Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.

“Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.”   -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

We Welcome the Class of 2018…
We absolutely must start today with a resounding “Welcome” to our Class of 2018! They are both a remarkable group and amazing individuals as well! This class comes to us from across 47 Georgia counties, nine states, and 52 universities and colleges. They come to us with some backgrounds you might expect, like biology and biochemistry, but they also bring knowledge in anthropology, chemical engineering, mathematics, music, and so much more! This reflects, of course, just how accomplished these students, who are so eager to learn medicine, already are. It also reflects our increasing effort to attract students who represent the truly broad definition of diverse. We think that will help us educate a next generation of physicians that best meets the needs of the eclectic and amazing individuals they will be privileged to help care for. It is truly awesome to see and to feel the excitement that comes to life every year at this time as our freshmen get measured for the iconic short white coat and meet their educators and each other for the first time. From the decibel of conversations that emanated from wherever our new students gathered, it appears that strong bonds, many of which will last a lifetime, have already begun to form. Our Alumni Association, which sponsored a bountiful welcoming meal for the students in Augusta and Athens this week, is such a wonderful example of the powerful relationships our students can make with each other and their medical school.

The First Harrison Scholars…
Among this super distinguished Class of 2018 you will find our first Harrison Scholars! They are, seriously strong drumroll here, Samuel Cochran, from Atlanta; Robert MacDonell and Stanton Royer, of Augusta; Travis Welsh, a native of Tyrone, Ga.; Anna Willis, from Powder Springs, Ga.; and Matthew Winn from Peachtree City, Ga. Our absolute congratulations to them for this truly distinct honor. We so hope that by now you all know that Dr. J. Harold Harrison is a 1948 graduate who distinguished himself as a vascular surgeon and had an amazingly successful second career as a cattle farmer. As we never tire of saying, Dr. Harrison never forgot that our medical school – his medical school – gave a country boy the opportunity to be a doctor. He and his wife Sue, first gave $10 million to the J. Harold Harrison MD Education Commons, then $66 million for student scholarship and endowed faculty chairs. As our friend, Dr. Jim Osborne, President and CEO of the MCG Foundation so eloquently put it this week, Dr. Harrison has helped ensure that we have the best facilities, faculty, and students. Talk about a serious triple threat! We and our Foundation just have to believe that Dr. Harrison, who died in 2012, would be very proud of this very first set of Harrison Scholars. We know we are.

Who, Like So Many of You, Bring Academic Excellence… And More…
The first Harrison scholars bring, not just academic excellence, but excellence overall. Stanton has a special interest in serving rural Georgia; Anna has shared her love of horses with disabled children; Matthew is a founding member of Seeds of Knowledge, which helps educate underprivileged children of Benin, Africa; and Robert is a Young Life mentor. And they are even more. Travis was a college radio host and Matthew was in the University of Georgia’s famous Redcoat Marching Band. Samuel is a gymnast. So we welcome as well this first group of Harrison Scholars. And, we struggle, once again, to find adequate words to thank Dr. Harrison and his family for their formative gift. Did you know we now have well over 150 donors for this beautifully functional Harrison Commons that should open next month?! Like Dr. Harrison, many of these donors also are our alums who know better than anyone how important this educational facility is to our present and future. So we thank them and our Foundation for being our incredible partners in making this medical school the best medical school ever. We thank each of you as well. No doubt, that while plenty great has happened, the best is yet to come!

Including a Generous Commitment to the Next Generation…
We talked last week about the awesomeness of our community – and of you – in pulling together for an incredible new Ronald McDonald House that is going up on our campus. More great news this week that shows us just how big a “community” can be. We learned that the Richard King Mellon Foundation has given $1 million to the Phoebe Foundation of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in beautiful Albany to provide super low-cost housing for medical and pharmacy students living and training in their community. The 25-unit complex will be in walking distance to Phoebe, which has been a solid anchor for our Southwest Campus since 2005. What a partner Phoebe has been and continues to be in our joint mission to educate more doctors for our state. Now, we have another terrific partner! The 60-year-old Richard King Mellon Foundation primarily invests in southwestern Pennsylvania, with great projects like The Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Foundation priorities include regional economic development and conservation, along with education, human services, and nonprofit capacity building. We so appreciate and applaud the Mellon Foundation’s investment in our state and its future as well. Our congratulations and thanks to Joel Wernick, CEO of Phoebe, and to the entire medical and hospital staff there. In typical Phoebe fashion, for years they have provided housing to our students who spend several weeks doing a rotation there. Now, those residential students who may be down that way for most of their third and fourth year of medical school will have great digs in close proximity as well. Truly terrific.

Excellence in that Commitment…
Now let’s travel to the northwest corner of our state for some more awesome news. Our students up that way have selected Dr. Paul Brock of the famed Harbin Clinic as Faculty Member of the Year. As we never tire of repeating, in the four corners of this fair state, we are so fortunate to have many, many physicians share their time, knowledge, and skill with our medical students. In fact, the reception our students receive is regularly inspiring. Well, Leonard Reeves, Assistant Dean of the Northwest Campus, tells us our students give this award to the faculty member who goes above even that high mark. One student shared that in the slightly scary transition to the clinical years, Dr. Brock put him at ease by always making him feel welcome, by really sharing his life as a general surgeon, and by setting a great example of the importance of a team. Although a clearly busy professional, he is a very patient educator and compassionate provider, another of our students said. We say: Thank you Dr. Brock, congratulations to you, and we are super glad to have you on our team!

Having the Strongest Teams…
And speaking of a great team, we welcome Amanda Hopkins Tirrell to ours. She is the brand new VP and Chief Operating Officer of our Medical Associates group. With over 20 years of senior health care management experience, Ms. Hopkins Tirrell comes to us most recently from the University of Connecticut Health Center where she was the Chief Operating Officer for the physician’s faculty practice group. In Connecticut, she helped improve clinical and financial operations for that group and helped lead design and construction of a 300,000 square foot Ambulatory Care Center scheduled to open next year in Farmington. The ACC project is part of a major overhaul of the Health Center’s campus, which is part of an even larger initiative of Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy, to strengthen his state’s position as a national and global leader for bioscience innovation as it improves access to quality health care. It’s tough to argue with any of that! And, it’s terrific to have another accomplished, committed, and innovative individual here to help ensure a bright future for our medical school and university.

And Taking on the Toughest Maladies…
Finally, let’s wrap things up with some of our own bioscience innovation! Our Dr. Rudolph Lucas and his team, including postdocs Drs. Istvàn Czikora and Supriya Sridhar, are finding out more about how the tip of a molecule known to kill off cancer may help pneumonia patients survive. They recently published some cool data that basically sums up how a peptide they’ve made to mimic the tip of tumor necrosis factor can help activate lung cells’ natural capacity to get rid of fluid, a super huge problem in pneumonia. In fact, the biotech company, APEPTICO, is already supporting clinical trials at the Medical University of Vienna that shows this synthesized peptide, that our researchers call TIP, could help patients clear more fluid and just get better. In fact, the sicker they are, the better it works. Terrific and way to go guys. Check it out here: and here:

Upcoming Events

Aug. 13 – Kickoff of I’m Giving, Are You?, the annual giving campaign to GRU and GRHealth. Alumni Center Ballroom, breakfast 6-9 am, lunch 11:30 am-2 pm; Medical Center West Lobby, breakfast, 6-9:30 am; Children’s Hospital of Georgia Conference Room, lunch, 11:30 am-2 pm.

Aug. 15 – GRHEalth Volunteer Services (really) Pay It Forward with a free car wash for GRHealth employees from 11 am to 3 pm at the old Sport Medicine Clinic, 937 15th St.

Aug. 15 – Freshman Convocation for undergraduates, all day at the Summerville Campus

Aug. 28 – MCG Alumni Association, Athens Regional Reception, 6 pm, at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Mark Ellison.

Sept. 6 – Please mark your calendars for the university’s Day of Service to the community.

Sept. 6 – MCG Foundation 60th Anniversary Celebration in conjunction with the Alumni Association’s Augusta Regional Reception, 6 pm, Augusta Marriott.

Sept. 7 – MCG Alumni Association Board Meeting, 9:30 am, GRU Health Sciences Campus.

Sept. 22 – Presidential Lecture Series, noon, Lee Auditorium. Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, former University of Toledo President, led a vigorous process of growth and transformation to establish a new vision, a new identity and a new level of educational quality and excellence at the university. For more info visit

Oct. 7 – MCG Alumni Association Regional Reception in Savannah, 6 pm, Savannah Golf Club.

Oct. 11 – White Coat Ceremony, 2 pm, Bell Auditorium.

Oct. 16 – Opening of the J. Harold Harrison MD Education Commons! More details to come.

Feb. 24 – MCG Alumni Association Planning Committee, Nominating Committee, Board Meeting and Regional Event, starting at 2:30 pm, Idle Hour Country Club, Macon.

March 5 – MCG Alumni Association Regional Reception, 6 pm, Northeast History Museum, Gainesville.

April 17 – Raft Debate, sponsored by the MCG Alumni Association, 6 pm, Lee Auditorium.

April 23-26 – Alumni Weekend.

May 4 – MCG Graduation Dinner, 6:30 pm, location to be determined.

May 7 – Hooding Ceremony, 2 pm, Bell Auditorium.

May 8 – Graduation, 2 pm, James Brown Arena.

Have a great weekend!



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