May 5, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter secures $1 million in federal funding for MCG’s Center for Telehealth

As dean, I have the privilege of a bird’s eye view of the amazing things going on at our medical school. As I’ve said, I truly believe that these are some of the most exciting times in MCG’s nearly 200-year history. This past week offered plenty of examples. On Tuesday, I was honored to stand with President Keel and Dr. Matt Lyon, our Harrison Distinguished Chair in Telehealth, to recognize the work of Congressman Buddy Carter, who represents Georgia’s 1st Congressional District in Southeast Georgia, in securing $1 million in federal funding for our recently established Center for Telehealth. While MCG and its health system have invested in telemedicine initiatives for more than three decades, this new center, which we launched late last year, brings all our efforts together under one virtual roof — from connecting providers at the state’s only public medical school to the patients that need them, regardless of the distance between — to training the next generation of physicians, our students, residents and fellows, in the best ways to make those connections. Dr. Lyon and his team are also working with rural hospitals across Georgia to offer more clinical teaching sites and, with them, a real-world glimpse into the challenges faced by the medically underserved people and places in our state. They also hope to offer more access for people from those areas to research and clinical trials at MCG.

Funding will help expand connections to the underserved, offer better training for future providers

Congressman Carter is a pharmacist by trade who actually traces his connections to MCG back to the organic chemistry course he took here in the late ‘70s while he was preparing to apply to pharmacy school. He was reelected to his 5th term in Congress in 2020 and serves a district that encompasses some of the state’s most rural and underserved areas — places like Waycross, Jesup and Blackshear — as well as Savannah and Brunswick, home to our Southeast Campus. A truly humble public servant, he understands firsthand how lack of quality health care has widespread implications, not just on people’s health, but on the economic health of communities. His passion for increasing people’s access to care is best demonstrated by his own words, “We all want and deserve the same things from health care — accessibility, affordability and quality. Telehealth gives us the opportunity for all three of those. I think it is the future of medicine.” Thank you, Congressman, for your recognition of MCG as a leader in that future and for your shared commitment to improving health care access and outcomes for all of Georgia.

Dr. April Hartman highlights Pediatric Pathways Program aimed at addressing disparities in children’s mental health care

While we’re on the subject of those who are driven by their passion to advocate for equal access to quality health care for the people they serve, I am happy to share that Dr. April Hartman, our chief of general pediatric and adolescent medicine, just last week graduated from the yearlong Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine, or ELAM, program. ELAM, for women faculty in schools of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, is aimed at developing the professional and personal skills required to lead and manage in today’s complex health care environment. I think we can agree that Dr. Hartman, a steadfast advocate for Georgia’s children who has served in several leadership capacities in the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, including on its Medical Home Task Force and Behavioral Health Advisory Committee, was a perfect fit. As part of completing the program, she presented her work to develop the MCG/AU Health Pediatric Pathways Program Pilot, an interdisciplinary collaboration to help address health care disparities and the children’s mental health state of emergency. She hopes to train more than two dozen middle schoolers from an underserved area in Augusta to act as standardized patients and, in turn, help MCG develop innovative ways to teach our students to interview children and families, recognizing mental and behavioral concerns. The goal is to prepare these future physicians for practice by building their ability to address mental health problems with confidence and compassion. It also has the added benefit of creating a pathway and removing barriers to higher education for these middle-school students. I say it all the time, but it bears repeating here. I am both consistently in awe and inspired by our faculty’s commitment, not only to our communities and the patients we serve, but to ensuring the next generation carries on this important work. Thank you and congratulations Dr. Hartman.

Longtime, beloved MCG icon, Dr. John Fisher, retires from afterhours gig, maybe…

We can’t talk about educating the next generation of physicians without mentioning a name that is synonymous with teaching and with MCG — Dr. John Fisher, known to our students as “Fish Man.” This infectious disease physician has been teaching medical students consistently since joining the faculty in 1977 — with the exception of a six-year stint in private practice. And they love him for it. He received his first Excellence in Teaching Award at MCG after his first year on the faculty in 1978. In the 37 years since, this passionate and skilled educator has received nearly 70 additional teaching awards, more than 20 of which were for Educator of the Year. In 2005, he received Educator of the Year recognition from the Classes of 2005, 2006 and 2007. Legendary may not be strong enough of a word to describe him. In addition to his gift of teaching, Dr. Fisher also has the gift of song. His passion for music started as a child when he would sing hits of the ‘40s while he helped his mother with the dinner dishes. He was part of Augusta’s famed Barbershop Quartet for 15 years and sang in the Notre Dame Glee Club while he was an undergraduate there. And for the last 20 years, every Tuesday night, he has played guitar and sung folk songs — mostly Irish —to a room packed with his beloved medical students and fellow faculty at the Fox’s Lair in downtown Augusta. I’m sad to say I never made it out to one of those shows, especially because Dr. Fisher retired from his afterhours gig this past Tuesday, in true fashion, to a standing room only crowd. He does admit though, that he will probably be back from time to time. I am thankful that Dr. Fisher hasn’t retired from us and from teaching our students. He still works part-time lecturing on how infectious diseases can affect us body-wide. I am thankful that I may get another chance to see him in action after hours too. Stay tuned to MCG’s Facebook page for a cool feature on Dr. Fisher soon.

