September 22, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

MCG ranks among the best in the nation in American Heart Association funding

As physicians and scientists, we all know that Georgia, just like the rest of the country, is seeing ever-increasing rates of obesity and diabetes. Cardiovascular disease is an epidemic and remains the top killer in our state and nation. In fact, in 2020, it caused the deaths of nearly one million people and cost the country a little over $407 billion in direct health care costs and indirect costs due to lost productivity and mortality. Those are just some of the reasons that your medical school has always been hyper-focused on working toward new and better treatments for these — and other — maladies. Hard work certainly pays off. We recently found out that MCG and our nearly 30-year-old Vascular Biology Center, ranks fourth in the country in the number of grants — 41 in total — from the American Heart Association. We are also ranked 10th in the nation in total AHA funding. These rankings place us among the best medical schools in the nation and that is a direct tribute to the hard work of you, our incredible faculty. The mission of our VBC is simple — to make breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of disease so that we all may live longer, healthier lives. I’d say these rankings prove we are surely on the right track.

Dr. Ravindra Kolhe receives funding to help establish statewide network of Genomic Centers of Excellence

The desire to improve the health of the people of Georgia, and beyond, is something that unites us all. Certainly, another great example is Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, our interim chair of Pathology and director of our Georgia Esoteric & Molecular Laboratory, and his team, who were key players in Georgia’s fight against COVID-19. You’ll remember that the GEM lab was one of the first places to offer coronavirus testing statewide during the early days of the pandemic. Needless to say, we learned a lot of lessons from those early days and beyond. I’m proud to say that Dr. Kolhe and his team are now working with the Georgia Department of Public Health to ensure the learning continues. DPH is partnering with six institutions — MCG, Emory, Georgia Tech, UGA, GA State, and the University of Texas Health Science Center — to build what they are calling the Georgia Pathogen Genomic Centers of Excellence Network. For our part, Dr. Kolhe and his team will be critical to preparing our state for the next pandemic by helping develop testing methods, as well as, testing new technology and applications and validating the results they provide. They also will work to train, and retain, a reserve workforce of qualified laboratory personnel, develop a network of clinical laboratories and create an interphase between those labs and public health, ensuring that important data reaches the people it needs to rapidly, completely and accurately. My thanks to you and the entire team, Dr. Kolhe. I know with you all at the forefront of this work, our state will be as prepared as it can be for the next public health crisis.

Dr. Jorge Cortes honored by Society of Hematologic Oncology

Yet another example of people here who are always tirelessly working to improve the lives of others is Dr. Jorge Cortes, director of our Georgia Cancer Center. This expert in chronic myeloid leukemia came to us in 2019 after 27 years at MD Anderson in Houston with one of the highest h-indexes I’d ever seen. Dr. Cortes has authored more than 1,000 peer-reviewed original research manuscripts and has served as principal investigator of over 230 grants and contracts. He also has led the approval of four drugs currently available for patients with leukemia. His awards and accolades are too numerous to count, but now he can add another. Last week he received the Society of Hematologic Oncology’s Michael J. Keating Outstanding Achievement Award, named after the founding member of the society and a giant in the field of leukemia research and treatment. The award recognizes someone who has significantly contributed to the advancement of cancer treatment and research, which seems to perfectly describe Dr. Cortes, whose work is not just focused on new and better treatments for cancer, but also better ways to address other important aspects of cancer care, like the financial hardships many survivors face after treatment. Congratulations on this latest recognition, Dr. Cortes.

Dr. Shelley Nuss to receive Lamartine Hardman Cup from Medical Association of Georgia

The awards keep coming this week. Dr. Shelley Nuss, campus dean at our partnership campus in Athens, will be honored next month as the 2023 recipient of the Lamartine Hardman Cup from the Medical Association of Georgia, one of the group’s highest honors. It was created to “recognize a physician who has solved any outstanding problem in public health or made any discovery in surgery or medicine or such contribution to the science of medicine, including but not limited to excellence in the field of medical education.” That certainly fits. Since 2010, she has worked closely with us and the University System of Georgia to grow the number of residency slots across the state. As I’ve said many times, we not only have to increase our medical school class size, but we also have to increase the number of residency programs to train our graduates in Georgia in order to truly address the state’s growing physician shortage. As part of the USG’s GME Regents Evaluation Assessment Team, or GREAT committee, Dr. Nuss advocated for state funding to support GME start-up funds and led the development of the grant process for hospitals who wanted to become teaching hospitals, helping them identify any issues and challenges they may face. When former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal agreed to fund 400 new residency slots in 2013, she was instrumental in developing GME start-up budgets for these new teaching hospitals and due to her continued advocacy, that program received nearly $20 million in funding over seven years. Dr. Nuss was appointed Chair of the GREAT committee in 2016 and has continued to oversee its work. The sheer numbers illustrate the success: nine new teaching hospitals, 31 new residency programs and 796 new resident positions are being developed, many in counties that are designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas. In addition to the work of the GREAT program, an additional 170 new residency slots in eight programs have been developed, making the total projected numbers close to 1,000 new slots over the past 10 years – representing a 50% increase in GME slots across the state. Well-earned and well deserved, Dr. Nuss.

