March 24, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

The MCG Class of 2023 beats the national average on Match Day

Unstoppable is one word for the MCG Class of 2023. They came here 230 strong in the Fall of 2019, 190 here at our main campus in Augusta and 40 at our second four-year campus in Athens in partnership with the University of Georgia. They came from 55 colleges from UGA to Princeton University with diverse majors from neuroscience to music. While they were still settling in as freshmen medical students, COVID-19 was brewing and would officially hit our country and our medical school. By mid-February 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed the 15th COVID case in the US. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declares the pandemic. Our University System of Georgia and AU responded, and we shut down for two weeks in mid-March. Most of what occurred after that was virtual by necessity. It was an odd time but MCG students in all four classes were not deterred. In addition to their virtual learning, they raised money for protective gear for frontline workers and volunteered in call centers to answer the many questions we all had about how to protect our health and our families, including providing emerging factual insight on how the virus spread and separating fact from fiction. Class of 2023 members like Elena Diller and Krishna Shah maintained a website that readily provided such insight to the public and to our university. Senior Amanda Delgado in fact is writing a column for our next issue of MCG Medicine magazine that will come out this summer detailing their unexpected journey.

While COVID-19 had a tremendous impact, MCG’s senior class prevailed

It was April 2021 before the Class of 2023 actually was able to get into our clinics and start working directly with patients. Please bear in mind this class was also the first to make its way through our significantly revised curriculum which compresses the classroom component into 18 months from 24 months, which fine-tuned medical education from our perspective, as it gave more flexibility to our students to focus on their chosen specialty. That includes offering students committed to practicing primary care in rural and underserved Georgia the opportunity to finish medical school in three years.

The Match rate was 99 percent for our seniors, 93.7 percent was the national average for MD programs

Match Day 2023 was a great testament to how our Class of 2023 thrived, likely because of and in spite of everything. A little more stage setting here because nationally there were a record 42,952 applicants vying for 40,375 residency positions, according to the National Resident Matching Program. Senior MD students in the country had a 93.7 percent match rate, the NRMP tells us. Senior MCG students had a — wait for it — 99% match rate. And these were some super competitive matches. Amanda Delgado, for example, is going to study pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Jada Henderson, who as a high school student in Dekalb County was among 1,000 students out of 23,000 applicants to receive a Gates Millennium Scholarship to pay for her undergraduate education and has been an active member of our chapter of the Student National Medical Association, will be studying emergency medicine at Stanford Health Care. Our cover star Arianna Sidoti for the special issue of our magazine that came out to highlight our many COVID efforts will soon be making headlines at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York studying general surgery. Another magazine cover star Ellyn Strother, who first came to MCG as a dying newborn in need of lifesaving ECMO and the incredible skills of fellow cover star and pediatric surgeon extraordinaire Dr. Robyn Hatley and the entire Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, is going to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study orthopaedic surgery. Check out this piece Tim Rausch, the newest member of the MCG Communications Office, did on Ellyn.

MCG students matched at top-tier residency programs in the nation, including those at MCG and our Health System

There is so much great news to tell here about our students, their families and you, their educators and mentors. The pride I feel for each of you is hard to put into words. All told our students matched in 31 states and 22 specialties. 134 of our students matched in a primary care residency and 24 percent of our students will remain in Georgia for at least their first year of training. At our Dean’s Cabinet meeting this week our MCG department chairs were talking about how happy they were to get MCG students in their respective residency programs. Our Department of Emergency Medicine, for example, is getting two of our Peach State Scholars starting this July, Claud Bugheni and Luis Rodriguez. Peach State Scholars are those students who with our new curriculum opt to finish medical school in three years, do a primary care residency and then agree to take care of underserved Georgians. This lucky department, which graduated its 30th class of residents last summer, also matched MCG senior Sarah Vick. I hope you will take a moment to check out this Match Day page put together by our excellent Digital Specialist Elizabeth Smith so you can get a still better picture of the great Class of 2023. Please also take 1 minute and 19 seconds while there to check out the great video by Tim, AKA Franco Zeffirelli, Johnson, AU video production supervisor. Terrific teamwork does make the dream work. Thank you all and let’s hear it one more time for the MCG Class of 2023!

