Dear Fellow Alumni,
Like many of you, I find that between a busy medical practice, a hectic family life, membership in professional or civic organizations, and country club participation, it seems that there is little time left for other endeavors or pursuits. This was exactly how I felt some years ago before I was asked to co-host a dinner with a group of freshmen medical students. The idea was to connect alumni in the Augusta area with students, and to reconnect alumni to the Medical College of Georgia. The experience was extremely rewarding on several levels. The young men and women asked insightful questions, shared their personal stories of family and undergraduate life, and expressed their anxieties about their new adventures. I was reminded of my own time at MCG and the many individuals who played such a positive role in my medical school journey. This marked the beginning of my active involvement in the Medical College of Georgia Alumni Association.
My MCG story begins much earlier. I am a native Augustan and grew up several miles from campus just above Lake Olmstead. My father was a sociology professor at Augusta College, and we attended Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church, just up Walton Way from MCG. My formative years were spent in the company of friends of my parents, many of whom were physicians and graduates of the Medical College of Georgia. I enjoyed the stories that I heard of medical school classes, hospital training, long days, late nights, medical fraternities and all kinds of antics. I also heard and saw the impact that these physicians had on the lives of their patients in the Augusta community. I felt at an early age that I wanted the knowledge and skills necessary to care for my fellow man, just as my mentors were doing. I wanted to care for my community and bring healing to the sick, comfort to the dying and compassion to the grieving.
Like many other teenagers, as high school approached conclusion I questioned my resolve for the many years of commitment to the course of medical studies. I chose instead to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology to study mechanical engineering. Though I loved the challenging math and science curriculum, I felt there was a humanistic void, and I began questioning my career path. Then in my sophomore year, my father was diagnosed with cancer. His eight-month battle ended in the intensive care unit where I observed the doctors and nurses, some of whom my father had taught, care for him and my family with a dedication and commitment that defied anything I had ever experienced. It was during this terrible time that I decided I wanted to be a physician, and more specifically, I wanted to be a Medical College of Georgia physician.
We alumni were all brought to MCG from different cultural backgrounds, different geographic regions, different socioeconomic levels and for different personal reasons, but the fact is we were privileged to receive one of the finest medical educations in the country. Today, residency program directors across the United States report that MCG graduates are some of the most knowledgeable and most prepared for postgraduate training. MCG residents receive comparable accolades as they enter fellowships and private practices. Our alma mater instilled in us the tools and talents needed to positively impact the world around us. Our medical school, the Medical College of Georgia, whose name, emblem and ring will always be part of our, and future graduates’ identity, has now one of the largest medical school classes in the country. We are part of a comprehensive research university that garners national and international attention, and over the next few years we will see our school expand even more to meet the needs of the citizens of the rapidly growing state of Georgia.
For many of us, the years have flown by since our hooding ceremony and graduation, or our ceremony concluding residency or fellowship training, but it was at that time that we all became forever bonded as alumni of the Medical College of Georgia. I look at my oldest son who is a pre-med student at the University of Georgia and who very much wants to follow in his father’s footsteps at our alma mater. My hope is that he experiences the influences of engaged alumni as he, like all the rest of us did, prepares for a life of dedication to knowledge and service to others.
I challenge you over the next 12 months to reach out to the Medical College of Georgia Alumni Association and ask how you can positively impact the lives of our young medical students and young physicians through the many programs and scholarship opportunities sponsored by the association. I encourage you to say “yes” when I, or another member asks if you would like the opportunity to pay forward the many blessings that the Medical College of Georgia bestowed upon us, to another group of future alumni.
Yours, respectfully and sincerely,
Alan Milledge Smith, MD (’95)