June 22, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Two MCG students among 37 selected for NIH research scholars program
You know by now that one of my favorite things to say is that our medical students are the best. They are second to nobody else’s medical students. Here’s more proof.  Third-year students Saadia Hasan and Deeti Pithadia are two of only 37 students in the country selected to participate in the National Institutes of Health’s Medical Research Scholars Program. This program enables medical, dental and veterinary students to take time off from school, live on the NIH campus in Bethesda and conduct basic, clinical or translational research with an NIH mentor of their choosing. Talk about solidifying an already promising present and future. The scholars begin their program in July and August and will come back to MCG afterward with plans to graduate in 2020. I am told there were more than 115 applicants for these primo spots and this year’s group includes 34 medical, two dental and one veterinary student from 28 U.S. universities.

Deeti Pithadia has been interested in research since her undergrad days at Georgia Tech
Deeti is from Columbus, Georgia and went to Georgia Tech for her undergraduate studies. She found out about the NIH program from other students at MCG who had participated and from neuroscience professor Dr. Richard Cameron. She definitely took it to heart. After her first year of medical school, Deeti headed off for a summer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston as part of our Medical Scholars Program. She had a great experience and it got her thinking more about a career as a physician scientist. She still has two weeks after she gets there to choose her mentor at NIH, but is interested in research in type 1 diabetes, dermatology or reproductive endocrinology. Like so many of you, she is drawn to understanding a problem from top to bottom and, ultimately, finding solutions.

Saadia Hasan also did research as an undergrad at UCLA
Saadia studies at our Athens campus, the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership. She’s from Los Angeles and did her undergraduate work at UCLA, including some basic science work in learning and memory. She then chose MCG, both because she liked us and because she has friends close by. Like Deeti, she has not picked a mentor yet, but is definitely interested in translational research in dementia or possibly pain management, mostly in the context of neurobiology. (You know I love neurobiology.) Saadia is also definitely interested in a career as a physician scientist and has already declared family medicine as her chosen specialty because she also wants to take care of individuals and families across their lifespan. For research, she’s always been attracted to the brain, and people have asked her how she plans to marry her interests in neuroscience and family medicine practice. She explains that as a family medicine physician, she’ll see people with dementia and other neurological diseases and envisions having a clinic and a lab focused on aging and neurological problems that come with it. I guess it’s clear why these two students were chosen for such an honor. Congratulations Deeti and Saadia. I know you will continue to make us more than proud.

The first group of residents at St. Mary’s in Athens graduate
Time really does fly. It could have been yesterday, but it was really the summer of 2015 when we were celebrating the 10th anniversary of our first regional campus, the Southwest Campus based at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, and welcoming President Keel back to Augusta. At that time the very first residents were also starting in the new internal medicine residency program at St. Mary’s Health Care System, in partnership with our Athens campus. This training program was the first in Northeast Georgia. Now that first group of residents is finishing up including one of our own, 2015 MCG graduate Dr. Brian Brewer. Dr. Brewer, a native of Lilburn, Georgia, who was a medical student at the partnership campus, will now be pursuing a sports medicine fellowship at the University of Kentucky. Congratulations yet again Dr. Brewer. I want to also congratulate and thank again our colleagues at St. Mary’s for making this commitment to graduate medical education and the University System of Georgia whose innovative GME funding program has helped bring so many new teaching hospitals like St. Mary’s, online in Georgia.  Let me also note here that Piedmont Athens Regional started its first residency program, also in internal medicine and in partnership with our Athens campus, that next July.

