November 17, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

AU/UGA Medical Partnership to be recognized with AAMC Star of Community Achievement Award

Last week was an exceptionally busy one for our academic affairs faculty, and several of our students, who traveled to the Association of American Medical College’s, Learn Serve Lead meeting, in Seattle. This annual event provides opportunities for medical educators, students, residents, researchers, clinicians, administrators, and health system leaders to build professional connections, expand collaborations and engage in thought-provoking discussions. It’s always a great time to gather with our medical education colleagues from across the country. A particular point of pride at this year’s meeting was that, among all of those colleagues, we learned that our AU/UGA Medical Partnership’s Athens Free Clinic is the recipient of this year’s Shining Star of Community Achievement Award. The award is presented by the AAMC’s Group on Regional Medical Campuses at its annual summer meeting and recognizes programs which, as its name would indicate, have positively impacted the community they serve. The GRMC is always particularly interested in projects that have inspired transformational change. That’s a description that certainly fits this important effort by students, faculty and staff at the Medical Partnership.

The clinic, originally established in 2015, has grown to include 11 community sites

This primary care, free teaching clinic serves marginalized communities with barriers to health care in Athens-Clarke County. The locations were originally chosen based on findings from a 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment that identified communities with numerous health-related social needs in areas such as transportation, housing, insurance, legal, financial, food security and mental health. In 2019, the campus also integrated the clinic as a required continuity experience in the Community and Population Health curriculum for all pre-clerkship students in Athens. Now, medical student teams deliver free care at 11 community sites including public schools, a musicians’ mental health resource center, an emergency shelter for the unhoused, a bilingual tutoring center, a homeless encampment, subsidized housing communities, and substance use disorder treatment centers. They have also added more clinic days and continued to expand services, including building a school-based health center, the Clarke Middle Health Center, which established a permanent presence in area public schools and offers an innovative service-learning and clinic sites for our medical students, as well as UGA law and social work students, who work together to close gaps in health disparities for school district students, their families and staff. My congratulations and thanks to you all, particularly Dr. Suzanne Lester, campus director of Community and Population Health, Dr. Kate Meixner, assistant professor of Family & Community Medicine, and Nurse Manager Jeni Fitzpatrick, who have led these amazing efforts.

Dr. LaShon Sturgis gives keynote at this year’s Nickens Award ceremony; Plan now to join us at next year’s meeting in Atlanta

Another highlight of this year’s meeting was the keynote address at the Herbert W. Nickens Awards, which was given by our very own assistant dean for academic advising, Dr. LaShon Sturgis. These awards are named for the founding vice president of the AAMC Division of Community and Minority Programs who focused his life’s work on the need to support those who are underrepresented in medicine. Like Dr. Nickens, Dr. Sturgis, who graduated from MCG in 2014 and completed her emergency medicine residency at Wellstar MCG Health before joining our faculty, has dedicated much of her career to similar efforts. In 2011, while still a medical student who was serving as president of the Student National Medical Association, she organized our first Igniting the Dream of Medicine conference, which offers high school and college students a glimpse into what it takes to succeed in medical school. Those efforts actually earned her a Nickens Award that same year.  During her speech, she artfully reminded attendees that their lived experiences — good, bad, or indifferent are the “superpowers” that will carry them throughout their careers. So true. Thank you, Dr. Sturgis, for always representing MCG so well. 

While we’re on the subject of the AAMC meeting, I wanted to also share with you that the 2024 meeting will be held Nov. 8-12 right up the road in Atlanta. I hope you all will join us and consider submitting proposals for presentations. As the state’s only public medical school, we should have a big crowd there to show off the great educational innovations that are happening at MCG.

Southeast Campus holds second annual Community Engagement and Research Conference in Savannah

Speaking of showing off some of the great things happening here, our Southeast Campus, based in Savannah and Brunswick, recently hosted its second annual Community Engagement and Research Conference, which saw our students sharing their research in posters, panel discussions and oral presentations. This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. John Rowlett, a pediatric emergency medicine physician in Savannah, who spoke about the importance of developing research opportunities in the local community. All told, there were 81 people in attendance, including faculty, students and community leaders. The conference also provided a great opportunity to highlight the campus’ research collaboration with the Savannah College of Art and Design, under the direction of Dr. Christine Miller, a professor of design management, and senior medical student Stephanie Parris, that sees our medical students and SCAD design students working together to improve the process for developing community health research. Third-year students Tommy Bui, who worked to develop a community screening program for retinal health, and Om Sakhalkar, who presented projects on the impact of COVID-19 and access to care, both won awards for best oral presentations. Third-year students Brian Buck, Edward Xie, William Chafin, and Sachit Anandan, who worked under the supervision of Brunswick psychiatrist, Dr. David Deuser, won best poster presentation for their work “Evaluating the Mental Health of the Pediatric LGBTQ+ Population in Brunswick, GA.” Congratulations to you all on another successful conference, and thanks to our medical students for your focus on using research to improve the lives of people in these communities.

Annual Body Donor Memorial Service gives us a chance to show our gratitude to our first patients

An important rite of passage and one of many sacred moments in medical school is meeting your first patient — the selfless individual who donated their body so you could learn human anatomy in 3D, by seeing and touching, instead of from a one-dimensional textbook that couldn’t possibly ever do justice to the divine handiwork that is the human body. Today, we had the opportunity to express our thanks to 92 donors — and their families — who donated their bodies through our Anatomical Donation program at the university’s annual Body Donor Memorial Service. This moving and often emotional ceremony includes insightful perspectives from our medical students, as well as students from the AU Colleges of Allied Health Sciences and Nursing and the Dental College of Georgia, on how these individuals have shaped the kind of health care providers they will become. Grateful doesn’t seem to be strong enough of a word to honor their priceless gifts.

Thank you for all you do on behalf of MCG

As many of us gather with family and friends next week to reflect on and express thanks for this year’s blessings, please know that I consider it one of my greatest blessings to serve as dean of your medical school. Please also let me express here my deepest thanks and appreciation for what you all do to support me and to support the important work of the Medical College of Georgia. I hope you all enjoy some much-deserved rest and time off with those you hold close. Happy Thanksgiving.

All my best to you,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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

Jan 19 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

Feb 16 – MCG State of the College Address, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium

Mar 15 – MCG Match Day, 11 am, SRP Park

Mar 22 – MCG Faculty Senate Meeting, noon, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium