Dear Friends and Alumni,
In October, when Tara Simkins of the Press On Foundation presented me with a check committing $1 million to support pediatric cancer programs at the Georgia Cancer Center, she was investing in hope. Hope that advances like those made in immunotherapy by Dr. Ted Johnson and Dr. David Munn — advances that offer the possibility of more effective and less toxic options for pediatric cancer patients — can be built upon and utilized by families facing the unthinkable.
While the community has been investing in the hope provided by the faculty of the Medical College of Georgia for nearly 200 years, MCG has been making an investment of its own by providing the highest quality education to successive generations of medical students. As a medical school, not to mention the state’s only public medical school, that’s always been our primary responsibility, but that is in no way where our job ends.
When we say Georgia is our campus, it really is the truth. Our responsibility extends well beyond the confines of our physical campus. Our satellite campuses and medical partnerships give us a statewide reach. We know Georgians and we know, study and treat the things that affect them the most.
By now you’ve likely heard a lot about the MCG 3+ Primary Care Pathway (see page 43) that will, among other things, ease the financial burden and time commitment for students choosing to practice a primary care specialty in underserved areas of Georgia. This is a significant move toward helping balance the state’s dramatic deficit in health care coverage — a deficit that threatens the health and wellbeing of so many. Currently, about 3.2 million Georgians live in a designated shortage area, and the state ranks 42nd in the nation for the number of primary care physicians.
And while helping to provide adequate coverage is important — and increasing our class size, which starts next year, will also help — addressing the specific health concerns experienced by those in the state is also important to us. For more than 30 years, the Georgia Prevention Institute has been researching our cardiovascular health, and now that it’s part of the Department of Medicine, that work should be even more integrated into what we do. Add to that the power of MCG’s Vascular Biology Center, which continues to search for the solutions that will add to the treatment options used to combat the state’s number one killer, and we’re putting our collective weight into moving the needle on heart disease.
But that’s not the only place receiving our attention — not by a long shot. I don’t have the room here to document all the ways we’re looking out for the health of our state, but I will single out one more large area — cancer. No life is untouched by the effects of this deadly disease, and I’m proud to say our researchers and physician- scientists are at the forefront of discoveries that are increasing our understanding of the disease — an understanding that is resulting in practical, effective methods to battle back against the disease itself as well as mitigate the sometimes detrimental effects of its treatment.
Hiring Dr. Jorge Cortes (see page 12) to direct the Georgia Cancer Center was an important step toward focusing our efforts, but of course the ground was already fertile — we offer an unprecedented number of clinical trials for a wide range of cancer types, including the immunotherapy trials run by Drs. Johnson and Munn.
As our state continues to grow and the challenges facing health care continue to change, we remain committed to producing the most qualified physicians and providing the research, expertise and innovative application of resources the state of Georgia has come to expect.
Brooks Keel, PhD
President, Augusta University
Chair, Augusta University Medical Associates