The accrediting body for U.S. medical schools has given its blessing for the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine to proceed with a four-year campus in Athens in partnership with the University of Georgia and a two-year residential clinical campus in Southwest Georgia.
“This is continued good news about steady progress at both campuses,” School of Medicine Dean Doug Miller said about the Liaison Committee on Medical Education announcement. “We believe the LCME has pronounced both projects on track according to the timeline we have laid out.”
The first class of 40 freshman students will start classes at the Interim Medical Partnership Building in August, according to Dr. Barbara Schuster, campus dean of the MCG/UGA Medical Partnership. The LCME will receive a follow-up report at that time. The MCG School of Medicine already has accepted 60 students out of a class of 230 for next fall semester; 190 will be in Augusta. Inaugural students for the Athens campus will be assigned shortly.
MCG’s first clinical campus, based at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, opened in 2005 and is on target to become a residential clinical campus in July 2010, housing students during their clinical-intensive third and fourth years of medical school. An LCME visit Dec. 2-3 assessed faculty and facilities to pave the way for its residential status.
The initial enrollment of eight to 10 students likely will grow to 40 in coming years.
In Athens, where 19 faculty are on board and more recruitment is under way, the focus is on fine-tuning the curriculum and generating enthusiasm to participate in medical education among physicians and hospitals in Northeast Georgia. A recent open house at the new medical school building enabled Athens Regional and St. Mary’s hospitals to spread the word to about 150 community physicians and hospital leaders; a few days later about 100 primary care physicians and colleagues toured the campus facility. On a recent visit to nearby Gainesville, Northeast Georgia Health System leadership also was updated on the medical campus developments.
“You can definitely feel people getting much more excited,” Schuster said.
The campuses are part of an overall plan to increase the MCG School of Medicine’s class size from 190 to
300 students by 2020 to help meet Georgia’s need for physicians, according to Miller, who also serves as MCG’s senior vice president for health affairs. Georgia ranks ninth in the nation in both population and population growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and ninth as well for physicians retained in the state after public undergraduate medical education. The state currently ranks 40th in the number of physicians per capita, according to the American Medical Association.
The statewide plan includes a second clinical campus, Southeast Georgia Clinical Campus based at St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System in Savannah, slated for residential campus designation in coming years. The medical school class size will grow from 190 to 240 in Augusta and 40 to 60 in Athens. Facilities to accommodate the larger class in Augusta are under design.