When it comes to health, context matters—which is why Dr. Laurel Murrow emphasizes community health both as a physician and an instructor.
“Effective doctors know that friends, families, neighborhoods and life circumstances can have a strong influence on health,” said Murrow, an assistant professor of medicine at the Georgia Regents University/UGA Medical Partnership.
In 2010, Murrow and her colleagues developed the community health curriculum that all medical students participate in during their first year. Each fall semester, students work with community agencies to address high priority health problems for the clients they serve.
“Our partners choose the problem the students will focus on, and the students then conduct a literature review, interview patients and collect data about that problem,” Murrow said.
By December, each team submits a proposal and budget for how they plan to address their issue. During the spring semester, the teams carry out the strategy that they designed.
“In some cases, the student projects have begun as a pilot program in an agency, and then the program grows over time to have a much greater impact on our community,” Murrow said.
Assistant Professor of Medicine
- Internal Medicine Residency, Emory University School of Medicine, 2009
- M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2006
- M.Sc., Control of Infectious Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 1999
- B.A., Religion, Wellesley College, 1997
- At GRU/UGA Medical Partnership: 6 years
In addition to leading the Medical Partnership Community Health program, Murrow serves as the medical director for Mercy Health Center, a nonprofit, free clinic just down Oglethorpe Avenue from the UGA Health Sciences Campus. Along with an army of volunteers—over 40 primary care physicians, 20 specialists and more than 700 other health professionals and lay volunteers—she provides care to uninsured, low-income patients who otherwise lack access to health care.
“The first class of medical students to arrive in Athens was very interested in giving back to the community and in developing a student-led free clinic,” Murrow said.
Since that time in 2010, medical partnership students and faculty have been seeing patients at Mercy on most Wednesday nights. They work alongside students and faculty from the UGA College of Pharmacy.
Mercy provides learning opportunities for a variety of UGA students. The clinic enjoys strong relationships not only with the medical partnership and College of Pharmacy, but also with other colleges and schools, including the College of Public Health, the School of Law, the School of Social Work, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the College of Education.
“These students learn so much from our patients and get to see the realities of their lives up close,” Murrow said. “We hope their experience inspires them to try and make a difference.”
Murrow also mentors medical partnership student research projects. This summer, three students who were interested in health care quality improvement pursued projects at Mercy. One student focused on the appropriateness of radiology studies ordered for low back pain imaging; another examined treatment and referral practices for patients with skin conditions; and the third studied health literacy levels in diabetic patients and evaluated Mercy’s diabetes education program.
“Student research like this helps Mercy see where we are now and helps us set priorities for improving care,” Murrow said.
Murrow, who grew up in Watkinsville, is glad to have the chance to return home and be close to family and friends. When she completed her residency training at Emory University School of Medicine, the medical partnership was just beginning to hire faculty members.
“I feel so fortunate to be able to combine my work at the medical partnership and at Mercy,” Murrow said. “With the new residency programs beginning, this is such an exciting time to practice medicine in Athens. I’m hoping that we can inspire as many medical students as possible to choose primary care.”