Medical College of Georgia students commit to rural health care

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 6:42 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s a special day for Medical College of Georgia students. They had their pinning ceremony as they enter the 3+ Program.

It helps students finish their bachelor’s degree in three years and saves them thousands of dollars in tuition fees.

More importantly, it puts these future doctors and medical staff in our rural Georgia counties.

Georgia is 39th in the country for physician-to-patient ratio.

This is the second year, and seven new medical students are pledging to work in rural and underserved areas of the state.

It’s all to make health care more accessible for all Georgians.

“Coming to MCG and learning about the program and the opportunity it brought to those around this state, I knew that it’s something that I wanted to do,” said Reggie Benson.

Benson is a student in this year’s program pursuing emergency medicine.

“Just the satisfaction of knowing that someone comes to you with a problem, then they leave feeling better,” he said. “Seeing patients when they’re vulnerable they need help and having the ability to bring them that help is just substantial.”

This is why he is proud to wear the pin.

“Once I realized there was a need there, I realized I could use myself as a resource to help fill that gap,” said Benson.

Michael Butler also hopes to fill that gap as he was in the first group of students to join the program.

“When I came to med school, I already knew I wanted to go into primary care. I wanted to stay in Georgia and serve Georgians. This program really was kind of a gateway to that,” he said.

He has spent time shadowing in rural Georgia and noticed some patients traveling hours for care, but he hopes to change that

“Being a physician who is taking an active role in establishing a practice in these communities, I hope to see these patients so they don’t have to go as far,” said Butler.

This program not only helps them save lives sooner, but it also helps them save money on tuition. Peach State Health Plan pledged more than $5 million to fund these future doctors.

Peach State Health Plan CEO Wade Rakes said: “As a company that takes care of 1.4 million individuals across all 159 counties, we know the need of having high-quality physicians continue to serve the people in the state of Georgia.”

Rakes says by funding these doctors they will have an impact on thousands of Georgians. There are still only seven members of this year’s program, like the previous one. MCG says future growth would depend on funding.

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