September 21, 2018

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Plans underway to increase the number of freshmen in Augusta and Athens
One of the nation’s first medical schools (that’s us) started out with three faculty and seven students. With the continued support of each of you and the University System of Georgia as well as the blessings of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, by the time we turn 200 we hope to have 300 students per class at Georgia’s public medical school. As we talked about today at the State of the College address, we are making good progress toward 10 students more per class in both Augusta and at our partnership campus in Athens by the fall of 2020. That would put us at a class size of 250. In 2021, thanks to some strategic renovation and state support, we should increase the class by another 10 students in Athens. Do the math over four years and that puts us at 1,040 medical students by 2024, with hopefully more growth here at home base that will take us to 300 students per class by our bicentennial.

The last class increase came with the opening of the Athens campus in 2010
While we already have one of the largest class sizes in the nation, it’s worth noting that the last time we increased our student numbers in Augusta was in 2006. The last time before that was in 1974. MCG’s overall class size grew to its current 230 with the 2010 opening of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership campus with 40 students per class. We believe the tremendous shortage of physicians in our state and our nation is a great incentive to grow our class again. Georgia currently ranks 39th in the number of physicians per capita and the Association of American Medical Colleges released a report earlier this year that our nation could face a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030, see here.  That is not good for any of us and is particularly bad for an aging population, which tends to require more health care. While adding more medical students is only part of the picture, it’s an essential starting point for correcting this unhealthy situation.

Half of the Class of 2020 took a road trip to the Southwest Campus this week
I am grateful for the commitment of each of you and of our state to our core mission of physician education. We will definitely keep you posted as we move forward with this effort. Our statewide partners, including hospitals and physicians, are critical in that mission today and moving forward. Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to go along when half our second-year class traveled to Albany to visit our Southwest Campus and look at the great learning opportunities there for their third and fourth years of medical school.  On a personal note, it is very gratifying to be at our first regional campus and see the great support our students get there from our partners like Phoebe Putney, led for three decades by Joel Wernick, and physicians like Dr. Frank F. Middleton III, 1969 MCG graduate and a longtime OB/GYN in Albany and physician leader at Phoebe. Phoebe continues to be our home base in Albany. Dr. Middleton too was a key catalyst in the formation of the Southwest Campus because he knew it was good for his community, his state and his medical school. Please note that Dr. Middleton is also an avid pilot and flight instructor working at the Albany-based Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy, which provides an array of learning opportunities for kids in the public school system down that way. Thank you Dr. Middleton for your service on many fronts.

The other half stayed in Augusta to learn more about disaster management
The other half of the Class of 2021 took a different kind of journey right here. They participated in Disaster Day, where the Medical Association of Georgia’s Medical Reserve Corps volunteers trained them in great clinical skills like how to quickly stop a significant bleed and how to triage victims in a mass-casualty situation. The halves will swap experiences next month. This is definitely what great medical education and great partners are about. So is this: We talked recently about how terrific it was to have Dr. Doug Miller, a phenomenal physician, educator and leader back with us. I am now pleased to share that he has accepted the permanent position of senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education here. Thank you and congratulations yet again, Dr. Miller.

The MCG Dean’s Collection is here
All this educational action was among the actual news items for the State of the College I tried to tempt you with in the last edition of these writings. While we couldn’t quite dot all the I’s on time for a couple of others, they will happen and you will hear about them when they do. I did promise some nice clothing and other items for your fall and those are delivered here.  We’ll be offering the Dean’s Collection at key times across the year. The rapidly approaching holiday season will be the next big showing after today. I want to particularly thank Laurie LaChance, administrative assistant in the dean’s office, and Michelle Neely, director of retail operations at AU, for their work and enthusiasm in making this happen.  This is another win-win. Our alumni and students definitely wanted items with the iconic MCG seal on them and they delivered. Proceeds will come back to the dean’s office to support programs like the summer research program for our students.  I thank as well Dr. Karla Leeper, EVP for Operations, and Russell Keen, EVP for External Relations and the university’s Chief of Staff, for their ideas and support in making the Dean’s Collection happen.

A larger statewide health care system is in our future
Today at the State of the College, we also talked about other realities in our dynamic field. One strong example is that while the financial health of our health system is better now than earlier this year, it is important for the future wellbeing of MCG and the health system that we, like so many of our peers across the nation, be part of a larger, statewide system. Done well, it will enable not just a larger patient base, but a bigger bottom line that is vital to excellence and growth for our patients, our faculty and staff, our students and residents and our community and state. Augusta will truly become a destination academic health system and our regional campus network – that has students living and learning all over Georgia – a great framework for a statewide patient-care delivery network. Definitely more to come on this topic.

Science is an essential aspect of an academic health system and healthier future
It is also clearly important that we continue an upward trajectory in the basic and clinical science investigations that also define an academic health system. Findings like the recent published study by Dr.Sadanand Fulzele, bone biologist in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and his colleagues about a molecule that is a new target in helping our aging mesenchymal stem cells stay focused on making good bone and muscle so we stay strong and healthy. See here. All these significant, synergistic and hopefully expanding efforts in medical education, patient care and science will enable us to better meet our ultimate goal of enabling our state to be among the healthiest states rather than hovering at the other end of the spectrum. That is our most important bottom line and we can and will get there together.

Valerie Frasher and Dewey Jones honored for their long service to science
Counting on you is a great thing. In keeping with that, today we honored two staff members with excellence awards. Dewey Jones is a senior equipment repair specialist in Laboratory Equipment Services. He has been here for nearly 32 years and currently directs and manages laboratory equipment services. His job enables individuals like Dr. Fulzele to do their job. Valerie Frasher is the lead in Research/Education Services for Central Supply. She has been here a bit over 30 years and her responsibilities include sterilizing glassware and surgical instruments, delivering liquid nitrogen to departments, maintaining the ultrapure water system needed for precise science and much more. Both of these individuals exemplify the backbone and greatness of MCG. Their commitment and pride drive them to always work hard – even after all these years – and to do their best because it is right and their nature. Thank you both.

Dr. Bill Strong honored with Professionalism Award
Dr. Bill Strong, chair of the Medical Ethics Committee, director of the Center for Bioethics and Health Policy and an exceptional physician scientist received this year’s Professionalism Award. This pediatric cardiologist joined our faculty in 1969 and nearly 50 years later also has never stopped giving his best. He cofounded the Georgia Prevention Institute, which today stands strong in the fight to protect the cardiovascular system. He edited the first book on Pediatric Preventive Cardiology and helped write the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for sports participation for children with heart disease. We would have to write our own book to even begin to tell his story and his contributions. Hopefully it suffices to say at this moment that he is the definition of what we all aspire to be, a big part of our strong (pun intended) past and our great plans for the future.

WellStar CEO Candice Saunders honored with Community Advocate Award
We’ve come full circle again, back to education, to our strong regional campus network and to Candice Saunders, President and CEO of Atlanta-based WellStar Health System, Georgia’s largest health system. She is this year’s recipient of MCG’s Community Advocate Award for her strong leadership of her health care network and her advocacy for undergraduate and graduate medical education in Georgia. WellStar has a host of residency programs and clinical teaching sites for medical students and has in the last many months become an increasingly strong partner for MCG and our growing presence in Atlanta. Thank you Ms. Saunders and WellStar.

Clarification on the late Dr. Selina Smith
Finally, we wanted to clarify that Dr. Smith was a former director of the Institute of Public and Preventive Health, not the founding director. Dr. Andrew Balas, former dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences, was the founding director.

Upcoming Events

Sept. 23 – MCG Alumni Association Board meeting, 9:30 a.m., Harrison Commons.

Oct. 6 – White Coat Ceremony, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium.

Oct. 10 – Georgia Cancer Center expansion opening, 10-11:30 a.m., in the new garden area between the research building and Hamilton Wing. Tours will follow from about 11:30 to 1 p.m. Gov. Nathan Deal, the USG Board of Regents and Chancellor Steve Wrigley are expected to attend.

Oct. 11 – MCG Alumni Association Rome Regional Reception, 6 p.m., Coosa Country Club.

Oct. 30 – Investiture Ceremony, 5:30 p.m., Lee Auditorium. Reception will follow. 

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.

Nov. 30 – Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Dec. 7 – AU Alumni Holiday Drop-in, 6-8 p.m., Maxwell Alumni House, Summerville Campus.

2019 Events

Jan. 24 – AU All Alumni Savannah Reception, 6 p.m., Chatham Club.

Jan. 25 – Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.

Feb. 19 – MCG Alumni Association Board meeting, 3:30 p.m., and Macon Regional Reception, 6 p.m., both at the Idle Hour Country Club.

Feb. 22 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

March 7 – MCG Alumni Association Gainesville Regional Reception, 6 p.m., Northeast Georgia History Center.

March 15 – Match Day, noon, Christenberry Fieldhouse (new location).

March 29 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

April 26-28 – Alumni Weekend, Dean’s Reception, 6 p.m., April 26, Harrison Commons.

May 9 – Hooding ceremony.

May 24 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

June 21 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.

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