March 8, 2024

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Two events this weekend offer prospective students another look at our great medical school

As one of the largest medical schools by class size in the country — and growing — an integral part of our mission is ensuring we are educating the finest possible future physicians and physician/scientists. Each year, we get thousands of applications from well qualified individuals who have made it their lifelong dream and pursuit to enter our profession. Choosing the most outstanding and well-rounded among them, the 304 who will make up our freshman class, is no easy feat. I am consistently amazed by, and eternally grateful to, our Office of Admissions and the Admissions Committee, and others throughout Academic Affairs, for the work they do on a near constant basis to ensure the best and brightest make it to MCG – their work truly never ends. Case in point, many of them, and many of you, will be on campus this weekend, for two events, giving accepted, but not yet committed students, a closer look at the truly first-rate educational experience our medical school offers. First up, and happening today, is Second Look, organized by our Office of Belonging and Inclusivity, which is aimed at students who identify as Underrepresented in Medicine. Then tomorrow, around 175 potential students will join us for MCG Class of 2028 Visit Day. Both events offer up interactions with our fantastic faculty and our amazing students, as well as tours of our great facilities and a look at what a “day in the life” here is really like. I’m happy to tell you that both Second Look and Visit Day boast a retention rate of 80% or better, meaning at least that many of these revisits in past years have resulted in commitments to attend this great medical school. Thank you to all our faculty, staff and student volunteers, who put so much time and effort into ensuring these potential students see what an incredible opportunity awaits them at our medical school.

Third-year student wins prestigious psychiatry award

It’s obvious that all the hard work has paid off in spades. The proof is in our amazing medical students, who I believe are some of the best and brightest in the country. Here’s just one example – Third-year student, Anki Vayalapalli, recently became the first MCG student to ever take first place in the Joe & Hope Skobba Memorial Award for Resident Research Poster Competition at the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Associations winter meeting. This award is named in honor of the late Dr. Joe Skobba, a psychiatrist at Emory University and past president of the GPPA, who advocated for resident research and education. The award annually honors three trainees in Georgia for excellence in research. Anki’s research has focused on how treatment with the antipsychotic drug Clozapine can improve patients’ terminal insomnia and is also associated with more than 14-fold increased odds of improving their suicidal ideations. Dr. Brian Miller, a professor in our Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior who has studied the effects of Clozapine in people with schizophrenia, has been Anki’s mentor since her first year of medical school. In a full-circle moment, Dr. Miller himself received this award in 2006, 2007 and 2008, while he was a resident here at MCG. Congratulations, Anki on the recognition of this important work, and thank you Dr. Miller for your mentorship.

Gold Humanism Honor Society inducts newest class

Here are even more examples: Each year, our chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society inducts its newest class of third-year medical students, as well as a group of faculty and residents, recognizing them for their outstanding examples of compassionate care. It’s a group of current and future physicians I am humbled to count myself a part of. This weekend we welcomed the newest MCG members. Our 37 new student members are third-year students Warda Abdi, Queen Abure, Abigail Abernathy, Samantha Brener, Gabriela Duchesne, Katherine Dunn, Sadhana Durbha, Destine Ede, Hannah Huang, Madison James, Aleisha Khan, Joyce Kim, Frederick Kudlata, Kali Malham, McKenzie Maloney, James Mansfield, Katerina Massengale, Hannah Myers, Tena Nguyen, Olivia Piscano, Elexis Price, Luke Scanlan, Tylin Siwemuke, Katlyn Smaha, Katharine Tracey, Grant Whitebloom and Eddie Xie, and Robin Yi from our Augusta Campus; and Will Evans, Tucker Hickox, Harris Jamal, Delaney Metcalf, Shivani Patel, Erik Rosas, Eric Santana, Sachi Shastri and Katherine Street from our Athens Campus. Resident inductees are Dr. Axel Baez-Lugo from Neurology; Dr. Susan Brands from Emergency Medicine; Drs. Chelsey Carter and Raheem Robertson from Internal Medicine; and Dr. My Duyen Vo from Pediatrics. Faculty inductees were Dr. Amanda Barrett, Pathology; Dr. April Hartman, Pediatrics; Dr. Ellen House, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; and Dr. Louise Thai, Preventive Medicine. Congratulations to you all and thank you for your example of how to be humanistic and compassionate leaders in medicine. You all make me and your medical school proud.

Match Day is next Friday

A day that is also always sure to make me proud is our annual Match Day celebration. This rite of passage is when our senior medical students find out where they’re going to spend the next three to seven years of their training. It’s always a rousing celebration and one of my favorite days. Our students, who consistently earn spots in top-tier residency programs in Georgia and across the country, always get creative with a great theme and costumes to match. This year they’re flashing back to the early 2000s, which probably doesn’t seem like much of a flashback to many of us. I hope you can join us next Friday, March 15 at SRP Park, in North Augusta, to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our Class of 2024. Gates open at 10 a.m. and the ceremony begins at 10:45. If you can’t be there, we’ll share the results of MCG Match 2024 in our next Dean’s Diary.

