February 23, 2024

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

State of the College Address is an opportunity to inform you about and honor the work you do on behalf of your medical school

Last Friday I was privileged to give the annual State of the College Address. I always enjoy this opportunity to inform those both inside and outside these walls about the great things that are happening at MCG. This year was no different.

Hitting the high points: Our partnership with Wellstar, which will see more than a billion dollars in investment over a 10-year period, is already bearing great fruit. Our bond rating improved from B- to A+, we have improved contracts with insurers and an increased operating margin. And we expect to soon implement our new electronic medical record system, EPIC, which will improve our revenue cycles.

I also talked about the current and planned growth of our medical school, including the eventual establishment of a regional clinical campus at Wellstar Kennestone and the opening of our four-year campus in Savannah. This summer we will welcome 304 new students into the MCG Class of 2028, our largest first-year enrollment ever. There are no plans to take our foot off the pedal, even as the AU/UGA Medical Partnership transitions to the UGA School of Medicine, which will likely take 3-5 years. We expect to maintain that large class size and will absorb more students here at the main campus and likely further grow capacity in Savannah.

We also discussed our continued pursuit of reaching top 60 in NIH funding. These federal research dollars benefit medical students with more research opportunities, have a “halo effect” on our clinical programs, create a culture of discovery and help sustain a healthy economy — every dollar in funding results in $2.64 returning to the local economy. We got good news recently when the new Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research annual rankings showed we’d moved from 74th to 68th, reflecting a 17% increase in NIH funding. As you know all too well, MCG already punches above its weight, ranking 2nd out of 49 in medical schools with less than 700 faculty. We must keep pushing here as well, hiring more research faculty, and advocating for new and improved space to house them.

As always, please know that I am incredibly grateful for and proud of the work you all do on behalf of this medical school. If you couldn’t join us last week, please find the full recap here.

Keel honored for advocacy, Braun honored for professionalism, Hamrick recognized for service and leadership

The State of the College Address was also an opportunity for me to recognize three people who have been great supporters of MCG. President Brooks Keel received this year’s MCG Advocacy Award. His leadership has been key to our 3+ curriculum redesign, which he was an early proponent of. He has advocated for our continued increases in enrollment, including helping us get our plans for the Savannah four-year campus across the finish line. Dr. Kelli Braun, a Liberty County, Georgia native who graduated from MCG in 2004 and is now our senior associate dean for admissions, received this year’s Professionalism Award. Dr. Braun joined the faculty of her alma mater just after completing her OB/GYN residency and she hasn’t slowed down. We refer to her as the “Kirby Smart” of MCG because she, like UGA’s head football coach, is a top-notch recruiter. She’s led our admissions efforts since 2016, overseeing some of the largest increases in class size in our history. She is a clear leader and a visionary who has come up with some great ideas about ways to ensure we continue to recruit students who want to serve Georgia, particularly in rural and underserved areas. (More to come on that soon.) I also had the chance to express our appreciation to Dr. Mark Hamrick, our senior associate dean for research, with the Distinguished Leadership and Outstanding Service Award. Dr. Hamrick is retiring soon and I’m honestly still in denial about that. He will certainly leave a hole in our faculty and in our hearts that will be hard to fill. He and I have worked closely over the years to move MCG toward that top 60 research ranking and I have admired his knowledge, his persistence and his service to others. I have always believed the strength of MCG and AU lies in its people and these three are great examples of why. Thank you all.

