When Bennett Grimm, MD, ’06, thinks back, he remembers the awful feeling of not getting into the Medical College of Georgia the first time he applied.
At that point, a friend and first-year medical student suggested, “You need to go talk to Dr. Falls.”
Grimm had already met Greer Falls, MD, an MCG associate professor of pathology and student advisor, since Falls served on the Admissions Committee that reviewed his application. So, Grimm hung around Falls’ office until he was able to catch him. He remembers having at least two long conversations with Falls, asking what he needed to do to improve his chances.
Funnily enough, neither remember the particulars. But “either way, it happened,” says Grimm, now a spine specialist at Resurgens Orthopaedics in Atlanta. He and his wife, Kristy McDonald-Grimm, MD, ’06, a hematologist/oncologist at Atlanta’s Northside Hospital, have never forgotten what Falls did for their family. “He’s responsible for me becoming a doctor and getting to do what I wanted to do — giving me my life,” says Grimm.
It’s just one of many life-changing conversations that students have had with Falls, often described as a mentor, a friend and “just a great guy.” And it’s why the Grimms have chosen to give a major gift to support an endowed scholarship for rising third-year medical students, in Falls’ honor.
The Dr. Greer Falls, III MD Scholarship recognizes students who have displayed exceptional stewardship during their first 18 months of medical school through their mentorship and education of first-year medical students.
“We got to a place where we could pay it forward,” says Bennett Grimm, MD, ’06, who along with his wife and classmate Kristy McDonald-Grimm, MD, is funding the endowed scholarship. “We wanted to give back to MCG because Dr. Falls is such a great guy and a mentor to students and a good friend. We wanted to honor him.
“He was born to do what he’s doing because he’s such a special human being. There’s just very few people like him.”
Once Upon a Time
Much like Grimm, a chance conversation also led to Falls’ career in medicine. A pediatrician lived across the street from Falls’ family home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Falls’ father, Dorth, owned an auto repair shop that serviced the physician’s car. “He told my dad that if I should happen to choose medicine and pediatrics as a career, he would be very interested in my coming back to Rock Hill [and joining his practice],” recalls Falls.
So Falls had pediatrics in mind, until a friend encouraged him to look into a student fellowship in autopsy pathology when Falls was in his third year at the Medical University of South Carolina. Once he started doing the work, “I thought, ‘This is cool,’” says Falls. “It was like all the pieces of the puzzle were there, and I had to put the pieces together to figure it out. It was fascinating, and I loved it.”
Falls then came to MCG in 1979 as a pathology resident. He never left. He joined the Department of Pathology as an instructor in 1983, then an assistant and associate professor, and also worked as a full-time practicing anatomical pathologist. With the encouragement of his chair, the late Bleakley Chandler, MD, ’48, who liked his faculty to be involved at the school, Falls joined various administrative committees related to pathology. But he quickly found a role with students. Another mentor, Dr. Mary Ella Logan, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and associate dean of MCG Admissions, encouraged him join the MCG Admissions Committee. Then Falls was tapped to join the MCG Student Affairs Committee, which brought student and university leadership together for class updates. He would serve in both those capacities for greater than 20 years, rising to vice chair of the admissions committee and chair of the student affairs committee.
Yet, Falls says that if you’d told him as a young man that he’d spend his career teaching and mentoring students, he would probably have run for the hills. “I would have never, ever thought I could do that,” he says adamantly. “If anything, I was more introverted than extroverted.”
He stumbled upon his love of working with students during residency, when one of his roles was helping teach pathology to medical students. That first time, he remembers just going through a carousel of 2×2 slides and giving a review session on the previous module of work, doing his best to make it visual and to bring what could have been a dry lecture to life. To his surprise, he succeeded. Students responded eagerly — and he was hooked. Falls has since been recognized for exemplary teaching and as Educator of the Year more often than not across his nearly 40 years at MCG, for his work teaching medical students the pathophysiology of various diseases and how it relates to their future patients.
