May 3, 2024

Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,

New admissions program offers assurance pathway from MS to MD

We talked recently about a new admissions pipeline program that is designed to place more students at our regional campuses in Albany and Rome/Dalton, and hopefully in those communities after they graduate from MCG. Well, I’m here to tell you that the wheels never stop turning in the brain of our senior associate dean for admissions, Dr. Kelli Braun. Proof is in yet another new admissions program called the Early Assurance Pathway, MS to MD, which is the first of its kind in Georgia. Acknowledging that not everyone has access to the type of education that prepares them for the rigors of applying and being accepted to medical school, this program allows select interviewed students, identified by the MCG Admissions Committee, an opportunity to grow academically, professionally, and personally while enrolled in AU’s wonderful Master’s in Medical Physiology program. Some key benefits: it’s a two-semester course-based program whose curriculum mirrors the learning objectives of medical school; students are instructed by faculty who are currently teaching at MCG and The Graduate School; and it offers personalized advising for academic support, personal growth and career development. Successful completion of the program means acceptance at MCG, although we know some of those enrolled will find their passion for biomedical research and may choose to continue toward that path. Sounds like a win-win for us and for the master’s program. This new program is being piloted now with applicants that had already interviewed with us and who were reviewed by the Admissions Committee. We hope to expand it to more applicants in the future. Thank you to Dr. Braun and her amazing admissions staff, and to Physiology chair, Dr. Dave Mattson, as well as program director, Dr. Ruchi Patel, for working together to ensure we educate the best and brightest future physicians and scientists for Georgia.

Dr. Dean Seehusen selected to help develop tests for USMLE

Drs. Braun, Mattson and Patel are just some examples of the caliber of people we are privileged to have here. Here’s another. Our chair of Family and Community Medicine, Dr. Dean Seehusen, has been asked by the United States Medical Licensing Examination Secretariat, the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners to help develop content for the USMLE Ambulatory Care Test. This important checkpoint for medical learners ensures that they fully grasp a wide breadth of topics in adult medicine — from pulmonary to behavioral health and more. I can’t think of anyone better for the job than Dr. Seehusen who originally came to us in 2018 as associate dean for Graduate Medical Education. With nearly two decades of experience in academic medicine this family physician was a logical choice for chair when longtime department chair, Dr. Joseph Hobbs retired in 2020. Dr. Seehusen is deputy editor of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, one of the foremost journals in the field, and he writes questions for the board’s National Journal Club. He also is a former editor-in-chief of Priority Updates from the Research Literature Surveillance System, which targets newly published research expected to change family medicine and primary care and generates new evidence-based recommendations for practice – experience that seems like something that may be especially valuable in this new role. Congratulations, Dr. Seehusen.

Distinguished alums honored at Alumni Weekend

While we certainly have plenty of examples of amazing faculty and staff here, I am also consistently awed by the caliber of our alumni, their impact in the communities they serve and the legacy they have helped create for this medical school. All of that was on full display this past weekend during our Alumni Weekend festivities. We got to honor people like Dr. Price Corr, a 1977 graduate and native of Albany who returned to his hometown to practice after his general surgery residency here and has never left. This Distinguished Alumnus for Loyalty had a particular interest in vein problems and performed the first vena cava filter placement (to protect patients from blood clots going to their lungs) in Albany in 1984. And his service to MCG certainly isn’t over – he’s just signed to be president of our Alumni Association. People like the aforementioned Dr. Joseph Hobbs, who spent four decades in service to his medical school. This 1974 graduate who taught and influenced thousands of medical students and cared for countless patients, while also working to expand training opportunities in underserved Georgia, is this year’s Distinguished Alumnus for Professional Achievement. As I’ve said before, Dr. Hobbs’ name is synonymous with MCG and he is more than deserving of this recognition.

Dr. Christopher Jackson was named Outstanding Young Alumnus

We also honored Dr. Christopher Jackson, a 2015 graduate and internist who is an associate professor of medicine, assistant dean for student affairs and associate program director for curriculum at University of Tennessee Health Science Center. This past October, Dr. Jackson was named the 118th president of the Southern Medical Association, becoming both the youngest and first Black president to serve in that role.

It was also a bittersweet opportunity to honor two of our Distinguished Alumni posthumously — the late Dr. Carol Pryor, a 1947 graduate, OB/GYN and trailblazer for women in medicine; and the late Dr. Fred Mullins, a 1996 graduate, and world renowned expert in burn care who was medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital and President/CEO of Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America.

We wrapped up with the always touching annual alumni memorial service

It was a full four days that was a much-deserved celebration of our outstanding alumni community. Other high points included the 50th reunion for the Class of 1974 – which is coincidentally Dr. Hobbs’ class. We had 60+ people in attendance at a cocktail reception for them that was graciously hosted by their classmate, retired radiologist, Dr. James Davis, and his wife Marie, at their beautiful West Lake home. We continued the celebrations with class reunions on Saturday night at the Augusta Mariott and wrapped things up Sunday, where we were treated to the most incredible peach-stuffed French Toast I’ve ever tasted at our Emeritus Club Breakfast.

We ended the weekend like we always do, with the heartrending MCG Alumni Memorial Service, where we were honored to remember 70 alums who have passed away since last year. I am particularly thankful to my friend Jeff Flowers, our retired director of spiritual care, who was there to pay tribute to them and their loved ones. This was Jeff’s 27th alumni memorial service and I can think of no one better to assure their families that these alums will never be forgotten by their medical school.

My thanks to the entire Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement staff for their tireless work to bring these celebrations to life each year, particularly Wes Zamzow, executive director of alumni engagement and his incredible staff. Job well done.

Lab Crawl highlights important research at Georgia Cancer Center

Did I mention last week was a busy one? I also had the chance, on Tuesday, to attend the first-ever Cancer Research Lab Crawl which highlighted some of the cutting-edge research going on here at the Georgia Cancer Center. Featured investigators included Dr. Malcolm Bevel, a chronic disease and cancer epidemiologist who studies social determinants of health and how they affect obesity-related cancers; Dr. Ahmed Chadli, whose work focuses on understanding the biology of cancer, specifically breast cancer, and developing new drugs to treat it. You’ll remember that Dr. Chadli just received $2.8 million from the NCI to study a novel immunotherapeutic target for treating triple-negative breast cancer. We also visited Dr. Balveen Kaur, the GCC’s associate director for basic science and program director for the Molecular Oncology and Immunology Program, whose lab specializes in developing new biotherapies. These, of course, are just the tip of the amazing iceberg when it comes to the discoveries happening at MCG and the Cancer Center, but this was a neat way for our community – and me – to learn more about them.

Brain Aging and Neurodegeneration Symposium featured recognized speakers from MCG and other medical schools

Another opportunity to highlight the importance of research – both on our campus and at medical schools across the country – came on Thursday at the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine’s annual Augusta Brain Aging & Neurodegeneration Symposium. We had great speakers from here, like Dr. Qin Wang, director of our Program for Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Discovery and our department chair Dr. Xin-Yun Lu. We also got to hear from people like Dr. Guo-li Ming from the University of Pennsylvania who is looking into how to engineer human brain organoids – 3D structures derived from human pluripotent stem cells — to model brain development and injury; as well as Dr. Erik Roberson from UAB and Dr. Brian Bacskai from Harvard, who both talked about their Alzheimer’s research. These topics are particularly timely and rightfully a major research area of emphasis here and across the world. Nearly 7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million. Thank you, Dr. Lu and team, for giving us all insight into the discoveries that may help change that trajectory.

Hooding is Thursday, May 9 at James Brown Arena

One final note for today: The Hooding Ceremony for our 188th graduating class – the amazing Class of 2024 – is next Thursday at 2 p.m. at the James Brown Arena. This year’s guest speaker is Dr. Kimberly Manning, a general internist/hospitalist at Emory and Grady Memorial Hospital. She’s known for her innovative approach to medical education and her public speaking/blogging – she currently has a whopping 100,000+ followers on Twitter/X. We’ll also have with us, Dr. Anil Puri, a 2005 graduate and a favorite among our students and our faculty, who is graciously stepping in for Dr. Corr to welcome our newest graduates to the MCG Alumni Family. Please join me to celebrate our newest colleagues.

My best to you all,

Dean Hess Signature

David C. Hess, MD

Dean, Medical College of Georgia

Upcoming Events

May 4 – Unite in the Fight Against Cancer, a one-mile walk honoring those affected by cancer. Festivities begin at 8 am, Bert Storey Research Building

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

May 11 – Flex Fest, a fundraiser for the MCG Neuromuscular Clinic; with music by Wycliffe Gordon and friends, and others; 4 p.m.-12 a.m., Savannah River Brewing Co., 813 5th St.; get tickets:

May 15 – American Red Cross MCG Chapter Blood Drive, 8am-1pm, J. Harold Harrison, MD Education Commons Lobby

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