Moretz Surgical Society meeting is always a great opportunity to learn and reconnect

Switching gears a little, this past weekend, I was glad to be able to attend our Department of Surgery’s annual Moretz Surgical Society Conference. This annual gathering of great surgeons from Georgia and across the country bears the name of MCG legend, Dr. William Moretz, who served as department chair from 1955-72 and as then-MCG’s fourth president, and features informing lectures about the latest and greatest surgical techniques. There were also special speakers like Dr. Neil Tanna, a plastic surgeon from New York, who was the Arlie R. Mansberger Jr., MD Lecturer, and our new plastic surgery chief Dr. David Zabel, who gave the Sam Richwine, MD Lecture (Side note — Dr. Mansberger and Dr. Richwine are absolutely also MCG legends in their own right). A particularly poignant part of the conference came at the dinner ceremony where the family of the late Dr. Karen Yeh, a 1988 MCG graduate who worked as a surgical oncologist both here and at Piedmont and sadly passed away from chronic lung disease last year, received her iconic Moretz Society Red Jacket. Dr. Yeh was certainly a force — chairing the Piedmont Augusta Cancer Committee, founding the hospital’s Cancer Survivorship Program and serving as a liaison for the American Cancer Society, among her many other roles. It was certainly fitting that she be honored posthumously.

Dinner recognizing Dr. Sanders Callaway and wife Dana is a great gathering of current and former program trainees

Last week also brought the opportunity for me to join faculty and staff from our Department of Dermatology at a dinner recognizing Dr. Sanders Callaway and his wife Dana for their transformative gift that established their eponymous endowed chair, which is held by department chair, Dr. Loretta Davis. Their gift also provided the impetus to move dermatology from a division back to a department, which has helped improve recruitment and retention of even more great faculty. The Callaway’s beautiful condo on Walton Way was packed with close to 70 people. This is a tight-knit group of current and former trainees, many of whom brought their spouses and came from all over the country to join us. They included Dr. Chad Brown, who came all the way from Kentucky; Dr. Carol McConnell, who came from Greensboro, North Carolina; Drs. Chris Peterson and Joel Phillips, who came from Greenville, South Carolina; and Dr. Tammy McLean, who came over from Columbus. Local attendees and former trainees included the likes of Dr. Anne Loebl, a former resident and beloved dermatologist, who came with her husband, Dr. Don Loebl, a retired rheumatologist who trained in our fellowship program and then joined the faculty. It was a great gathering of MCG supporters that was another good reminder of the power of philanthropy and how it can help transform our medical school.

Augusta Gives will help raise money for research, student scholarships, stethoscopes    

While we’re on the subject of the importance of philanthropy, I wanted to make sure you all are aware of Augusta Gives Day, which will happen Wednesday, March 20. This is our university’s fifth annual day of giving and this year, you can donate to great MCG causes like our world-renowned Vascular Biology Center or James and Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute; to student scholarships, which help us ensure we retain the most highly qualified medical students, or the Stethoscope Program, that ensures every freshman receives a stethoscope — both needs that will only grow as we increase our class size this year.

We mourn the passing of MCG great, Dr. Charles Wray

We’ve talked a lot about MCG icons this week and today we are saddened to note the passing of one of the greats — Dr. Charles Wray, a 1959 graduate who made it his mission to serve his medical school and his profession. It’s hard to know what to say about someone like Dr. Wray, except that he was the type of consummate leader and educator that we all should try to emulate — a wise adviser but a man of few words. When he spoke, you listened.

Dr. Wray was born in Orlando but moved to Union Point, Georgia as a young boy. As a teen he was ordained as a Baptist minister and by college he was serving as an interim pastor. But something switched in him, and he later decided that medicine was to be his ministry. We were all better for that switch. After his general surgery residency, he joined our faculty in 1964 and thankfully never left us — serving as chief of vascular and general surgery, vice chair and interim chair of the Department of Surgery and as interim MCG dean twice — from 1988-89 and 1992-94. He oversaw a badly needed renovation of MCG’s teaching hospital, then called Eugene Talmadge Memorial Hospital in the 1970s; overhauled its program delivering medical care to prisoners; presided over its physicians practice group; and served as vice president for the university’s clinical activities.

His dedication to his profession and to MCG was only overshadowed by his dedication to his family, including his wife, the formidable Dr. Betty Wray, who established our Section of Allergy and Immunology and served as its chair, as well as interim MCG dean herself. They were the definition of soulmates — a true dynamic duo who were almost always seen side by side. Our thoughts are certainly with Betty and the Wray’s children, Charles, Brian, Lee and Julienne, as well as their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Please know that Charlie’s impact will be felt and celebrated here for many years to come.

All my best to you,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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,

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

May 23 – MCG Faculty Awards Ceremony, 5pm, Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium