Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Kurt Mueller receives the John F. Beard Award for Compassionate Care

He calls Athens, Georgia home and the University of Georgia his undergraduate alma mater. Kurt Mueller also knew early on that he wanted to do something medical. His father, Dr. Eric Mueller, is a now-retired large animal veterinarian who took care of horses, cows, goats and even an occasional giraffe in his long tenure on the faculty of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. His mom, Dr. Monica Kucher Mueller, was the founder of Good Hands Veterinary Hospital, where she was devoted to her smaller furry patients and their “human companions.” Life and his parents were great; and Kurt decided that maybe he would take care of the human companions. Fortunately for us, he selected MCG as his medical school. Right before he came to us in 2016, Kurt lost his mother in a tragic car accident on the way to see younger brother Kyle, then a golf rock star at the University of Michigan, play in a tournament. In fact, Kurt, now Dr. Mueller, and the 2020 recipient of the John F. Beard Award for Compassionate Care, the top honor given to an AU graduate, was supposed to be his brother’s caddy that day.

The new MCG graduate called compassionate person and provider

Both these young men, I feel confident in saying, have continued to make their parents and many more proud. Many of the same qualities  resonate in the nominations about Kurt from his classmates, and the faculty and staff who worked with him. Dr. Greer Falls, class dean for our second-year students, covers a lot of them: hardworking, conscientious yet humble, a self-learner and effective communicator, a role model whose goals are clear and whose enthusiasm is inexhaustible. Dr. Lynnette Bauza, class dean for our first-year students, selects two second-year students each year to become liaisons with the freshmen, the administration and the faculty. Kurt applied, and Dr. Bauza tells us he was always there for the first-year students, helping with anything from housing to academics. Fellow MCG graduate and chief of pediatric otolaryngology Dr. Drew Prosser met Kurt as a third-year student and found him diligent, organized and dedicated, but what stood out perhaps even more was his ever-present compassion, politeness and professional demeanor. Classmate Kyle Royalty shared how early this year he and Kurt were part of a medical mission trip to southern Egypt where they saw more than 800 patients in eight days. Mission trips were a regular thing for Kurt, as was time at the Homeless Health Clinic and Equality Clinic and tutoring disadvantaged students at Murphey Middle School. Kyle and Kurt shared a clinic room in Egypt and even with language as an obvious barrier, Kyle saw Kurt stare intently into the eyes of his patients, something we all learn to do but maybe don’t always do. He watched him spend time with them, not just rush forward as health care today often presses us to do. Probably the highest compliment Kyle paid was that he would want Kurt to take care of his family. In fact, Kurt was also selected as the Physician’s Physician Award recipient for our main campus this year. That means that his other classmates shared Kyle’s sentiment. Kurt will soon be headed to New Orleans and to LSU Health and School of Medicine to study otolaryngology, a specialty that will give him the opportunity to both operate on patients and to provide them long-term care. He treasurers the opportunity that physicians have to be the eyes and ears and confidants for their patients. I want to thank and congratulate Kurt for his excellence and commitment. Please come back to see us.

The Class of 2020 heading to 23 specialties in 31 states

Another resounding theme in all the wonderful comments about Kurt generated for his award nomination was the fact that as each of us looks around at our students, we see such greatness generally, defined by not just intellectual excellence but personal excellence. Our entire Class of 2020 is definitely one to be proud of. This summer they will be starting residencies in 23 specialties in 31 states, with match rates that again exceed the national average. 61% of our new graduates are starting their residency training in primary care specialties and 31% of them are starting their training in Georgia. Again, I wish we could have all had the usual celebrations and traditions that come with the amazing step of completing medical school. We hope we captured at least a bit of the flavor and future in this virtual Hooding event we promised last time in these writings. I want to thank again Dr. Jennifer Tucker, our fourth-year class dean in Augusta, and Dr. John Francis, campus associate dean for student and multicultural affairs at our Athens campus, for their efforts on behalf of our senior class. Because great educators and mentors enable great students.

Dr. Carol Nichols honored with international medical science educator award

In keeping with that, I am proud to share that our Dr. Carol Nichols, senior director of the entire first-year curriculum, has received the International Association of Medical Science Educators Distinguished Career Award for Excellence in Teaching and Educational Scholarship. Any of you who have been privileged to learn from or even to watch Dr. Nichols teach know why she received this. She has seen and helped conquer educational changes like an Essentials of Clinical Medicine course that just wasn’t working for students and helped put in place a professionalism and biomedical ethics curriculum and public health curriculum. She has been integral to the development of our new tailor-made approach to medical education that will begin to debut this fall. She has been honored multiple times by faculty and students alike here. In fact, Dr. Sylvia Smith, chair of our Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, where Dr. Nichols has been a faculty member for 20 years, says she is not aware of another individual who has twice- received the faculty-awarded Distinguished Faculty Award for Basic Science Teaching. When we have an actual, instead of virtual, Hooding, at the students’ request Dr. Nichols is a regular on the stage presenting the beautiful hoods to them. She recently completed a term on the Board of Directors of the international group that now honors her and has served on the National Board of Medical Examiners Step 1 Gross Anatomy Test Development Committee. Perhaps as importantly, she serves everyone with integrity and a smile. Thank you and congratulations Dr. Nichols.

MD/PhD student Lynn Tran receives scholarship for leadership potential

You know I like how things seem to logically loop here, which this week takes us right back to great students. Lynn Tran, an MD/PhD student, has been honored with a Louise McBee Scholarship from the Georgia Association for Women in Higher Education. Her mentor, our Dr. Jin-Xiong She, also was honored. The scholarship supports women who exhibit leadership potential and honors the long legacy of Dr. Louise McBee, a Fulbright scholar and vice president for Academic Affairs Emerita at UGA. Dr. McBee’s many leadership roles at UGA included dean of women and dean of student affairs, at that time one of only four women in the country holding a top job like this at a large university like UGA. She served for 14 years in the state House of Representatives after her retirement from UGA. We imagine we will be hearing similar great things from Lynn, who came to medical school at the age of 17, completed her PhD in genomic medicine this spring and is taking up her third year of medical school soon. In the bustling lab of Dr. She, she has already zeroed in on finding biomarkers to improve detection, treatment and prognosis of uterine and ovarian cancer. Congratulations Lynn and Dr. She. More to come no doubt.

My thanks to you

Finally today, my ongoing gratitude to you our faculty and staff both at MCG and in our hospitals who continue to fight here and beyond against this unique opponent SARS-CoV-2. You are making advancements in an unprecedented time. That means there will be a few stumbles, but the resilience and leadership and compassion you continue to show will get us to the other side of this and, like great educators such as Dr. Nichols, teach us invaluable lessons about medicine and life.

Please take good care out there.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image001-1.png

Leave a Reply