March 22, 2024

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

Match Day brings great news for our senior medical students and MCG

Exactly a week ago today the excitement and elation were palpable at our Match Day celebrations, both on our Partnership Campus in Athens and at SRP Park in North Augusta, when 244 of our senior medical students found out where they’ll spend the next three to seven years training in their chosen specialties. In Augusta, even a little rain shower couldn’t quell the joy. It’s easy to see why. True to their usual form, our students did extremely well and I’m happy to report that 99% obtained a residency position. That’s higher than the national match rate, which was 93.5% for US MD seniors. That’s also no small feat given the stiff competition. According to the National Resident Matching Program, this year’s Match included 44,853 active applicants vying for 41,503 certified positions in 6,395 residency training programs. As we’ve discussed, there are obviously more applicants than positions, something we have to work to address, particularly in Georgia. Some of the Class of 2024’s other notable stats: They matched in 36 states and 25 specialties. 28% matched in Georgia for their first postgraduate year; and of those 10% will stay at a Wellstar MCG Health or another MCG-affiliated residency program. 56% matched into primary care, including 8 Peach State Scholars who have also committed to work in rural and underserved Georgia. The class’s top specialties included internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopaedic surgery, general surgery, OB/GYN, emergency medicine, anesthesiology, family medicine, psychiatry and ophthalmology.

Residency slots at Wellstar MCG Health all filled as well

Match Day was also exciting for our Graduate Medical Education office. As you all know, we train around 575 residents and fellows in 51-Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education-accredited programs, 15 non-standard training programs and 3 research programs. Residents and fellows apply to our GME programs via the Main Match and other Match programs (like early matches for urology and ophthalmology, for example). This year, we matched 123 of them in the Main, Ophthalmology and Urology Matches combined; 42 trainees matched in the Medicine Subspecialty, Pediatric Subspecialty, and other fellowship Matches. Overall, we expect to have (give or take) 186 new trainees for the next academic year, with most of them joining us July 1. I know our GME office is already hard at work preparing for their onboarding and orientation, which will be held the last week of June. I would be remiss not to recognize here the tremendous efforts of our entire Academic Affairs Team. Getting our students, residents and fellows to this point in their careers is truly a yeoman’s task and you all make it look easy. My congratulations to all our students and residents as well. I hope that seeing your often-lifelong hard work and dedication finally come to fruition gives you an immense sense of pride in all you have accomplished. Please know that it does so for me, and for your medical school as well.

Faculty, residents and fellows honored with Exemplary Teaching Awards

I certainly recognize that none of the achievements of our students, residents and fellows would be possible without our incredible medical educators. And last week, our Office for Faculty and Continuous Professional Development shared with me the list of those who will be honored with Exemplary Teaching Awards for their work during the 2022-23 Academic Year. The awards are broken down into three major categories: Undergraduate Medical Education, which recognizes recipients for their quality (based on student evaluations and exemplary contributions) and quantity, or number of learners they teach; Graduate Medical Education recipients that are selected at the department level based on their impacts on GME; and Residents and Fellows as Teachers, also selected at the department level based on their impacts, but on both UME and GME. It was an impressive list with 164 honorees from across MCG Departments and campuses, including the AU/UGA Medical Partnership, as well as our clinical regional campuses in Albany, Savannah/Brunswick and Rome/Dalton. See the complete list of honorees here. Great work, you all.

Ralph Turner selected as senior vice president and hospital president for Wellstar MCG Health

The good news kept coming last week when we learned that my friend Ralph Turner, denizen of Valdosta, who has been leading the charge at Wellstar MCG Health on an interim basis for more than six months, was named to a permanent role here as senior vice president and hospital president. In his short time with us, Ralph has earned a reputation as an enthusiastic yet patient leader, who truly listens and is always ready with a solution to a problem. His background includes a doctorate in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and master’s degrees in health care administration and public administration from the University of Maryland and Troy University at Dothan, respectively. He served our country honorably for more than 21 years in the U.S. Army before launching his health care career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as director of the Clinical Engineering Division. He’s held leadership roles at large complex health care organizations like MedStar Washington Hospital Center, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, and Cleveland Clinic. He joined Wellstar in 2022 as SVP and president at Wellstar Paulding Hospital. I have truly enjoyed working with Ralph to help combine our corporate cultures and blend our people, process and technologies. I look forward to doing more of that and am glad to know he has a permanent place on our team.

