Special Assignment: The Future of MCG

News 12 at 6 o'clock, November 8, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga--- There's a revolution going on in America's medical schools. The largest med school expansion since the 1970's. In the coming years we'll need more doctors than our medical schools can produce. The Medical College of Georgia has to grow. The question is -- where?

The students who end up in medical school are among the best of the best. But every year MCG has to turn away qualified students. There's just not enough room to teach them all. In an interview earlier this year, MCG President Dr. Dan Rahn told us, "We had 2000 applicants last year to the School of Medicine for our 190 slots. We had to turn people away who were deemed qualified."

With more people moving to Georgia and more of us living longer, MCG wants to admit more students who want to become our doctors. Dr. Randy Smith is a 1970 graduate of MCG. He's also a surgeon at University Hospital, MCG's next door neighbor. He sums it up this way: "I think everyone agrees we need more doctors, and we need 'em quickly."

Dr. Smith says Augusta is the best place to grow the medical school. "I think they need to utilize fully local resources before they think about expanding to the University of Georgia."

Athens does have something to offer MCG. There's a ready made campus that's being abandoned by the Navy Supply School and there are 2 local hospitals, Athens Regional and St. Marys. But at best, a move to Athens is still years away. You would have to combine the 2 hospitals there to match the size of the hospital that's right across the street from MCG: University Hospital.

For medical students, patients can be the best teachers. That's why you have to have hospitals that are willing to help. University is ready and willing, and right next door.

So how many MCG students are assigned to University? Dr. Smith tells us, "Today we have 2 residents in OBGYN. That's not enough."

What's the holdup? "I don't know; we've got the patients, the doctors and the money, so I don't know what the hold up is, Richard..."

As dean of the medical school, Dr. Doug Miller has a lot to say about where his students should be educated. The perception is MCG is willing to clear all these hurdles to get to Athens, but not cross the street to get to University.
"Well, that may be the perception, not the reality," Miller says. "We will have more students and residents at University Hospital before we have students and residents working clinically in the hospital in Athens or Gainesville."

Back at University Hospital, Dr. Smith, the MCG graduate, wonders why the state would spend time and money on the Athens plan when University is sitting right next door. "It's a little bit frustrating, because to me, it's a no-brainer."

Even Dean Miller admits there are serious questions about the Athens plan. According to Dr. Miller, "The real question for us remains whether there are enough patients and clinical experiences in that area for students to pursue their medical training."

But Augusta does have the patients. For example, MCG needs a place to teach its OBGYN residents. That's one of University's strong points, with three thousand deliveries a year. University is also building a brand new $50 million cardiac care facility right across the street from MCG. University already has 14 approved slots for medical residents and they're willing to take up to 41. That's as big as the whole class of first year med students they're hoping to enroll in Athens.

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