January 12, 2024

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Governor Kemp announces plans for second public medical school in Georgia; MCG remains strong 

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced this week plans to include $50 million in next year’s state budget to create a new, standalone public medical school at the University of Georgia. Given that our state is one of the most populous and fastest growing in the nation, establishing a second public medical school seems like a natural progression of MCG’s existing four-year campus in Athens, the AU/UGA Medical Partnership. While this new school will be an outgrowth of that partnership, it will eventually operate independently of MCG, pending approval from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. While we expect that there will be a transition period that will last for at least the next four years, current partnership students and those admitted in this admissions cycle will receive their medical degree from MCG.

Please be assured, your medical school remains strong. This will not affect our current or future plans for growth, including our newest four-year campus in Savannah, in partnership with Georgia Southern University, which will enroll its first class of 40 students in July. Our commitment to our existing regional clinical campuses remains steadfast. We also look forward to the eventual development of a new regional campus in Atlanta, which is possible because of our great partnership with Wellstar. Just as we have been for nearly 200 years, MCG will continue to be dedicated to educating exceptional physicians and physician-scientists for Georgia and beyond.   

Momentum for new four-year Savannah Campus continues to grow

The momentum continues for our newest four-year campus in Savannah. This week, in fact, the campus’ faculty and staff moved their offices into the Armstrong Center on Georgia Southern’s Armstrong Campus. This space will be home to the campus’ administrative offices and includes classrooms for students. It’s also located just a block away from the campus’ Health Professions Academic Building, which will house a new anatomy lab and more spaces for learning. And it’s just down the street from St. Joseph’s Hospital, part of St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System, our longtime educational partner down that way. This recent move just puts us one step closer to the opening of that campus. We look forward to an official ribbon cutting sometime in the spring. More to come on that.

Class of 2026 began clerkship phase of their education this month

I say it all the time, but it always bears repeating. Our statewide campus model – with regional clinical campuses in the Northwest (Rome/Dalton), Southeast (Savannah/Brunswick) and Southwest (Albany) — is one of MCG’s biggest strengths. Because Georgia truly is our campus, we can give our students choices about their medical education and expose them to a variety of environs — from complex care hospitals to small-town solo practices — in a variety of locations, from metropolitan areas to those that are more rural and underserved. Just last week we sent a new crop of students out to these regional campuses, where many of them will live and learn for the duration of their clinical education. In addition to these “residential” students, hundreds of “transitional” students travel to these campuses for clinical rotations throughout each academic year. In fact, most MCG students will spend at least one of their core rotations based at a regional campus. We simply could not educate the next generation without the support of our campus associate and assistant deans and their administrative staff. My endless thanks to them, as well as to the hundreds of volunteer clinical faculty, many of whom are MCG alumni, who invest in the education of their future colleagues.

Georgia Research Alliance leadership visits campus

Speaking of those who invest in MCG, last week we had the honor of hosting our good friends Dr. Tim Denning, the new president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance, and recently-retired president and CEO Susan Shows, here on campus. Programmatic support from the GRA, which exists to expand university research, entrepreneurship and economic growth across the state, helps us recruit and retain the best and brightest and ultimately grow our own research footprint. Some of the stars they’ve helped us recruit and support are people like Drs. Klaus Ley and Lynn Hedrick, co-directors of the Immunology Center of Georgia (IMMCG); Dr. Jorge Cortes, director of the Georgia Cancer CenterDr. Lin Gan, director of our Transgenic & Genome Editing Core; Dr. Xin-Yun Lu, chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine; Dr. David Mattson, chair of our Department of Physiology; Dr. Qin Wang, director of our Program for Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Discovery; and Dr. Neal Weintraub, chief of our Division of Cardiology and associate director of the Vascular Biology Center.

Prior to joining the GRA, Dr. Denning helped lead Georgia State through a period of historic growth in research and commercialization, with the university earning just under $225 million in research funding for FY2023, the highest total in their history. It was a great visit, and we look forward to his leadership as we continue our important work together.

New technology helping scientists better understand the body’s immune response

Just this week we got yet another example of great investment in research. Scientists in the IMMCG are taking advantage of revolutionary technology to investigate the role of neutrophils in the spread of bladder cancer. Dr. Peipei Zhu, who studies neutrophil heterogeneity, is leading a team of researchers with a grant supported by biotechnology company NanoString, in collaboration with the Georgia Cancer Center’s Integrated Genomics Core. Her most recent study delves into the complexities of neutrophils, the white blood cells that act as a first line of defense in the body’s immune response but can also ironically promote cancer metastasis. NanoString’s CosMx Spatial Molecular Imager, a cutting-edge platform for spatial transcriptomics, is key to deciphering these elusive cells, helping unravel the mysteries of neutrophil behavior in real time and allowing scientists to witness the changes in gene expression during the initial immune response — something that was previously impossible to do. She is collaborating with Dr. Vinata Lokeshwar, chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology who, as you know, is a renowned investigator who focuses on biomarkers and experimental therapeutics related to bladder cancer. In addition to its potential implications in other maladies like head and neck cancer, heart disease and aortic aneurysms, this project also provides a platform for students and early-career researchers to engage with cutting-edge technology and contribute to groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Great going you all.

LCME accreditation visit is week after next As we wrap up today, just a quick reminder that our reaccreditation visit from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education is scheduled for Jan. 22-24. LCME accreditation is an important process of quality assurance that determines whether medical education programs meet established standards, and it ultimately helps foster institutional and programmatic improvement. I know you all will join me in welcoming our site visitors and showing them exactly why MCG is known for educating some of the best physicians in the country and the world.

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 5 – MCG Research Fair, 5-7pm, J. Harold Harrison, MD Education Commons Lobby

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