February 24, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Congressman Sanford Bishop secures $2 million in federal funding for the Southwest Campus based in Albany

This was another amazing week for the Medical College of Georgia. Tuesday I was privileged to stand alongside many great leaders from Southwest Georgia in awesome Albany and talk about problems and solutions for the health care of the people of this region of our state. Congressman Sanford Bishop was among the greats there with us to celebrate his securing $2 million in federal funding to help MCG and our terrific partners in Southwest Georgia establish a primary care workforce training hub that will help provide more physicians and other medical professionals to live, work and serve this beautiful region of our state. This will include pipeline programs to help and inspire high school and college students to a career in medicine, expand graduate medical education programs down that way and teach educators, like existing residents, to be better educators of future physicians, like our medical students. As we talked about as recently as last Friday’s State of the College Address, our regional campus system, which has medical students living and learning all over Georgia, is our “Secret Sauce” and our Southwest Campus was our first main ingredient, getting its start in 2005 and becoming a residential campus (meaning where students can actually stay for two years doing their clinical rotations) in 2010. As Georgia’s only public medical school, we have this statewide network because our state, which is one of our nation’s most populous states, has a tremendous need for more physicians and other health care providers. Right now, for example, 89 of our 159 counties are designated Primary Health Care Shortage Areas, according to the Georgia Board for Healthcare Workforce. The $2 million in federal funding Congressman Bishop secured for our Southwest Campus will help us directly address this issue. “One of the things that the pandemic underscored for us was the tremendous challenges we have in Middle and Southwest Georgia for health care delivery,” he said Tuesday. He noted Georgia’s high ranking on the “ain’t it awful” list in terms of accessibility to health care, particularly in the more rural portions of our state, a state which stretches for nearly 60,000 square miles. Trust me, I just drove from Thomasville to Albany to Macon in two days and we have a lot of good ground and good people to cover.

The federal funding will help grow initiatives that grow more physicians for underserved areas of Georgia

As Congressman Bishop said so well: Health care is vital, not just for life and death or to feel good. Rather, he said, good health care enables us to thrive at home, at work and in our communities. Congressman Bishop knows the communities he has served for more than 30 years. He was born in Mobile, Alabama, but was a longtime resident of Columbus before moving to Albany years ago, and he has offices in Albany, Columbus and Macon. One of his primary goals as a congressman has always been to ensure a better life for the people who live there. His stack of accomplishments is as high as his clear commitment to those individuals. Thank you, Congressman Bishop for what you do for our state and our nation. Let me also thank here Monty Philpot, director of federal relations for our university, for her steadfast commitment to Georgians, to Augusta University and to MCG. I thank as well Dr. Doug Patten for his leadership of our Southwest Campus. He is one of those leaders who brings a combination of humor and commitment to his job. He also brings goodies like fresh peaches and baked goods to the Dean’s office and buys muffulettas for our Dean’s Staff meetings. Also many thanks to Dr. Koosh Desai, a former Southwest Campus student who is now assistant dean and oversees our longitudinal clerkship in Albany. He was also Doctor of the Day at the Capitol on Wednesday. Also in Tuesday’s great showing was Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of our USG Board of Regents. We deeply appreciate her support and that of the Board of Regents and Chancellor Perdue.

Phoebe Putney Health System is home to our oldest regional campus; it’s CEO Scott Steiner is our 2023 Community Advocacy Award winner

It is great to count Phoebe Putney Health System as our longtime partner in the work toward a healthier Southwest Georgia and all of Georgia. Just this last year, about 250 of our students spent some of their clinical time down that way, working alongside great staff and physicians, like Dr. Bill Fricks, an MCG graduate who is the program director for Phoebe’s Family Medicine Residency program. Four of our students were with us Tuesday, Allison Lewis from Dawson, Georgia; Stephanie Shapiro from Atlanta; Kyle Goble from Sierra Vista, Arizona; and Sam Segnou from Warner Robbins, Georgia. I thank each of you for being with us. I hope it was as inspirational a time for you all as it was for me. Phoebe, fine physicians like Dr. Fricks and the congressman share our understanding of the power of partnerships and that physicians who train in a region will be more likely to serve that region, and to start their practice with a better understanding of the unique health care needs of that region. Another individual who gets it is Phoebe President and CEO Scott Steiner. He has just been the man in charge a few years, but he hit the ground running, walking in the door not long before COVID did. I imagine most of you remember that Albany and Phoebe became an infamous COVID hotspot and Scott helped the hospital and staff manage the unprecedented strangeness that ensued. He helped usher in a Medical Education and Innovation Simulation Center there for students, staff and where middle and high school kids can get a taste of the profession of health care. He has helped improve clinical facilities there, like the neonatal and trauma ICUs. For these reasons and more I selected Scott this year for my Community Advocacy Award.  Thank you, Scott. You and your hospital are powerful partners in educating the next generation. Even more to come in the months ahead about how our “Georgia is our Campus” statewide educational network is getting better all the time. Stay tuned.