Medical student-produced music video earns top prize in national competition

I always say that MCG’s secret sauce lies in the dedication and talent of its people — people like Dr. Fisher. Here’s another example. We first talked back in April 2021 about three of our amazing medical students — from the Class of 2024, Tyler Beauchamp and Andy Nguyen and from the Class of 2023, Rushay Amarath-Madav, who graduates next week and heads off soon to a diagnostic radiology residency. These three wanted to find a way to use their love of music to honor the sacrifices of frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their answer was a music video, an optimistic twist on Kanye West’s 2010 hit Runaway, with reimagined lyrics and a new title: Stay Inside: A Toast to the Frontline. In all, it took them six months to plan, film, produce and edit the video that features scenes from around MCG’s campus and Augusta and includes photos of frontline workers sent in from health care systems, first responders, universities and nonprofits from across the nation. Their efforts certainly paid off. The video has over 42,000 views on YouTube and just last week, we received word that it was selected as the first-place winner in this year’s Memmy’s, a national contest for videos produced by health professions students across the country and hosted by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia. They’ll also receive a $1,500 prize, which will go to the Greenblatt Library, and the university will receive a plaque honoring them, the video and the sacrifices so many made during the pandemic that will hang in the library. Congratulations and thank you all again.

Join us for Hooding, 2 p.m., May 11 at the Bell Auditorium

I also always say that our students never cease to inspire and are one of the biggest parts of what makes me so incredibly proud to serve as dean of the Medical College of Georgia. I hope you can plan to join me as we celebrate our Class of 2023, our 187th graduating class, at their Hooding Ceremony at 2 p.m. next Thursday at the Bell Auditorium. This year’s ceremony should be a treat, with an appearance by Dr. Glaucomflecken, known to his millions of social media followers simply as Dr. G. The “real life” Dr. G is Dr. William Flanary, an ophthalmologist and amateur comedian who developed his online persona as a creative outlet to tell jokes about his profession and deal with a two-time cancer diagnosis. It has since evolved to incorporate satire of the United States Health Care System, academic publishing and the interpersonal conflicts that are all part of our medical systems. A favorite among medical students, he has more than 540,000 followers on Twitter, 1.5 million on TikTok, and more than 560,000 people subscribe to his YouTube Channel. Please join us if you can for this special day. Welcoming our senior medical students to the profession and being there to watch as they take on the mantle of physician for the first time is one of my favorite MCG traditions.

Alumni Weekend 2023 wraps up with memorial service honoring those we’ve lost over the last year

We welcomed hundreds of MCG alumni back to campus this past weekend. We hosted reunions for all of the MCG graduating classes that end in 3s and 8s, beginning with the Class of 1953 through the Class of 2013. It was a special treat to get to visit with Dr. Roy Witherington, former longtime chief of urology and 1953 graduate, and his wife Sondra there. This was the first year since the pandemic that we were able to host individual class reunions and it was awesome to have the opportunity to visit alumni with President Keel and hear their excitement about what the future holds for their medical school — from our new curriculum and our expanding class size to our pending partnership with Wellstar Health System. I shared with them, like I’ve shared with you, that MCG’s best days are ahead. It was a great weekend that ended with our annual memorial service on Sunday, where Jeff Flowers, who recently retired after three decades of service as director of spiritual care, gave a touching tribute to the 53 MCG alums who passed over the last year. It was an honor and privilege to be with their families and assure them that their loved ones will never be forgotten by their medical school. Please make plans to join us next year, April 26-28.

Dr. H. Gordon Davis, 1945 graduate, longtime Sylvester, Georgia family physician dies at 104

Finally today, we note the passing of another great alum, Dr. H. Gordon Davis, a member of the Class of 1945, on Sunday, April 23, at the age of 104. After graduating, Dr. Davis returned to his hometown, tiny Sylvester, in Southwest Georgia, where he fulfilled a promise he had made to his mother to become a physician. He opened his family practice in 1948 and spent many long days there, doing everything from Caesarean sections to hernia repairs. His days often lasted into the night, which he spent delivering babies. Before he retired in 1995, he had delivered 3,465 of them, including two of his daughters. He served his medical school too, as chair of the board of the MCG Foundation and president of the MCG Alumni Association. He and his late wife Francis also established the H. Gordon Davis Jr., MD and Francis S. Davis Scholarship Endowment Fund that provides scholarships for medical students from Southwest Georgia who want to spend their clinical years at MCG’s Southwest Campus, based in Albany. He hoped that by doing so, he would encourage other students from his corner of the state to return there to practice. What an indelible mark Dr. Davis left on his hometown, the State of Georgia, his alma mater and his profession. Our thoughts are with his many family and friends.

My best to you always,

My best to you always,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

May 11 – MCG Hooding, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium

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

Jun 16 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium