February 9, 2024

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Wellstar MCG Health is first hospital in Georgia approved for Acute Care Hospital at Home program

It’s hard to believe it has already been five months since the launch of Wellstar MCG Health. We said then that this new partnership would help financially stabilize and grow our health system and our medical school, as well as expand clinical care to more Georgians, and that has certainly proven to be true. As you well know by now, we are in the process of notifying the Liaison Committee on Medical Education of our plans to establish a new regional campus at Wellstar Kennestone in Marietta, where we currently have 16 students doing most of their core clinical rotations. We recently received even more great news of growth when we learned that Wellstar MCG Health is the first hospital in Georgia to receive waiver approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement a Hospital at Home program here. Health system leadership is currently working with the Georgia Department of Community Health to identify next steps to fully launch this program that sees patients’ homes essentially transformed into a hospital. It works like this: When a patient presents at the emergency room, they receive the standard physical screenings to determine whether they need to be admitted to the brick-and-mortar hospital or whether, based on the complexity of their condition, it is suitable to treat them at home.

Patients are treated at home, which improves patient satisfaction and outcomes

If patients can be treated at home, someone, usually a community paramedic, goes with them and sets up remote continuous monitoring of their vital signs, and other support like IV fluids or respiratory care, as needed. They also begin to receive, at minimum, twice-daily in-home visits from a nurse or community paramedic, as well as a physician or advanced practice provider. Their labs are collected at home, and they can even receive dietary support, having specialized meals delivered. If an emergency arises, someone is deployed to their home within 30 minutes and the entire virtual care team meets to decide whether they need to be transferred back to the hospital to continue their care or can continue care where they are. As its name implies, the program mimics the care and support a patient would receive at an actual hospital. This approach, meeting patients where they are, has been shown to improve patient satisfaction as well as quality and treatment outcomes – a win for everyone. There’s an opportunity to learn more about this model of care, and other virtually focused models at a Virtual Care at Home Immersive Demonstration Tuesday, March 26 in the Magnolia Room at our hospital’s Terrace Dining. I have to note here that none of this would be possible without the tremendous work of Dr. Matt Lyon, director of our Center for Telehealth, and Lauren Hopkins, associate vice president for virtual care and community engagement, as well as the entire health system leadership team. My thanks to you all.

Dr. Ashok Sharma and colleagues establish Aqueous Humor Database to help advance vision research

The work that all of you do to improve people’s lives is a great source of pride for me, for this medical school and for our health system. We got another great example of that work this week when we learned that, after more than five years of dedication and persistence, Dr. Ashok Sharma, associate professor and director of the bioinformatics core in the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, and a team of fellow researchers from the center, our Department of Ophthalmology and the Culver Vision Discovery Institute have established the Aqueous Humor (AH) Proteome Database. The AH is a low viscosity biofluid that continuously circulates and plays essential roles in supplying nutrients, removing waste and providing oxygen to the avascular tissues of the eye. The functions and interactions of its proteins, called the proteomic composition, are crucial to understanding cellular processes, including cell-to-cell communication, signal transduction, immunological modulation and cell proliferation. And changes in this composition have been associated with conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, retinoblastoma and diabetic retinopathy. Advances in high-resolution mass-spectrometry have helped scientists take a closer look at these proteins and make those associations, but more research is needed and access to that technology is limited. This new database will help eliminate that problem and includes data from 307 human AH samples, comprehensive information on 1,683 proteins identified in the AH, as well as relevant clinical data for each analyzed sample. This is truly a significant step forward and will, no doubt, have an invaluable impact on the field of vision research. Congratulations to you all on the realization of your years of hard work.

Dr. Angello Lin is the new chief of transplant surgery

The good news continues this week. I am happy to share that Dr. Angello Lin, an abdominal transplant surgeon with special interests in kidney and pancreas transplant and vascular access surgery, has joined us as chief of transplant surgery. He comes to MCG from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where he has worked for the last 23 years. Dr. Lin says his treatment philosophy stems from his experiences as a Taiwanese immigrant who barely spoke English when he arrived in the United States. He remembers often feeling lost and confused. He says he wants his patients never to feel that way and makes it his priority to help them understand as much as possible about what their care involves. Dr. Lin attended Emory University as an undergraduate and was offered a Woodruff Scholarship to also attend medical school there. He also completed his general surgical residency at Emory and was honored by fourth-year medical students as Resident Teacher of the Year. After residency, he became the first trainee to complete Emory’s transplant fellowship in 2000. At MUSC, he has been an honored educator and has served as director of medical student education in the Transplant Division, as well as director of the Vascular Access and Pancreas Transplantation Programs. I look forward to his leadership as we continue to grow our transplant programs here.

Early results helping build excitement for Match Day

Continuing with the excitement this week, some of our early Match results are in and to say they’re looking good would be an understatement. While the majority of residency training programs fill their slots through the National Resident Matching Program in March, several subspecialties and the military participate in early Match programs. Back in December, we celebrated 10 of our seniors who have committed to service in our Armed Forces as they entered the Military Match. They earned spots in residency programs in a wide range of competitive subspecialties like dermatology and orthopaedic surgery. Last week, we learned that eight students have matched with urology residency programs across the country and this week we learned that 10 matched with ophthalmology training programs. These are exciting results and further proof of what I routinely hear from residency program directors all over the country – that MCG graduates some of the best prepared students they have ever seen. We will celebrate the accomplishments of these and the rest of our seniors at our Match Day festivities Friday, March 15, at SRP Park in North Augusta. It’s always a great time, so please join us. Of course, these students’ incredible accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and the dedication of our faculty and staff, who help shape the future of our profession by pouring themselves into these future physicians and physician-scientists.

Dr. Yisang Yoon, professor in our Department of Physiology, passes away

One of the people who certainly dedicated his career to leaving an impact on the future of medicine and of science was Dr. Yisang Yoon, a professor and director of the graduate program in our Department of Physiology. It saddens me to share today that Dr. Yoon passed away Monday, Jan. 29, after an extended illness. Dr. Yoon was a true pioneer in the field of mitochondrial dynamics who, in the words of Physiology Chair Dr. Dave Mattson, “had a truly outsized influence on our understanding of cellular metabolism.” He first joined our faculty in 2012 and among his many accomplishments, he and his colleagues, including his wife, Dr. Hakjoo Lee, who worked alongside him in the lab, produced a series of highly cited and impactful papers demonstrating that the change in mitochondrial shape is a key element in the regulation of electron transport and ROS production. I’m told he was the epitome of the quiet and thoughtful scholar; a true gentleman and a wonderful co-worker, whose steady presence and willingness to help will be missed tremendously. His loss will certainly be felt in our medical school and in the scientific community for many years to come. Our thoughts are with his many family, friends and colleagues.

State of the College Address is next Friday

Finally today, I wanted to remind you that the MCG State of the College Address next Friday, Feb. 16, at noon in the Lee Auditorium. I hope you can join us as we celebrate the successes of the last year and discuss the current state of your medical school.

All my best to you,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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

Feb 20 – MCG Alumni Association Macon Regional Reception, Idle Hour County Club

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

Mar 15 – Faculty Regalia Order for Hooding Due, complete the order form to request a rental package

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

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

Apr 26-28 – MCG Alumni Weekend, https://www.augusta.edu/alumniweekend/

May 9 – MCG Hooding Ceremony, 2pm, James Brown Arena