June 30, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Nearly 180 new residents and fellows join our medical school and health system this week

As the state’s only public academic medical center, graduate medical education is an integral part of what we are called to do here. Recent projections from the Association of American Medical Colleges predict a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. Georgia ranks 40th in residents per capita. We simply could not address those shortages and provide the physicians this state and country need without these important training programs. It has been something we have been privileged to do for 135 years. Did you know that it was in 1888 that this institution’s first residency program started, when the faculty decided to appoint the first honor student in each class as house physician at the old City Hospital upon their graduation? Needless to say, MCG and its health system’s graduate medical education programs have both grown a bit since then. Today we train close to 600 residents and fellows in 50 programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. This week, we were glad to welcome 176 new trainees to those programs. It has been a busy week of orientation for our newest colleagues, introducing them to our health system and explaining how they can partner with us to optimize the health care we provide here.  

Five Peach State Scholars are new house staff

I’m happy to tell you that this year’s group of our newest junior colleagues also includes our first five Peach State Scholars. You’ll remember that these were among the first group of MCG students to commit to our 3+ Primary Care Pathway back in 2021. They all completed three years of medical school in May and this week are starting their primary care residencies here at MCG. Once they complete their training, they have committed to practice in an underserved area of the state. This year’s scholars and their residency programs are, Dr. Claud Bugheni, emergency medicine; Dr. Michael Butler, internal medicine; Dr. Luis Rodriguez, emergency medicine; Dr. Arika Shaikh, family medicine; and Dr. My Duyen Hoang Vo, pediatrics. Congratulations to you all and thank you for your commitment to your medical school, to Georgia and to helping ensure access to quality health care for all, regardless of where you live.

Patient safety education is an important part of orientation week

We know that a big part of ensuring quality health care for all is a laser focus on patient safety. That message was loud and clear at this week’s orientation, particularly at our Making Health Care Safer course, which each and every new trainee took Wednesday. This course, in its 6th year, takes place in the Interdisciplinary Simulation Center in our Harrison Commons and really drives home the message that our residents and fellows are an important part of the health care team and a big part of ensuring that our patients get top-notch care. As an example of what they’re learning, they are asked to walk into a simulated hospital room and point out every patient safety issue they recognize – from a fall hazard to a needle accidentally left behind in a patient’s bed, for example — with the hope of helping them quickly identify similar issues in the clinical setting. It’s a major haul to get nearly 200 residents and fellows through these and other simulations in one day — one that would not be possible without the expert leadership of Dr. Matt Lyon, our associate dean for experiential learning, Dr. A.J. Kleinheksel, our assistant dean for educational simulation, and the entire MCG simulation team. I would also be remiss to not thank Dr. Natasha Savage, our senior associate dean for GME, and her staff in the GME office for the countless hours they have spent ensuring a smooth transition for our newest trainees.

Beloved educator and class dean Dr. Greer Falls retiring

Switching gears just a bit to the undergraduate side of medical education. For the last 40+ years, Dr. Greer Falls has dedicated his heart and his time to MCG students. He first came to us as a pathology resident in 1979 and he has never left. He admits that he sort of stumbled into his love of medical education during residency when he helped teach pathology to medical students. He thought he was terrible, but his students thought otherwise. He’s been hooked ever since. He’s served our students well not only as an educator, but also on the MCG Admissions Committee and the MCG Student Affairs Committee, which brought student and university leadership together for class updates, both for more than 20 years. Five years before he retired as full-time pathology faculty in 2017, he stepped up to serve as a class dean, helping guide our second-year students through the transition from their first year of medical school. A week after he retired, we asked him to come back and do that work part-time and for the last six years this self-professed Disney-enthusiast has continued to serve as a tireless advocate, mentor and friend for countless students. Next Friday, he will “officially retire,” although, if I had to guess, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him yet. I hope he’ll at least come back from year to year to recognize the recipients of his eponymous scholarship, which was established by Drs. Bennett Grimm and Kristy McDonald-Grimm, two former students who wanted to honor his impact on their lives and careers. What a legacy he leaves behind. Thank you and congratulations, Dr. Falls.

Dr. Koosh Desai helps spread the word about colorectal cancer prevention efforts

Like Dr. Falls, I know that you all are undoubtedly leaving your mark on this medical school and beyond these walls — whether your impact comes through your research that leads to the cures and treatments of tomorrow, your education of the next generation or your work ensuring the people we serve have access to the care they need and deserve. A prime example is Dr. Koosh Desai, a 2016 graduate who completed his undergraduate clinical training at our Southwest Campus in Albany and returned there as assistant dean after his internal medicine residency. Dr. Desai’s passion is working to increase colorectal cancer screening rates in some of Georgia’s poorest and most underserved areas, which coincidentally have some of the highest mortality rates of this third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. He has worked with partners like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education to spread his message far and wide. Recently he has also been using Project ECHO, an innovative telementoring program to bring together health care providers and subject matter experts to help educate staff at FQHC’s in Georgia and beyond on best practices when it comes to increasing their colorectal cancer prevention and detection strategies. Last week, Dr. Desai presented his work at the Southeast Colorectal Cancer Consortium and his results spoke for themselves. At East Georgia Healthcare Center in Swainsboro, for example, screening rates jumped from 33% in 2021 to 44% in 2022. At Albany Area Primary Health Care they increased from 57% to 60% over the same time frame. Awesome and important work, Dr. Desai.

Our newest department is the Department of Urology

Finally, today, I wanted to congratulate our medical school’s newest department, Urology, which will officially become our 23rd department July 1. As a section within our Department of Surgery for many years, the new department has long been known for its innovative patient care and outstanding residency training. Section chief, and now department chair, Dr. Martha Terris came to us in 2002 and has diligently worked to grow the department’s research program. She also increased the number of urology residents from one trainee per year to three. I look forward to her continued leadership and even more department growth in the future.

My best to you always,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia