March 10, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

State budget includes $105 million for a new electronic medical record here

There is no question that nearly a quarter way through the 21st century, the right electronic medical record (EMR) is an essential tool for effective, efficient patient care. Please let me thank here again Gov. Kemp, University System of Georgia Chancellor Perdue and our legislature and state for their incredible support of MCG, Augusta University and our Health System in providing $105 million in funding for a new EMR for us. I know the faculty and Health System staff directly involved in providing care to patients echo this sentiment of gratitude for a system that will help ensure the smooth care of patients from scheduling appointments, to ensuring that complete care is delivered at appointments, to follow up communication with patients and colleagues, to expeditious, accurate billing for services. We have had major problems with our revenue cycle for years and this is an important step in fixing those problems. The right EMR enables the real time sharing of information that is expected in the world today and needed to enable optimal communication between the multiple MCG specialists and subspecialists who often are involved in caring for a single patient. As a referral center for our state and beyond it also enables seamless communication between referring physicians and our physicians, and it supports our state’s and our commitment to improving rural health care. It also impacts medical education, because our students, residents and fellows will learn on a system that mirrors one they will use in their future practices. It enables research that will enhance medical care in the future by enabling physician scientists to look at large groups of people with specific problems, the treatments they received and their outcomes so we can continue to make inroads in major killers like heart disease, stroke and cancer. A leading-edge EMR is an essential tool for us that will help ensure a solid infrastructure now and for years to come.

Dr. Rick McIndoe receives $3.4 million NIH grant to coordinate a new national research initiative in diabetes, obesity

Dr. Rick McIndoe, director of our Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, is an individual who knows the importance of a solid infrastructure and has been helping build national research infrastructures for years. He has operated the Coordinating and Bioinformatics Unit for the National Institutes of Health’s Animal Models of Diabetic Complications Consortium, whose important bottom line included generating ideas for mouse models and actual mice to help effectively move science forward. He has operated the Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Centers, another NIH-funded consortium of centers offering expertise in sophisticated, expensive mouse testing to scientists nationwide for diseases including diabetes and its complications, as well as obesity and related disorders. Now he has been awarded a $3.4 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to lead the Coordinating Unit of another national research initiative that will give scientists direct access to a handful of centers with expertise in super-specialized, time consuming testing and procedures that enable studies of metabolic problems like diabetes and obesity. This Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator also knows how to assemble a winning team to enable this kind of big-impact work. Dr. Ashok Sharma, proteomics and bioinformatics expert in the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, will be working with computer programmers to develop the software for the initiative’s web portal where scientists can see what services are available and order what they need. Dr. Nathan Xu, an expert in statistical genetics and genetic epidemiology in our Department of Population Health Sciences, will help with design of studies, data analysis and interpreting results. The four phenotyping centers for the new initiative are Vanderbilt University School of Medicine led by David Wasserman, PhD, Annie Mary Lyle Chair of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and director of the Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center; University of California, Davis Health, led by Kent Lloyd, DVM, PhD, director of the Mouse Biology Program; Yale University School of Medicine led by Gerald Shulman, MD, PhD, George R. Cowgill Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology) and codirector of the Yale Diabetes Research Center;  and the University of Michigan Medical School, led by Carol Elias, PhD, professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Obstetrics and Gynecology. Great collaborative effort that will speed the efficiency and effectiveness of research in areas like how our body uses energy and how our organs function. Our congratulations and thanks Dr. McIndoe. More to come soon on the MCG home page and elsewhere about his leadership role in this relevant new initiative.

American Medical Women’s Association honors Dr. Betty Pace

Dr. Betty Pace has built and is building a different kind of infrastructure nationally. She is a pediatric hematologist-oncologist and prominent sickle cell scientist whose research is aimed at finding better ways to treat this condition. Years ago while still at the University of Texas at Dallas she received funding from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to establish a program for underrepresented minority junior faculty, now called the Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research, or PRIDE. More than 100 junior faculty from 50 institutions have taken advantage of PRIDE and she has personally trained more than 100 young scientists, which is amazing to think about. The American Society of Hematology honored her with their inaugural ASH Award for Leadership in Promoting Diversity a handful of years ago. Now the American Medical Women’s Association is honoring Dr. Pace with its 2023 Women in Science Award. She will be honored at the group’s 108th annual meeting later this month in Philadelphia. Please note that Dr. Pace also will be our keynote speaker this year for the April 20 induction banquet of our chapter of the national honor medical society Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA). Congratulations and thank you Dr. Pace for helping build a stronger, more diverse science future.