Dr. Loretta Davis is inaugural Callaway chair

Here’s another example of someone who has always dedicated themselves to educating the next generation — Dr. Loretta Davis, chair of our Department of Dermatology. Dr. Davis, who you’ll remember is not just a great dermatologist, but a rising YouTube star, is a favorite among her residents and medical students, receiving our Exemplary Teaching Award every year from 2010-22. She first came to our then-Division of Dermatology in 1992, was appointed director of the department’s residency program, a title she still holds, in 2010 and then became chief in 2011. As chief, Dr. Davis made it mission critical to make the Division of Dermatology, as it was known for 25 years of its more than 50-year history, the Department of Dermatology again. She knew that change would be integral to helping recruit and retain new faculty. Alumni, who had graduated as residents, agreed and many offered support — emotional, educational and financial. One of those was 1999 MCG graduate Dr. Sanders Callaway, a Statesboro, Georgia native who completed his dermatology residency here in 2001 and set up a successful practice in Evans, Georgia, and was looking for a way to give back to the department that he says gave him a great life and career. In 2019, with the support of a transformative gift from Dr. Callaway to establish the department’s first endowed chair, the Department of Dermatology was reborn. Since then, the number of faculty in the department has essentially doubled. And just last month at the August USG Board of Regents meeting, Dr. Davis was rightly approved as the inaugural Dr. Sanders and Dana Callaway Endowed Chair in Dermatology. Thank you, Dr. Callaway for your generosity and Dr. Davis for your commitment.

Knights Templar Foundation continues ongoing support for vision research at MCG

Dr. Callaway’s gift to the Department of Dermatology is just one example of the way philanthropy can make an impact at the state’s only public medical school. Another came just today as I was joined by representatives from the Knights Templar Foundation who were on campus to present a $90,000 Career Starter Research Grant to Dr. Syed Adeel H. Zaidi, an assistant research scientist in our Vascular Biology Center who is working to develop a new therapy to limit the neuronal and vascular damage associated with retinopathy of prematurity. This condition is among the most common in premature or low birth-weight babies and is a major cause of long-term vision impairment and blindness. Did you know that somewhere in the world, a person goes blind every five seconds, and over 7 million people go blind every year? This new grant, which is Dr. Zaidi’s first, will help him test a new therapy for ROP in a mouse model before seeking approval and funding to move on to clinical trials. This gift is just the latest in a long history of giving by the Knights Templar, who dedicate their efforts to improving vision through research, education and supporting access to care. Dr. Steven Brooks, chair of our Department of Ophthalmology, actually also received the same grant early in his career. Congratulations, Dr. Zaidi.

IGIVE kicks off this week

In keeping with the giving spirit as we wrap things up today, I wanted to let you know that IGIVE, our annual employee fundraising campaign, kicked off this week. Last year, employees contributed more than $410,000 in donations and pledges with a total of 2,135 employees giving to 271 unique and vital funds. This year we want to top that. You can give to any fund, including those in your own departments, like residency education or research. There’s a complete list of funds here, but some great examples include our 3+ Primary Care Pathway program, the Drs. Frank Rumph and John T. Harper Sr. Diversity in Medicine Scholarship or the MCG Stethoscope Program, just to name a few. You can fill out your pledge card online or join our Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement teams in person at several kick-off events that are listed on the IGIVE website, including on Oct. 3, from 11:30-1:30 in the Health Sciences Quad, between the Harrison Commons, Math and Science Building and the Dental College of Georgia. Join us to show your support and to receive a complimentary lunch and a cool and comfortable t-shirt too. No gift is too small. Thank you for all you already do on behalf of MCG.

All my best to you,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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

Dec 1 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium