July 28, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Attorney General’s Office provides regulatory approval for Wellstar partnership

It’s been another great couple of weeks at the state’s public medical school. Just yesterday, we were excited to receive word that the Georgia Attorney General’s Office has issued its Report of Findings and provided regulatory approval for our innovative partnership with Wellstar. You’ll remember that the AG held a hearing on our campus just last month to hear sworn testimony and public comment on the proposed partnership that will create Wellstar MCG Health. This will help expand our medical training, research and clinical care throughout Georgia. While there is still much work to be done, this was an essential step in moving forward. I am thankful for all of the work that continues to go on behind the scenes both here and at Wellstar, as well as at the University System of Georgia, and moves us closer toward our goal of completing the deal this summer.

President Keel’s Summer Tour takes us to Southwest, Georgia, home of our first regional campus

I think by now you know that one of my favorite parts about serving as your dean is the opportunity I often have to travel across Georgia and see the many different environs where we educate the next generation. The saying “Georgia is our Campus” could not be any more appropriate for this university and this medical school, with our vast statewide educational network that lets MCG students decide how they want to learn medicine – whether that be in a complex care hospital or alongside a single physician in a small-town solo practice – and where they want to do it, whether here in Augusta or at one of our regional campuses, located in every corner of our state. Last week I had the privilege of traveling alongside President Keel as part of his annual Summer Tour, which took us to several spots in Southwest Georgia, including Columbus, Thomasville and Albany, the home of our very first regional campus. The Southwest Campus has been providing vital clinical training opportunities for hundreds of MCG students since 2005. All of our regional campuses help give our students a glimpse into the unique health care challenges faced by people who live in places that are medically underserved and, hopefully, a better understanding of why those places so desperately need doctors like the ones they are becoming. The Southwest Campus is certainly no exception. Students do clinical rotations in Albany, with the support of our exceptional partners at Phoebe Putney Health System, and they also learn alongside volunteer faculty, many of them MCG alums, in more rural places like Tifton, Cordele, Valdosta, LaGrange and Americus.

Expanding educational opportunities for our students is imperative for our future growth

As we continue to grow our class size, and accept our largest class ever next year, the need for more places for our students to do their clinical training will increase as well. We must partner with MCG alumni and health systems across our state to grow the number of training sites. I was thankful to be able to visit with several alums at a great dinner in Columbus first, where I got to sit with people like Dr. George Jarrell II and his son, Dr. George Jarrell III, as well as Drs. Ben and Kathryn Cheek and Dr. Lee McCluskey and his wife Suzanne. On a side note, the Jarrell clan gave me a “hot tip” on getting fresh peaches and peach ice cream at Dickey’s in Musella, Georgia. I drove there the next afternoon after a delightful home cooked meal with Dr. Cecil Whitaker, courtesy of his wife, Terry. I can attest that Terry is a fantastic cook and Dickey’s has the world’s best peach ice cream! A few days later, I traveled further down south to Thomasville to meet with our colleagues at Archbold Medical Center. With hospitals and clinics in Thomasville and throughout Thomas, Grady, Mitchell, Decatur and Brooks counties, Archbold has over 500 patient beds, 2,000 staff and 200 qualified specialists. They are already great partners that teach our students during their general surgery rotations, and the hope is that we can cultivate more training sites there. We also want to work together on other fronts – like supporting their internal medicine residency program – which could provide valuable training slots for our graduates – by providing training experiences with subspecialists at MCG; supporting community-based research programs in that corner of the state; and providing their physicians with opportunities for faculty development. Dr. Doug Patten, our associate dean at the Southwest Campus, and I have had great visits and conversations there, with people like Darcy Craven, president and CEO; Dr. Greg Patterson, a 1993 MCG alum and general/vascular surgeon whose son Taylor also just graduated from MCG in May; Dr. Raul Santos, associate program director, soon to be director, for the internal medicine residency program; Dr. Rick Fenlon, who teaches outpatient internal medicine in the residency program; Dr. Sarah Vocelle, who teaches hospitalist internal medicine and will soon be associate director of the residency program; and Savannah McGowan, Archbold’s director of physician education. I look forward to continued conversations and figuring out how we can best partner together to help ensure that Georgia has enough well-trained doctors, especially in the places that need them most.

We welcomed our newest junior colleagues to MCG this week

While we’re on the subject of educating great physicians for Georgia, I wanted to share that we welcomed the Class of 2027 to MCG this week. I think we can all agree that this medical school is known for its exceptional students and based on what I already know about this group, they will be no different. We received 3,335 applications for our 264 slots, and all but two members of the class are Georgia residents. They come from 58 colleges and universities and have an average GPA of 3.8 and an average MCAT score of 511. Many thanks, and my congratulations, to our senior associate dean for admissions, Dr. Kelli Braun, her staff and the Admissions Committee on selecting another stellar freshman class.

Each freshman receives their first stethoscope, a gift from an MCG alum, faculty, staff, or friend

One of the most heartening things to watch during freshman orientation is the presentation of our students’ first stethoscopes, which are actually gifted to them by MCG alumni, faculty, staff and friends. Each student receives a box with a stethoscope that bears the iconic MCG seal and a personal note from the person who provided it. It is a small gift – each stethoscope costs just $250 – but it has a huge impact on these future physicians. It’s also a great way to remind them of the connection to and the support of those who came before them. Last year, the program was endowed by a retired Savannah allergist/immunologist and 1971 graduate and his wife, Dr. Melvin L. Haysman and Mrs. Roberta Kamine-Haysman. With their gift, along with those from other MCG alums, this program can be sustained for many years to come. Particularly poignant for me this year was seeing Donna Chong, of Lawrenceville, tearfully receive hers as a gift from her sister, Dr. Anna Chong Jung, who graduated from MCG in 2008 and is now a pediatrician in Jacksonville, Fla. Dr. Jung was so confident that her sister would follow in her great footsteps that she even wrote the note the day after Donna took the MCAT in 2021. You can watch a video about the touching moment on MCG’s Facebook page.

MCG alum elected president of the American College of Radiology

I know that just like Dr. Jung, MCG alums around the world are leaving their mark – on our students, on their colleagues and on their profession. Here’s another example: Dr. Bill T. Herrington, a 1979 graduate and an Athens radiologist, was recently elected president of the American College of Radiology, the professional body that represents more than 41,000 diagnostic radiologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians and medical physicists. After graduating medical school, Dr. Herrington did a general surgery rotating internship at Oakland Naval Hospital, followed by one year as a battalion surgeon with the United States Marine Corps. He completed his radiology training at the National Naval Medical Center and finished his military service at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, then returned to private practice in Athens, where he has practiced diagnostic radiology since 1986. Prior to being elected president, he served as chair of the college’s Commission on Membership and Communications, a former speaker of the ACR Council, and past chair of the ACR Governance Committee and ACR Task Force on Brand Strategy. Congratulations, Dr. Herrington, and thank you for representing your medical school so well.

Dr. Shaheen Islam hosts annual training course for new pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine fellows from across the Southeast

I believe that part of what makes MCG such a special place is its people and their absolute dedication to making each generation of physicians and scientists better than the ones that came before. I never get tired of hearing how our faculty and staff consistently go above and beyond to ensure that happens. Another great example came earlier this month when Dr. Shaheen Islam, chief of our Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, hosted the division’s annual course for first-year fellows from across the Southeast. The course offers these new trainees hands-on lessons in things like how to perform a bronchoscopy, for example, right here on our campus. Dr. Islam had hosted a similar course at Ohio State before joining our faculty in 2018. The first year he offered it here, only fellows from four programs, including ours, signed up to attend. This year, we trained 42 from eight different institutions, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Emory, Medical University of South Carolina, Morehouse, University of Florida and the University of South Carolina Columbia and USC Greenville. Ten guest faculty also joined our own faculty in this collaborative effort. Thank you all for your dedication to the future and for further cementing MCG’s reputation as a leader in medical education.

Dr. William Salazar opening brick and mortar space to house longstanding clinic for the underserved

Here’s another great example of the special people at MCG. Many of you know that Dr. William Salazar, an internist/psychiatrist here, has, for years, made it his priority to ensure that underserved people in this community get the health care they need and deserve through the clinics he helps operate under the auspices of the Asociación Latina de Servicios of the CSRA (ALAS). Since 2005, these clinics have served thousands of people without health insurance, those who are experiencing homelessness or living 200% below the federal poverty line — many of them with significant language barriers. They also provide rich volunteer opportunities for MCG students, residents and faculty. What started with one clinic in borrowed space at the Salvation Army has grown to include 11 clinics that provide a broad spectrum of services, from primary care to dermatology, from mental health and substance abuse care to women’s health. Needless to say, they’ve outgrown their current home in the clinic space in the AU Health Sciences Building that was donated by College of Nursing. I’m happy to share, though, that through years of dedicated fundraising by Dr. Salazar himself, the ALAS Board of Directors and many of our own students, the clinic has a new, bigger and better permanent home — a standalone building, Centro Médico – William Salazar, which is located at 904 Merry St., just a stone’s throw from our campus. The clinic will open next month, but Dr. Salazar is hosting a drop-in tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I hope some of you can come by so he can show off the building, which rightly bears his name, and the services offered there. Congratulations, and job well done, Dr. Salazar. I know none of this would be possible without your passion for serving the people who need us most.

Dr. Frank Wilson, 1954 graduate, orthopaedic surgeon passes away

Finally today, I wanted to share the recent passing of Dr. Frank Wilson, a 1954 graduate and well-recognized leader in orthopaedic surgery. After serving our country in the United States Navy, Dr. Wilson joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where he was chief of the Division, then Department, of Orthopaedics for nearly 30 years. When this knee surgeon wasn’t helping his patients walk again or educating future surgeons, he was representing his colleagues across the country as president of the American Orthopaedic Association, the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and the American Orthopaedic Society. He was also supporting scholarships and other important endeavors at his alma mater. We are grateful for his gifts to us, to medicine and to the world. Our thoughts are with his many family and friends

My best to you always,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

Aug 18 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

Sept 15 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

Oct 21 – MCG White Coat Ceremony, 2 p.m., TBD

Oct 27 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

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

Nov 17 – Body Donation Memorial Service, 1 p.m., Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium