Monday, September 22, 2014

Medical College of Georgia building strong future, Dean says

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University is building a strong future on a solid past, Dean Peter F. Buckley said in his annual State of the College Address Friday.

The core includes enhanced student recruitment and retention, expanded research and educational portfolios, building a more robust clinical structure and increased quality focus, Buckley noted.

Over the last year, the college has increased efforts to attract and train tomorrow’s medical leaders. Accomplishments have included a 10 percent increase in applications to MCG – in 2011, 2,167 people applied for 230 slots. Among that 230, the average grade point average was 3.7 and the average score on the Medical College Admissions Test was 30.3 – both well above the national average, Buckley said. Students at MCG also posted a 99.5 percent pass rate on Step 1 of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exams and above-average pass rates on Step 2.

The college has also renewed its focus on training translational researchers in its M.D./Ph.D. program, with 19 students currently enrolled. “It is our job to train the world’s next physician scientists,” Buckley said.

The college has continued to increase its educational portfolio by expanding its regional campuses. Students in Athens will begin clinical rotations this fall, after completing their first two years of core curricula. “This is very exciting and a great opportunity,” Buckley said. The first batch of students who completed the Leadership and Advocacy Training Program at the Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus in Albany will graduate this month and MCG faculty are working to develop more opportunities for graduate medical education in that area. The Southeast Georgia Clinical Campus, based in Savannah and Brunswick, saw its first group of seven students spend their third year of medical school in the area and is enjoying new office space at St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System. The Northwest Georgia Clinical Campus in Rome is set to open in 2013.

But as the focus on undergraduate medical education increases, so will the need for residency programs, Buckley noted.

Georgia ranks 40th in physicians per capita and medical schools have done a good job at increasing class size, but the state has lagged behind on graduate medical education opportunities. A federal redistribution of residency slots completely overlooked the state and more federal budget cuts threatened growth. However, the University System of Georgia conducted a yearlong needs assessment and recommended that the system at Georgia Hospitals work together to create 400 new residency positions across the state. Research has shown that physicians are likely to practice where they train.

MCG is also working with University Hospital to expand an existing surgery rotation, re-start an obstetrics/gynecology rotation and begin a new hospitalist rotation. Pending approval by University’s Board of Trustees, those programs will start July 1.

The college’s research portfolio has strengthened, despite the trickling off of funds provided in President Barack Obama’s 2009 Stimulus Package. Extramural grants totaled $90 million in fiscal year 2011, with $58 million of that coming from the National Institutes of Health. The college also ranked ninth nationally in funding from the American Heart Association.

“Our researchers are reaching out globally through collaborations,” Buckley noted. “They are becoming increasingly sought after and known for their high-quality work.”

The college also is working to leverage research in key areas with clinical expertise, he added.

Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center are also working hard to improve efficiencies in a challenging health care environment. MCG officials are partnering with hospital administrators to ensure an integrated – academic and clinical – approach to providing care. Measuring quality is also increasingly crucial to clinical success. “We have moved quickly to put quality front and center,” Buckley said, “not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will increasingly affect how hospitals are getting reimbursed.”

“It has been a whirlwind of a year,” he added. “We are in a time of unprecedented change, including structural and functional integration across our campus and we are moving at a remarkable pace.”

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