Macon regional reception is a chance to reconnect with alums, other MCG supporters

One of my favorite things I get to do as dean is traveling to regional receptions and meeting with our great alumni and other supporters across the state. I always find among those I meet more wonderful examples of the strength and impact of our medical school. This week, my travels took me to Macon for our Regional Alumni Reception. We always have a great turnout and a lively discussion with our alumni there. This time was no different. I got to meet with alums like dermatologist, Dr. Billie Jackson, a 1984 graduate; MCG Foundation Board Member, Dr. Jackson’s classmate and anesthesiologist, Dr. Paul Turk; 1967 graduate, former MCG Alumni Association President and longtime family medicine physician, Dr. Bill Brooks; and 1978 graduate, Dr. Cindy Mercer, an OB/GYN who serves on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, as well as the Georgia DPH’s Board of Public Health. It was also a treat to have Regent W. Allen Gudenrath there to show his support for MCG and our alumni. I look forward to meeting with another great group at our next regional reception March 21 in Athens at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Mark Ellison. I hope some of you can join us then.

Dr. Bill Kanto honored by Southern Society for Pediatric Research

You can’t talk about the greats of MCG without talking about Dr. Bill Kanto. A neonatologist and Virginia native, he came to MCG in the ‘70s, intent on starting a NICU transport team to bring premature and critically ill newborns to our then-tiny neonatal intensive care unit — a goal he helped accomplish in short order. He has served in countless leadership roles here — chief of neonatology, chair of our Department of Pediatrics, medical director of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia (then known as the Children’s Medical Center), and as the medical school’s vice dean for special projects and senior associate dean for clinical affairs. He’s also been a national leader, serving in roles like chair of the Standards Committee for the Southern Perinatal Association, charter member of the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) and as one of the first members and eventually vice president and president of the Southern Society for Pediatric Research (SSPR). I’m excited to share that this weekend the SSPR will honor Dr. Kanto with its Founders Award, a prestigious legacy award that is presented to a member who has made significant contributions to both the health care of children and the activities of the society. That certainly fits. According to Dr. Brian Stansfield, a neonatologist and our pediatrics’ vice chair for research, who will get the honor of introducing him this weekend, Dr. Kanto is the true definition of a mentor who has always taken a personal and professional interest in younger faculty like him, and this award is long overdue. I certainly agree. Congratulations, Dr. Kanto.

Igniting the Dream of Medicine is happening this weekend

Speaking of taking a vested interest in the next generation, a lot of that will be going on this weekend as we host our 10th annual Igniting the Dream of Medicine Conference this Saturday on campus. It’s a day-long conference that offers high school and college students from across the state a glimpse into what medical school is really like. I’m told a little over 200 of them will join us for sessions on things like how to prepare for the MCAT and how to find the best mentors. They’ll hear advice from current medical students and even have interactive sessions in the Interdisciplinary Simulation Center on how to tie surgical knots, intubate patients and how to stop massive bleeds. It’s always an inspiring experience for these students and for our faculty who get to share their expertise with younger generations. This conference was actually started by our assistant dean for academic advising, Dr. LaShon Sturgis, while she was still in medical school here at MCG. In a full circle moment, Dr. Sturgis is this year’s keynote speaker. My thanks to our Office of Belonging and Inclusivity, including associate dean and MCG graduate, Dr. Vanessa Spearman-McCarthy; assistant dean, Dr. Tania Arora; and their program managers, Lauren Clayton and Connie Hamlett. Thanks as well to our MCG Chapter of the Student National Medical Association, including fourth-year student and president Allison Lewis, who is serving and the conference’s student coordinator; and her co-presidents, first-year students Carrington Moore and Maya Stephens. I know it will be a great event.

Our thoughts are with our colleagues at the College of Nursing, both here and in Athens  

Yesterday we got the shocking and devastating news that a student studying at the Augusta University College of Nursing campus in Athens died while on a morning run on the University of Georgia campus, and foul play is suspected. We join with the entire AU and UGA communities in mourning this tragic loss of a young and promising life. Our hearts are certainly with all those who loved her.

All my best to you,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

Feb 28 – Celebrating 50 Years of Trailblazing, 6pm, ZOOM LINK, hosted by MCG Faculty Success

Feb 29 – Promotion and Tenure Workshop, 4pm, REGISTER, TEAMS LINK, hosted by MCG Faculty Success

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