It has definitely been a whirlwind first 10 months as dean of your medical school.
As we talked in these pages last time, we have initiated a national search for a director of our Georgia Cancer Center.
As I write now, the search has narrowed to a couple of great candidates. Hopefully, as the new year comes, we will be welcoming new leadership in this important initiative against Georgia’s third-leading cause of death – just behind ischemic heart disease and stroke – and the second-leading cause of death nationally, just behind heart disease.
Also, as I write this, the M. Bert Storey Cancer Research Building is taking on new shape with 78,000 square feet of additions and renovations, the vast majority of that being new construction. Included is a five-story connector across historic Laney Walker Boulevard. That connector between the cancer research and clinical facilities will soon provide, not just more great space, but also serve as a constant reminder to the patients and families seeking care that there is significant scientific work underway just across the street to enable more wins against cancer.
We also hope to occupy this great new space in the first quarter of the new year, and are busily recruiting more scientists and physicians to serve MCG and our patients well on both sides of the street in this strategic cancer war.
We are honing in on other key recruits, including chairs of the departments of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, Pediatrics, Neurology and Radiology. Please know that we also are in the midst of an unprecedented recruitment of physicians, both subspecialists based here and primary care physicians in our surrounding communities, which will enable us to have a more solid, integrated health care delivery network that is essential to our fiscal health. Of course, with the eighth largest medical school enrollment in the nation and our current too-low student-to-faculty ratio, these recruits will further ensure our students get the experience and attention they need and deserve.
As we move forward on so many important fronts, I want you to know that, like many of you, I strive to work according to the highest standards I have witnessed. My parents, Eleanor, a second-generation Norwegian whose merchant marine father one day jumped ship because he wanted to live in America, and Raymond, the first college graduate in his family who would later become a research chemist, are among my greatest and obviously earliest models. By watching how they lived their lives, I realized that servant leaders who – as much as we humans can – totally focus on serving their institution rather than themselves are the best leaders not just in their approach, but in what they can help accomplish.
Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great provides the kind of objective evidence of this, which those of us in medicine and science crave. Most certainly, servant leadership is what your medical school deserves. And, I genuinely do hope that you will tell me if you think we are missing that important mark. It also is what we are looking for in the next generation of MCG leaders that we now seek and what I believe we already have in so many who already serve here.
Many late nights driving home from a great visit with one of you or to one of our campuses across Georgia, I think about the great opportunity we have here at the state’s public medical school. I also think again about how very honored I am to help transform more opportunity into a great future for MCG. I will always need your support and advice in this.
While I know we are not supposed to have favorites, as parents or leaders, I particularly enjoy those regional campus visits. These campuses and the great individuals and institutions there amplify our role as Georgia’s public medical school and enable us to truly say: Georgia is our campus.
Our campuses remind me again of MCG’s tremendous impact on our state – and certainly well beyond – because I get to see individuals like you working as dynamic members of your communities, enabling enhanced health spans and, so often, sharing your valuable time and knowledge with the next generation of MCG graduates.
Physicians like Dr. James Gowen, Class of 1968, from Brunswick, who is teaching our current students how to deliver babies and giving them unparalleled first-hand experience. And Dr. Steve Chitty, Class of 1999, medical director of critical care at the Southeast Georgia Health System in Brunswick, who was an amazing tour guide on a late-October visit to the Southeast Campus.
One of my many goals is to build upon this strong statewide educational network, enabled by so many of you, with concomitant clinical and research growth in those regions that I believe will help even better serve our state, our students and our future.
Good partners are essential to everything these days, and I definitely don’t have to tell any of you that mergers and joint operating agreements are now the norm in health care. I think it fortunate that Georgia-based WellStar Health System is among our newest partners and thank Vice Dean Paul Wallach for opening the door to them. We have a memorandum of understanding with WellStar to develop a regional campus in Atlanta. With their hospitals, health parks, urgent care facilities and hospice centers, they will further broaden the clinical educational opportunities we can provide our students. I am happy as well that WellStar, the largest health system in our state, is included among the 100 best companies to work for in Fortune magazine. I will keep you posted as this relationship and campus move forward in our state’s capital.
Today, as I put the finishing touches on this note to you and our Communications Office starts putting another issue of your alumni magazine to bed, I look forward to a Friday afternoon that includes the White Coat Ceremony (see photo page 48). I am happy to share with you that this Class of 2021 is among the best prepared and most diverse group we have seen here. That includes an unprecedented number of students from south Georgia, where both the health problems and the physician shortage are the most dire in our state.
Thank you all again for your service and support.
David C. Hess, MD
Dean, Medical College of Georgia
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and Integration, Augusta University
Presidential Distinguished Chair