Our Emergency Medicine Residency includes a partnership with the U.S. Army

An important footnote here, did you know we also train emergency medicine physicians through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Army, a win-win for both of us, as well as our state and nation. For example, in the new group of 14 emergency medicine residents who just made the Match, eight are military. You know I love solid partnerships and this one has been around since 2008 and has yielded Special Forces Battalion Surgeons, Army Flight Surgeons and more.

Third-year student Jack Xhemali is giving the visually impaired 3D portraits of their family

There is no doubt that one of the many amazing things about our nearly 200-year-old medical school is the excellence of our students who come here and leave ready to take up society’s toughest health challenges. Not far behind our stellar Class of 2023 is the Class of 2025, which includes individuals like Jack Xhemali from Macon, Georgia who at this moment is living and learning at our super Southeast Campus based in Savannah and Brunswick. In his still young life, he is a third-year medical student who already has founded a company called Feel 3D. Founding any company is major accomplishment, but this company provides free to the visually impaired 3-dimensional portraits of their family members’ heads and faces. Jack got his first notion of providing this service while an undergrad at Mercer University in his hometown. He worked with Dr. Sinjae Hyun, chair of biomedical engineering there, making 3D yearbooks for students at the nearby Georgia Academy for the Blind. Like so many things, COVID interrupted this terrific work, but the idea of using this rapidly advancing technology to enable those with impaired vision to be able to regularly touch the face and hear the voice of their family members touched Jack. He notes that many of those he serves are veterans who lost their sight in combat and he is working with other awesome organizations like the Lions Club to find families who want this opportunity. His company uses 3D scanners and printers to make the magic happen, forges nametags in braille and includes a voice box with a recorded message from the family member. This reminds me of when I hear our famous a cappella group the SeroTONEins perform. While I am thankful for the beautiful music they make, I also am astounded they can be so good at yet another thing. Thank you, Jack for what you do and why you do it.

Dr. Larry Layman leads the charge on study that finds females with unexplained infertility have high percentages of gene variants known to cause disease

One more note before we close. We talked earlier today about great mentors here and we have talked in the past about Dr. Larry Layman. The chief of our Section of Reproductive Endocrinology, Infertility and Genetics, can be regularly seen pulling his briefcase around the streets of our campus, running from his clinical office and our hospital and clinics to his research lab and office and back. He is a federally funded physician scientist studying and treating tough issues like infertility and, in his spare time (remember what we just talked about)… Dr. Layman codirects our MD/PhD program. He is a respectful, patient educator who loves educating the next generation from students to fellows. In fact, his former reproductive endocrinology fellow Dr. Michael P. Dougherty, now in practice at the Cooper Institute for Reproductive Hormonal Disorders in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, is first author on a study they just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their study is the first to identify a higher prevalence of gene variants known to cause problems like heart disease in females with unexplained infertility. There have been associations between infertility and an increased risk of medical illness made, but this study found that about 17 percent of females with unexplained infertility also have some of the gene variants known to cause disease. Fascinating work here and lots more work to do which, of course, Dr. Layman already is pursuing. This is the kind of stuff a medical school and its health system, referred to collectively as an academic medical center, are made for. We educate the next generation of physicians, physician scientists and basic scientists. We provide a range of care from the frontline care we all need to complex care issues like infertility and cancer and severe newborn problems like the ones faced by Ellyn and her family. Like Dr. Layman, we also continuously strive to do everything we do better. Please let me thank each of you for being part of the Medical College of Georgia. Our future will be even more transformative because of you.

My best to you always,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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

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Jun 13 – MCG Faculty Awards Ceremony, 5 p.m., Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium