December 1, 2023

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Dr. Folami Powell joining Savannah four-year campus as assistant dean for pre-clerkship

It’s hard to believe that in just seven short months we will welcome the inaugural class to our newest four-year campus in Savannah. As you all well know, this new campus, a partnership between us and Georgia Southern University, will allow us to grow from 264 students to 304 per class, likely making us the fourth or fifth largest medical school in the country in terms of class size. That ultimately means more physicians for our state and country. The excitement and momentum for the campus just keeps building. Adding to it, this week, we named Dr. Folami Powell the campus’ assistant dean for pre-clerkship. Dr. Powell, whose research is focused on diabetic retinopathy and other diseases of the retina, currently serves as an associate professor in our Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and is a member of the James and Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute here on the Augusta campus. In fact, she was the first faculty recruited by department chair Dr. Vinata Lokeshwar — she still refers to Dr. Powell as “Phenomenal Folami, a true Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Success Story,” who Dr. Lokeshwar says started as a postdoc and always showed amazing potential.

She is an experienced medical and biomedical educator and a homegrown MCG talent

In this new and critical role, Dr. Powell will have oversight of the pre-clinical phase of students’ education on the Savannah campus, working to help implement an integrated curriculum and recruit more medical educators there. Medical and biomedical education are certainly familiar territory for her. She is a homegrown talent who completed her PhD (with distinction) in pharmacology and toxicology in 2013, as well as postdoctoral fellowships in both ophthalmology and biochemistry in 2015 and 2017, respectively, all right here at MCG and AU. She began teaching medical students soon after, starting as a lecturer for their tissue and musculoskeletal skin module. Her teaching responsibilities expanded over the next few years, and she became director of the gastrointestinal, genitourinary, endocrine systems module in 2020 and director of our Career Paths in Medicine in 2021, which, as its name implies, exposes students to the many different ways they can practice medicine. She also lectures and mentors students in The Graduate School and in our annual Student Educational Enrichment and Pre-matriculation programs. She was a natural choice for this new position, and I look forward to her continued leadership as we develop and grow our educational efforts in Savannah.

Dr. Mark Hamrick honored with AU Research Institute Lifetime Achievement Award

Another name that is synonymous with leadership is Dr. Mark Hamrick, our senior associate dean for research, who never hesitates to step up and step in wherever and whenever he is needed. In addition to his associate dean role, he has been serving as interim chair of the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy since longtime chair, Dr. Sylvia Smith’s, retirement in August. Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Dr. Hamrick to help move our medical school toward the top 60 in the country in National Institutes of Health funding, to recruit new federally funded research faculty and to identify and develop new opportunities for research collaborations.  A prolific scientist himself, he is an expert in musculoskeletal biology and aging. His funding has included a $1.2 million grant from the Department of the Army looking at using exosome therapy to stabilize injuries to the extremities. He also has been principal investigator for a research project that is part of an $11.2 million NIH Program Project grant. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Hamrick, who came to us 21 years ago from Kent State University, was the university’s senior vice president for research from 2011-14; led CBA’s graduate program from 2015-20; and has served on the doctoral dissertation committee of over 50 graduate students. He has received MCG’s Exemplary Teaching Award three times, was the 2018 recipient of our Outstanding Basic Science Research Award and, in 2019, received the AU Research Institute’s Distinguished Research Award. Accomplished is an understatement. Now he can add another accolade to the list. Last month, he was the recipient of the AURI’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Certainly well-earned, Dr. Hamrick.

Drs. Gang Zhou, Gabor Csanyi and Jessica Faulkner also earn awards

Several other MCG research faculty were rightly honored with 2023 AURI awards as well. Dr. Gang Zhou, immunologist at the Georgia Cancer Center and Department of Medicine, whose work is focused on improving the impact of immunotherapy in cancer, received the award for Outstanding Research, Creative and Scholarly Activity. Dr. Gabor Csanyi, an associate professor in the Vascular Biology Center and the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, whose lab explores multiple aspects of cardiovascular cell biology and how they relate to vascular dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, received the Distinguished Researcher Award. And Dr. Jessica Faulkner, who is working to understand the sex differences in hypertension and cardiovascular disease, received the Emerging Scientist Award. Dr. Faulkner is actually an Augusta native who earned her degree in biology from AU, went to the University of Mississippi to earn her PhD in medical pharmacology and then came back to us to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in the VBC before joining the faculty in the Departments of Physiology and Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2021. My congratulations to all of you on these latest honors.

Wellstar and AU Health named to Forbes annual America’s Best Employers list

While we’re talking about well-deserved recognitions, I wanted to also take the opportunity to tell you that AU Health and Wellstar Health System were just named to the 2023 Forbes listing of America’s Best Employers. To come up with this annual listing, Forbes and Statista, a global data and business intelligence platform, survey more than 70,000 workers at companies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, asked participants to evaluate their employer based on working conditions, compensation, diversity and potential for advancement. They also asked if they would recommend their employer to others. It was certainly nice to get confirmation that we’re accomplishing our goal of taking great care of our employees. It’s because of them that we can, in turn, take great care of our patients. It was also exciting to see both health system names on this year’s list, but not a huge surprise. As I said in September, when we launched our new unified health system, there was and is great synergy in our missions and in our organizational cultures. I look forward even greater days ahead as we continue to grow together and serve the people of Georgia as Wellstar MCG Health.

Limited edition holiday ornaments featuring Old Medical College of Georgia building available now

You can’t talk about the future without acknowledging the past and you know I love history. There’s certainly plenty of it to go around at your nearly 200-year-old medical school. And this year, you have the opportunity to add a tangible piece of our history to your holiday décor. Limited edition ornaments, featuring a replica of the birthplace of our medical school, the iconic Old MCG on Telfair Street, are available for purchase. The funds raised from the sale of these $25 ornaments will go to support a good cause — the MCG Alumni Association. Place your order online today. I have a feeling these won’t last long.

All my best to you,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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