October 20, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

MCG students honored by Georgia Chapter of the American College of Physicians

I hope I make it no secret that I am consistently impressed by the quality of the students we are honored to educate here at MCG. Their accomplishments, both inside and outside of the classroom, are inspiring and even more proof that the health of the people in this state and the rest of this country will be safe in and well taken care of by their more than capable hands. We received more confirmation of this recently when we learned that a handful of them, both here at the main campus in Augusta and at the Partnership Campus in Athens, were honored by the Georgia Chapter of the American College of Physicians at its Annual Scientific Meeting in Savannah. From the Partnership Campus, third-year students Eric Santana and Talia Sisroe received the Outstanding Medical Student in Volunteerism & Advocacy Award for their work bringing the Young Physicians Initiative, which aims to bridge the gaps in accessibility and encourage students from underrepresented minority groups to pursue medicine, to campus. Students from the Augusta Campus who were also honored for poster presentations and their respective categories are: Clinical Vignette: second-year student, Sruthi Dontu, first place, and third-year student Seena Mansouri, third place; High Value Care: second-year student Pravin Vikram, first place; and Research: second-year students Abigayle Simon, second place, and Charlie Weeks, third place. My congratulations to you all.

Others recognized by Association of Medicine and Psychiatry

Here are some more examples: Dr. Vanessa Spearman-McCarthy, an internist/psychiatrist who also serves as our associate dean of Learner Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, recently traveled to Milwaukee to attend the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry’s Annual Meeting as a presenter and as a member of the group’s Executive Council and chair of its DEI Committee. With her were two of our students: fourth-year Sydney Erickson, who is currently applying to med/psych residency programs, as well as second-year Vani Senthill. Sydney, Vani, and fourth-year Yazmin Reategui, who unfortunately couldn’t be there, all submitted a poster featuring their work surveying acute mental health facilities in Georgia and determining how equipped they would be to place a Spanish-speaking patient who was in crisis. That poster won first place in the Global Health Category. Impressive and important work. Dr. Spearman-McCarthy, who graduated from MCG in 2005, says it was also a great opportunity to catch up with other fellow alums who are currently in med/psych residency programs around the country, including Dr. Kayla Look Loy from the Class of 2021, who is training at East Carolina University, and Kayla’s classmate Dr. Zola Francis and Dr. Erik Olsen from the Class of 2022, who are both training at the Medical University of South Carolina. Only 26 residency spots for this unique specialty are available each year, and Dr. Spearman-McCarthy says MCG graduates are, not surprisingly, doing well. I’d certainly agree.

Alumni Association reception in Rome brings back some familiar faces

Speaking of catching up with great MCG graduates, I was able to do some of that myself earlier this week when I traveled to Rome, Georgia, for an MCG Alumni Association Regional Reception. Alumni support has always been strong in that community and that certainly hasn’t changed. We had a great turnout with 60 plus people in attendance, including our students studying at the Northwest Clinical Campus. I also got to catch up with great alums like Dr. Champ Baker, our Alumni Association president who traveled all the way from his home in Columbus, three hours away, to be with us; Dr. Dan Hanks, foundation trustee and 1969 graduate; and 1985 graduate Dr. Joe Burch and his wife Cheryl; as well as Dr. James Tallman, a 1972 graduate and radiologist who came to the event from Marietta. What was particularly impactful to me was meeting two graduates who actually completed their last two years of medical education at our Northwest Campus and who have recently returned to the area to practice: Dr. Victoria Custer, a 2019 graduate and OB/GYN who is practicing at Northwest Georgia Medical Clinic; and Dr. Bradley Cagle, a 2016 graduate and radiologist, who has joined Rome Radiology Group (with Dr. Burch). And although she couldn’t come to the reception, I also heard about Dr. Katlyn Zavala, a 2018 graduate, who is back and working as an internist at Advent Health/Redmond. This is exactly what we envisioned when we developed our regional clinical campuses – that we could train the very best possible physicians in smaller and often underserved communities across our state and that they would one day return there to serve. I’m always encouraged to see those efforts paying off.

Shelia Young, administrative assistant from Northwest Campus is retiring in December

The odds are that I may not have even known some of these former students — now Rome physicians — were there if it hadn’t been for Shelia Young, the administrative assistant whose name is almost synonymous with our Northwest Campus. I’m so grateful that she made the effort to introduce me to Drs. Cagle and Custer, personally. Shelia knows every name and every face at that campus — from the students who study there, to those who have graduated, to the faculty who teach them — and she prides herself on their successes. She never misses even the smallest detail — case in point, she and Vicki Wiles, clinical rotations coordinator for the Northwest Campus, go out of their way to make sure they have my favorite Swiss cheese, Jarlsberg, on hand each time I visit. It saddens me to tell you that Shelia will retire at the end of this year after a decade of service. Her presence will be a great loss to our students up that way, and to her colleagues on campus, but we certainly wish her well in her retirement.

Annual Raft Debate is tonight

Needless to say, it’s been a busy week here at MCG, and there’s certainly a busy weekend ahead. It starts at 5:30 tonight with our annual Raft Debate, held in our Harrison Education Commons. Sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association, this lively event allows our students to determine the fate of an internist, a surgeon and a pediatrician when all three find themselves aboard a sinking ship, and the only escape is a one-person raft. Our faculty aboard the virtual ship this year include Southeast Campus favorite and general surgeon, Dr. John Odom; chief of General Internal Medicine, Dr. Christos Hatzigeorgiou; and pediatrician Dr. Jerry Miller. Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, our interim chair of pathology, will play devil’s advocate and Dr. Koosh Desai, a 2016 graduate and assistant dean at our Southwest Campus in Albany, will moderate. This program was initiated in 2003 by Dr. Paul Dainer, associate professor of medicine, and Dr. Elizabeth Holt, a 2005 graduate. Dr. Dainer saw a similar format pitting a social scientist, natural scientist and humanities professor, while earning his undergraduate degree at the College of William & Mary. After arriving at MCG, he wanted medical students to enjoy a similar experience.

We welcome our newest junior colleagues into the profession at White Coat Ceremony Saturday

Wrapping up this weekend’s festivities will be our annual White Coat Ceremony, at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the James Brown Arena, where we get to welcome 264 of our newest junior colleagues into the profession of medicine. The White Coat Ceremony was established nationwide in 1993 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation (MCG held its first in 1996) and one of the most important elements of the ceremony is the oath that the students write themselves and then take in front of their friends and family, medical school leadership and their peers. I look forward to hearing that each year. This year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. William Salazar, who is no stranger to our medical students and to many of you. Dr. Salazar has dedicated his career to ensuring the underserved in our community have access to the health care they need through his ALAS of the CSRA clinics. These clinics have served thousands of people without health insurance, those who are experiencing homelessness or living below the federal poverty line — many of them with significant language barriers — for more than two decades. They also provide amazing volunteer opportunities for our students, residents, and faculty.

Seeing the excitement on these our students’ faces as they cross the stage, put on their very first white coat and symbolically enter our profession is one of my favorite privileges as dean. Join us tomorrow if you can. 

All my best to you,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

Oct 20 – MCG Raft Debate, 5:30p.m., J. Harold Harrison, MD Educational Commons

Oct 21 – MCG White Coat Ceremony, 2 p.m., James Brown Arena, 601 7th St, Augusta, GA 30901

Oct 27 – 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