clinical faculty appointments at MCG. Medical education actually is not new to this group and they are not completely new to us. WellStar already offers an expanding number of residency programs, including internal medicine, emergency medicine, OB/GYN, family medicine and a transitional year. In fact, nine of our students went into one of their residency programs just last year. Dr. Val Akopov, senior vice president of WellStar Medical Group, who was with us this week, is a recent addition to the top leadership of the growing GME program at WellStar.

Dr. Shelley Nuss has helped lead the USG-driven initiative to increase GME
Dr. Shelley Nuss, campus dean of our partnership campus in Athens with the University of Georgia, worked closely with Dr. Louis Lovett, designated institutional official/physician liaison with WellStar Graduate Medical Education, and with Dr. G. Waldon Garriss, program director for WellStar’s Internal Medicine Residency Program, to help make the WellStar residencies happen. Dr. Nuss, an expert in GME, also happens to chair the GREAT Committee of the University System of Georgia. GREAT, the GME Regents Evaluation and Assessment Team, was established following conversations between MCG and the USG back in 2011 to determine the best way to help our already large and growing state also grow more residency programs. The decision included helping fund the cost of adding GME programs at previously nonteaching hospitals in Georgia.

The program will add about 27 new GME programs and 567 residency positions
This was a great (pun intended) and innovative move by the USG to address a real higher education and well-being need in our state. In fact Dr. Nuss will address the Regents at their meeting later this month, when the last dollars for new programs will be allocated. Nearly $20 million has been invested for this and the total of teaching hospitals in our state has nearly doubled to produce nearly a 40 percent increase in GME capacity in our state. WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital in Griffin, Georgia, along with Hamilton Health Care System in Dalton, Georgia, will be the last to be recommended for Georgia’s teaching hospital line up through this program. This is some serious collaboration by many to address the very real issue that Georgia does not have enough physicians. This obviously strikes at the heart of what we do here at Georgia’s public medical school. As I am wont to say, MCG simply could not do its job of educating the next generation without such great partners.  Thank you.


Upcoming Events

Feb. 20 – MCG Alumni Association Macon Regional Reception, 6 p.m., Idle Hour Country Club.

Feb. 21 – Chinese New Year celebration sponsored by the AU Arts Council and Confucius Institute a noon in the Lee Auditorium. Enjoy singing, dancing and swordsmanship including a vocalist and cultural dancers from MCG. Free fun, food and admission.

Feb. 23 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

March 16 – Match Day, noon, Christenberry Fieldhouse, Forest Hills Campus.

March 23 – MCG Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

March 29 – MCG Alumni Association Athens Regional Reception, 6 p.m., home of Dr. and Mrs. Mark Ellison.

April 13 – The Raft Debate, Harrison Commons, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association.

April 27-29 – Alumni Weekend.

May 10 –MCG Hooding, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium. Reception immediately following at the Old Medical College building on Telfair Street. Featured speaker is Dr. Walter J. Curran Jr., MCG Class of 1982, who is executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Emory School of Medicine.

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

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

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