Dr. Martha Terris will be the inaugural chair of our soon-to-be Department of Urology

As most of you likely know, our Section of Urology currently functions as part of the Department of Surgery and as you may also know, at most medical schools urology functions as a department. Effective July 1 ours will too, with Dr. Martha Terris, longtime section chief, as its chair. We appreciate the Department of Surgery and Interim Chair Steve Holsten for supporting creating this new department. We decided not to officially search for a new chair because we knew Dr. Terris was the right individual for this job because of her more than two decades of success here, at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and beyond. As a great example, we talked last January about Dr. Terris being honored with the American Urological Association’s 2022 Distinguished Service Award for her outstanding work with veterans to improve the care of those with prostate cancer. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Terris and the entire urology faculty and staff, adult and pediatric, for outstanding work and service. I am confident even more great things are ahead. BTW, the Department of Urology will become MCG’s 23rd department because, as many of you may know, the Department of Population Health Sciences will become part of the new School of Public Health. That said, stay tuned because there’s always more to come at MCG.

MCG students are far above the national average in licensing test scores

I don’t have to look any farther than our students to know that great things are always ahead at MCG. You know I like to talk about how amazing our students are and how, particularly after they finish up their residency interviews (Match Day is coming up March 17) and while doing their residencies, I hear from medical school faculty across the country how well prepared our students are. Let’s hear it for our students and our educators! There are two tests medical students across the country must take from the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination Program to get to those residencies. Step 1 typically is taken toward the end of the second year and it basically helps assess how well students are understanding the science of the body and the principles needed for them to be lifelong learners, both essential in the practice of good medicine. Step 2, which typically is taken in the fourth year, looks at how well students apply what they are learning to the provision of great care for patients. Note that there is a Step 3, usually taken in the first couple of years of residency, that is the last in the series and it tells you how well the now new doctor should practice what they have learned unsupervised. These are all tough, crucial tests as you can imagine but in keeping with MCG’s tradition of “Great Doctors, Great Medicine” since 1828, our students have again shown their medical mettle. Step 1 is pass/fail and 387 of our students took the test last year. Our senior Class of 2023 had a 97 percent pass rate, the Class of 2024 had a pass rate of 99 percent and, wait for it, the Class of 2025 had a 100 percent pass rate. The national average was 93 percent. Wow. Step 2 for the moment is still a graded test and MCG’s Step 2 test takers were again well above the national scores. While this is gratifying any time, it may be particularly so because of the significant changes we have made to our curriculum and teaching style in the past handful of years. Key to this success of course is the students themselves and the great choices made by our Admissions Office led by MCG Graduate Dr. Kelli Braun. While it takes the entire MCG village to educate our students, please let me particularly thank here Dr. LaShon Sturgis, who got her own dual degree right here, is now our assistant dean for academic advising and helped our Step 1 stars prepare.

1955 MCG Graduate Dr. George Sessions passes

Finally, today we say farewell to a great MCG graduate, educator and friend. Dr. George Sessions. Dr. Sessions, a 1955 graduate, was a leader in his field of anesthesiology who established anesthesiology departments at Dekalb General Hospital (now Dekalb Medical and part of Emory Healthcare) and led the department for 20 years. He also started anesthesiology departments at Decatur Hospital (now also owned by Emory Healthcare) and Children’s Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta (now part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta), and led both those programs for a decade. Dr. Sessions also founded DeKalb Anesthesia Associates, P.A., and served as its president for a quarter of a century. He was a big fan of those who pursued education. He and his wife Martha Sessions established the Dr. George and Martha Sessions MCG 3+ Program and Rural Healthcare Initiative endowment at his alma mater. But perhaps nothing tells that story any better than Hooding Day for our 2021 graduate Katrina Hazim. Her “Uncle George” hooded Katrina who is now studying psychiatry at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. He had been a part of her life forever. Her father had come to Atlanta and Emory from Lebanon as a 19-year-old student. The Sessions became his host family and that spirit lasts to this day. Dr. Sessions said at Hooding that he considers the Hazim children his first set of grandchildren. We appreciate Dr. Sessions’ great spirit and legacy and our thoughts are with his wife, their three children and all who called him family or friend.

My best to you always,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

Mar 15 – Regalia orders for MCG Hooding deadline, regalia

Mar 17 – MCG Match Day, SRP Park, 10:45 am, gates open at 10:00am

Mar 24 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

Apr 21 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

Apr 28-30 – AU Alumni Weekend, schedule