Virtual Care expo is planned for next week

You’ll likely remember that when AU Health and Wellstar joined together last September to form our unified health system, we talked a lot about how our partnership would help expand digital health throughout the state. It’s allowing us to build on our existing strengths in telehealth while making significant investments in improving clinical IT, modernizing digital care centers and adding even more remote care offerings backed by the academic medical expertise of our medical school. Next week, we get to show some of that off. Our Center for Telehealth and medical center are hosting a Virtual Care at Home Immersive Demonstration, which, as its name implies, will offer a look at our remote care programs through the eyes of our patients. Virtual Care at Home, which encompasses four programs that go down in intensity of care from Hospital at Home (the most intense) to Observation at Home, Post-Admit at Home and Enhanced Care at Home (the least intense), is truly changing the health care model. We have stats that show how these programs improve patient outcomes and cut costs for our health system. A win-win if you ask me. Please join them Tuesday, March 26, from 1-3 p.m. in the Magnolia Room in Terrace Dining, on the second floor of our hospital. My thanks to the seemingly inexhaustible Dr. Matt Lyon, director of the Center for Telehealth and the equally fierce Lauren Hopkins, the center’s associate director for operations and associate vice president for virtual care and community engagement at Wellstar MCG Health, for their tireless work bringing these care models to patients in Georgia.

Dr. Ahmed Chadli receives $2.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute

The secret to MCG’s success, I believe, lies in its people. The perseverance, tenacity and just plain hard work of people like Dr. Lyon and Lauren Hopkins is one great example. Here’s another: We recently learned that Dr. Ahmed Chadli, a biochemist in the Departments of Medicine and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, as well as the Georgia Cancer Center, recently received a $2.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study the protein UNC45A as a promising novel immunotherapeutic target for treating triple-negative breast cancer. This cancer is more common in women under age 40 and tends to grow and spread faster and have a worse prognosis. It is hard to treat because it does not express estrogen or progesterone receptors, nor does it make a lot of the HER2 protein, meaning available treatments that target these proteins don’t work. Dr. Chadli started researching UNC45A over two decades ago when he was a postdoc at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. More recently he has genetically engineered tools that have allowed him to see its key role in promoting tumor growth and that inhibiting it allows the immune system to wake up and recognize these tumors as the invaders they are. His next steps include identifying ways to replicate this in humans, with the eventual goal of bringing a new treatment to clinical trials. Thank you, Dr. Chadli, for your persistence in finding better treatments for this devastating disease.

Nearly 60 donors give to MCG programs through Augusta Gives

We talked last week about Augusta Gives Day, our 5th annual day of giving. I’m happy to report some great results this week. Fifty-nine donors came together to give to MCG. Some of the highlights this year include a new scholarship for medical students from under-resourced backgrounds who want to specialize in hematology/oncology that was established by a gift from Dr. Betty Pace, Frances Tedesco Chair of Pediatric Hemotology/Oncology; an endowment from Drs. Klaus Ley and Lynn Hedrick, co-directors of our Immunology Center of Georgia to support the new Margaret-Gertraud Immunology Lectureship, which is named in honor of their mothers; a generous first-time gift from Curtis Mills in honor of his wife, Dorothy Whelchel, DVM, and in memory her late father, the Dr. John Davis Whelchel, Jr., a 1966 graduate and transplant surgeon who directed the transplant programs at Emory University and Piedmont hospital in Atlanta, that will support leadership development of surgery residents and faculty here; and many gifts to support our Stethoscope Fund, including one from Dr. Anil Puri, a 2005 graduate and Milledgeville internist, and pulmonary/critical care and sleep medicine specialist (not to mention our former Alumni Association president), that will provide at least 20 stethoscopes to incoming freshmen medical students. I can’t thank you all enough for your support. Your generosity is inspiring.

All my best to you,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

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

Apr 19 – MCG Research Day, 4-6pm, J. Harold Harrison, MD Education Commons 1120-D

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