Partnership moves ahead

MCG and UGA move ahead with August 2010 opening of Athens campus

Augusta, Ga. – The Medical College of Georgia and the University of Georgia have received confirmation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for the country’s medical schools, that their resource development is on track to matriculate 40 medical students at the Athens campus in August 2010.

A letter from the LCME reaffirmed MCG School of Medicine’s accreditation through the 2015-16 cycle when the LCME is scheduled to make its next accreditation visit. The letter also confirmed that resources for the MCG/UGA Medical Partnership are adequate in some areas and, as expected, requested updates in others as progress continues, school officials say.

Areas of LCME interest include sustained financial support for the expansion as well as faculty recruitment, facilities planning and academic advisement for students. School officials will provide the LCME with another update in August 2009.

The LCME‘s letter follows a limited site visit to Athens and Augusta in April and the accrediting body’s June 2-4 meeting in Washington, D.C

“This confirmation by the LCME is the result we have been working so diligently these past months to obtain, and it is a testament to all involved that just 18 months after the Board of Regents approved a plan to expand medical education in Georgia, we have received this positive news,” says University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. “This strategic plan to increase the number of physicians in Georgia is of critical importance to our state and its citizens. We could not be at this point if not for the critical and strong support we have received from Governor Sonny Perdue and the members of the General Assembly. This support, expressed through funding in both Fiscal Year 2009 and Fiscal Year 2010, has been and continues to be essential, and we are appreciative of this support.”

“We are pleased with the report and look forward to updating the LCME about the continued progress of this exciting initiative that will have a lasting impact on the health of Georgians,” says Dr. Dan Rahn, MCG president and senior vice chancellor for health and medical programs for the University System of Georgia. “Countless hours, talent and support-particularly from Governor Perdue and our legislators-have gotten us to this point, but the work has just begun. Now we move forward with recruiting more students and educating more physicians for Georgia.”

“This action affirms the work currently underway to build the faculty, prepare the facilities, and shape the academic program for future medical students,” says UGA President Michael F. Adams. “We will be providing appropriate updates to the LCME as we move forward in our preparations. The MCG/UGA Medical Partnership builds on the strengths of two great Georgia institutions to address the critical need for more physicians in our state, and it positions both institutions to better do the kind of research that should lead to a healthier and more prosperous Georgia. We greatly appreciate the support of the Governor and Legislature which led us to this point.”

Later this month, the MCG School of Medicine will begin accepting applications for the first class of 40 students at the MCG/UGA Medical Partnership for the 2010 fall semester. The additional students will boost the medical school’s class size to 230 students. UGA’s renovation of the Interim Medical Partnership Building, which sits on the banks of the North Oconee River in Athens, is scheduled to be completed this month.

The Athens campus, slated to grow to 60 students per class, is 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. Georgia ranks ninth in the nation in both population and population growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and 44th in the number of physicians per capita, according to the American Medical Association.

The statewide plan also includes increasing the medical school class size in Augusta to 240, growth that will require larger facilities as the school’s home base. Simultaneous growth also is occurring at two clinical campuses for third- and fourth-year students: the Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus based at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany and the Southeast Georgia Clinical Campus based at St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System in Savannah.

Dr. Barbara Schuster, dean for the MCG/UGA Medical Partnership, said about 30 new faculty members are being recruited and about a dozen have been hired to date for the Athens campus. The majority of the initial hires will have a primary appointment at MCG and an adjunct appointment at UGA; faculty members with a primary appointment at UGA will have an adjunct appointment at MCG. Existing faculty at both institutions will help with teaching as well, Dr. Schuster says. Educators will be fine tuning the curriculum for the Athens campus during the next year.

The MCG School of Medicine Admissions Committee has increased from 18 to 25 members in the past two years to accommodate a larger class size and include representation from Athens, Savannah and Albany, says Dr. Geoffrey Young, associate dean for admissions. School officials anticipate applicant numbers will increase as well; applicants to the MCG School of Medicine have already increased steadily during the last few years, from 1,612 for the 180 slots available in fall 2004, to 2,102 for 190 slots in fall 2008.

Interviewed applicants will be asked their preference for the Augusta or Athens campus. Once applicants are accepted, a subcommittee of the Admissions Committee will make campus assignments with an eye toward a heterogeneous student body at both campuses, Dr. Young says.

The Medical College of Georgia is the state’s health sciences university and includes the Schools of Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate Studies, Medicine and Nursing. MCG is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution.