$9M donation aims to get more medical staff in rural Georgia counties

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 7:25 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Out of 159 Georgia counties, 63 don’t have a pediatrician, and 54 have no emergency medicine physician.

Earlier this year, we reported $5 million going to Augusta University to help get more medical staff in rural counties.

Here’s how a new nearly $9 million donation can help even more.

Cayman Bickerstaff is a 3rd-year med student at MCG, enrolled in the 3+ Primary Care Pathway Program.

“I knew what I wanted to do, and I wanted to get into the workforce as early as possible, and I saw this program as a really good way to do that,” he said.

It allows students who commit to primary care practice in rural or underserved Georgia to graduate in three years and immediately enter a residency in Georgia with free tuition.

“Everyone wants to be a surgeon these days, and us 7 to 14 students don’t want that,” said Bickerstaff.

Georgia ranks 39th in physicians for each person in the state.

“Getting us in those rural areas, we can really make a change,” he said.

In areas like Albany, students will come from Augusta to serve in those under-resourced communities.

Doug Patten, associate dean for Southwest Regional Campus MCG said: “The small communities here in southwest Georgia have historically struggled to recruit and retain.”

Their campus serves as a pipeline for students to be planted in rural areas by providing a list of services that some communities don’t have access to.

“Internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, OB, emergency medicine, general surgery, and psychiatry,” he said.

Their hope is students will understand the importance of providing in smaller communities.

“A bigger proportion will ultimately return to these smaller communities because they’ve seen the value in it,” said Patten.

Students say by joining this program, they are saving at least $60,000 in tuition and school fees. The program is just starting out so it will take some time to get these students into rotations at medical centers around the state.

Bickerstaff said: “It’s like family and you become a part of their community and that’s so valuable.”

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