Dr. Natasha Savage is the 2023 recipient of the dean’s Professionalism Award

Speaking of great MCG graduates and resident education, 2007 MCG graduate Dr. Natasha Savage, our senior associate dean of graduate medical education and designated institutional official, or DIO, is a serious home run. As DIO, she has the big job of overseeing our 50 residency and fellowship programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education. But that is just one of many big jobs this human dynamo manages and manages with a unique combination of speed and finesse. She is vice chair of academic affairs for the Department of Pathology. She is chief of staff of AU Health. She also is the health system’s medical director of hematology and hematopathology. Fortunately, her newest title has no more duties attached: She is the 2023 recipient of my Professionalism Award. Awesome jobs Dr. Savage.

Dr. Satish Rao is making headlines and a difference in people’s lives

The hits just keep on coming. You all may have seen some recent headlines about a vibrating capsule that helps with the tough problem of chronic constipation. If you read most of the stories, you will find Dr. Satish Rao, director of neurogastroenterology/motility and the Digestive Health Clinical Research Center at MCG and AU Health. This is another human dynamo who has been at the forefront of so many advances in his field in often tough-to-treat problems like irritable bowel syndrome, fecal incontinence and dyssynergic defecation (which basically means you have difficulty coordinating all the muscles needed to enable a bowel movement). He is not just a strong patient advocate and physician scientist, but also a tremendous mentor of the next generation. Like so many of you, he understands that the best knowledge is knowledge we share and he is good at it. In fact, he is award winning. In 2021, he was honored as the inaugural recipient of the American College of Gastroenterology’s Distinguished Mentorship and Teaching Award. This year the American Gastroenterological Association is honoring Dr. Rao with its Distinguished Mentor Award, recognizing an individual who has committed lifelong efforts to the mentoring of trainees in the field of gastroenterology and for achievements as an outstanding mentor. We thank the AGA for honoring Dr. Rao and Dr. Rao for being himself.

Dr. John Barrett named chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology

There are amazing people here. People like Dr. John T. Barrett. He came to us the first time in 1992 after completing a fellowship in medical oncology and residency in radiation oncology at the National Cancer Institute. He left us in 2007 for the Watson Clinic Cancer & Research Center in Lakeland, Florida. He came back to us in 2017 as interim chair of our Department of Radiation Oncology to begin to rebuild a department nearly from scratch. He has helped retain good people and recruit new ones to a department whose faculty includes radiation oncologists and medical physicists. He is working to continue strategic growth to ensure we provide this fundamental of cancer care. He helped us make it through a lengthy, major renovation of the Radiation Therapy Center, so our facilities would be what our patients deserve. He is calm and committed to the care of people with cancer. He and his family also are committed to MCG. His wife Dr. Patricia Schoenlein, is a professor and breast cancer researcher in our Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy. Their son, Dr. J.R. Barrett is an MCG graduate now on the faculty of the Department of Emergency Medicine, and J.R.’s wife, Dr. Amanda Barrett, is also an MCG graduate and already an award-winning educator in our Department of Pathology. I am pleased to announce Dr. John Barrett has agreed to be our permanent chair for this 10-year-old department. Thank you and congratulations Dr. Barrett.

Emory’s Dr. William Jordan is MCG’s new Department of Surgery Chair

Finally today, I am pleased to share that we have more exciting new people coming. Dr. William Jordan, currently chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy and John E. Skandalakis Chair in Surgery at Emory University, has been selected as the new chair of our Department of Surgery. He joins us at the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1. Dr. Jordan is a denizen of Georgia, a graduate of Emory University School of Medicine who completed his general surgery training at the University of Alabama at Birmingham then went back to Emory for his vascular surgery fellowship. He returned to UAB to join the faculty and was quickly named chief of the Section of Vascular Surgery. The natural educator and collaborator who today enjoys mentoring younger faculty later became program director of the Vascular Surgery Fellowship and Vascular Surgery Integrated Residency at UAB. He would grow the section into a division and became Division Director in 2013. He returned to his alma mater in 2016 to direct the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Surgery. He just completed a term as president of the Southern Association for Vascular Surgery, he has served for six years as director of the American Board of Surgery’s Vascular Surgery Board and has been president of the Association of Program Directors in Vascular Surgery and of the Georgia Vascular Society. Years ago, before it was trendy, he helped lead partnerships with other hospitals, which have enabled growth for all involved. Sound familiar? This is right in keeping with what we have done with the statewide educational networks we have with hospitals like Phoebe Putney and with the clinical growth we hope to find with our new proposed partnership with Wellstar Health System. He is an individual who already knows Georgia and wants to better know the Medical College of Georgia. We are excited that you will be with us soon, Dr. Jordan. And please join me in double-thanking Dr. Steve Holsten, trauma surgeon and vice chair of clinical operations for the Department of Surgery, for his committed service as interim chair.

My best to you always,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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