Serious injury does not stop 2014 graduate Dr. Hammad Aslam
Here’s another great milestone for an MCG graduate and for medicine. Dr. Hammad Aslam was a member of the very first class at the partnership campus, starting back in 2010. He actually would have started at MCG the year before, but his family’s car hydroplaned on I-20 on their way back to Atlanta after looking for a place for him to live in Augusta. His family was fine, but Dr. Aslam had a traumatic brain injury, injured his cervical vertebrae and was paralyzed below the waist. He spent weeks here at our Trauma Center and was eventually transferred to Shepherd Center in Atlanta to complete his recovery. That next year, he was back as a student, this time in Athens. He completed a year of internal medicine training back in Augusta as well before going to the University of Alabama at Birmingham for a residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Aslam is now headed to Stanford University for a spinal cord injury fellowship. His is a story of commitment and bravery that many of us could not match. You can learn more about this fine MCG graduate in his own words right here.

Five volunteer faculty honored at statewide faculty development conference
The summertime definitely makes those of us fortunate enough to be part of a medical school think of new residents and fellows coming onboard, new faculty joining us, and students transitioning to their next year. It also makes some of us think of the beach and this month we brought medical school and beach together beautifully at the Statewide Faculty Development Conference in Jekyll Island. What a great gathering and I want to thank Dr. Ralph Gillies, associate dean for faculty development, and Dr. Kathryn Martin, associate dean for regional campus coordination, for their big role in putting this together. The target here was community faculty, clerkship directors and coordinators, regional clerkship site directors and our regional campus leaders, so you know it was a great group of people.

MCG has about 2,500 volunteer faculty and 94 percent are Georgia docs
We talk often, but never enough, about how we simply could not educate one of the nation’s largest medical school classes without our true statewide campus network and the individuals and hospitals that make it work. You know we have about 2,500 volunteer faculty. Well Institutional Effectiveness recently did some calculating for us that showed that 94 percent of them are Georgia physicians. I have to give that and them a resounding “awesome.” Part of the purpose and fun of the conference was to talk with some of these amazing individuals who help make MCG. We also were pleased to honor five of them with Excellence in Education Awards.

Drs. Lynch, Harden, Glass, Cichelli and Dunn honored
Dr. Sean Lynch, who did his family medicine training with us and works at Southern Family Medical Center right here in Augusta, has helped us educate the next generation for more than a dozen years here at home base. Dr. Brandon W. Harden, a pediatric cardiologist at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology in Athens, is great at teaching clinical concepts and works with most third- and fourth-year students up that way at the Athens campus. Neurologist Dr. Jeffrey Thurman Glass at Rome’s famous Harbin Clinic, is a patient and cheerful medical educator at the Northwest Campus despite a busy practice. Dr. Andrew Vincent Cichelli, a pulmonary disease and critical care specialist at East Georgia Pulmonary & Sleep Disorders Medicine in Statesboro, is the honoree for our Southeast Campus. He was already an experienced educator after teaching about 15 years at Drexel University College of Medicine (formerly Hahnemann College of Medicine), which also happens to be his alma mater. That brings us back to our oldest regional campus, the Southwest Campus, and to Dr. Clifford V. Dunn III, who did his training at Southwest Georgia Family Medicine Residency at Phoebe, a program for which he is now a site coordinator. Like so many of you, Dr. Dunn is great at challenging students to do their best. The great news is, as we continue to see, they usually do. Thank you all.

Rep. Butch Parrish reflected on the impact of MCG, Volunteer Faculty
I also want to thank Rep. Butch Parrish of Swainsboro, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, for being with us at the conference and for sharing the great message of the impact of Georgia’s public medical school on the health of our state and the critical role volunteer faculty play in the health of both MCG and Georgia.


Upcoming Events

July 30 – Freshman Reception, 5 p.m., Harrison Commons, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association.

August 1 – Freshman Lunch, noon, AU/UGA Medical Partnership campus, Athens, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association.

Aug. 10 – MCG State of the College, noon, Lee Auditorium. 

Nov. 9 – The annual Memorial Service for Body Donors will be held at 1 p.m. in the. Lee Auditorium. Donors’ families and friends are the honored guests. The service is conducted jointly by the students, faculty, and chaplains from the Medical College of Georgia and its Athens campus, the AU/UGA Medical Partnership, the Dental College of Georgia, the Colleges of Allied Health Sciences and Nursing and The Graduate School.