Kristy McDonald-Grimm is just one of many students who fondly remembers the pathology lectures taught by Falls. “My biggest memory is how engaging he was … he just had a way of making everything relevant and poignant,” she says. “He just wants everyone to succeed … and he’s not changed at all [since we were here at MCG] … He’s a very empathetic, engaging man who is just dedicated to the success of MCG students.”
For the five years prior to his retirement in 2017, Falls held a dual position in pathology and student affairs as class dean for second-year medical students. Then, a month after he retired, he was rehired. “After 34 years as a full-time practicing pathologist, I wanted to give back to students in two primary areas — teaching and advising/mentorship,” he says. “Both areas had been the driving principle that kept me motivated during those many years. I was very fortunate to receive a part-time hire back position in the Office of Student Affairs as a class dean, continuing to advise and mentor students as well as teach. For the past five years, the ability to continue to impact the lives of young medical professionals — my students — has been an amazing journey, a journey that continues to this day.”
His long-term impact as a mentor is something he says he only recently realized when the Grimms announced that they wanted to establish a scholarship in Falls’ name. It was a surprise and an honor: The Grimms contacted the Office of Philanthropy knowing exactly who they wanted to recognize and how much they want to give — but exactly how the funds should be used they left up to Falls.
So, Falls did what he does best: He talked to his students. In particular, he called a former student and friend, William Oren Blalock, MD, ’96, an internist in New Orleans, Louisiana. “Well, that’s simple, Greer,” Blalock said. “Do it on mentorship, because you were a mentor to all of us.”
“Even more,” adds Falls, “I wanted to do this for a rising third-year medical student, because there simply are not new scholarships for that year. We have scholarships for those entering MCG…then we have monies that are available and can be offered to fourth-year medical students. It would [also] be nice to have it for a second-year medical student about to go into their third year that has shown mentorship in whatever way toward a first-year medical student. That’s kind of how it came together.”
A Friend and Mentor
The first scholarships were awarded in November 2022, days shy of Falls’ 70th birthday. During the reception to recognize the three inaugural recipients of the Dr. Greer Falls III, MD, Scholarship, one of the speakers was Natasha Savage, MD, ’07, vice chair for academic affairs in the Department of Pathology and MCG’s associate dean for graduate medical education — the first in her family to go beyond high school. She says she was drawn to Falls immediately as a role model.
“I am beyond confident that Greer deserves a large amount of credit for my success in medicine,” she says. “However, it’s not just my success that can be credited to him. It’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of student successes, and it’s the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of students that [those students have] mentored … That’s the amazing thing about mentoring. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and it does not stop with the first mentee. Because every great mentor is carried on into the next generation.
“So, here’s to Greer … thank you for all that you have done for us. MCG is better because of you, my friend and mentor.”
A Little Pixie Dust
“Young at heart” is a phrase commonly used to describe Greer Falls, MD. Like a puckish Peter Pan, he says that through his work with students, “I haven’t had to get old. They’ve had to grow up and leave here and assume all kinds of careers, which is amazing. But I have not had to grow up.”
Part of it may be his love of all things Disney World, which started when he was in his 40s. He visits the park in Orlando several times a year, adding to his collection of snow globes, which spreads over most of his desk, joining other memorabilia displayed on walls and bookcases in his office in the J. Harold Harrison M.D. Education Commons.
So, when Falls was recently presenting the inaugural recipients of the D. Greer Falls, III MD Scholarship with $5,000 each for their role as mentors at the Medical College of Georgia, he had a bit of a twinkle in his eye.
With the funds automatically deposited, “I wasn’t sure what [tangible thing] to award,” he said to Queen Abure, Shresttha Dubey and McKenzie Maloney, all from the class of 2025.
Then, from behind his back, cradled in the palm of his hand, he brought out the perfect representation of the scholarship in his name — a Disney snow globe, featuring a classic Mickey Mouse. Amid laughter from the audience, Falls added, “I decided something very appropriate.”
2022 Greer Falls III, MD, Scholarship Recipients
Queen Abure, ‘25
Class president and cofounder of the MCG Inclusivity Council, where she leans on her own experiences to serve others facing challenges related to inclusion, uniting them through positive communication. Advocate liaison for first-year medical students and leads student liaison group, spearheading wellbeing efforts.
McKenzie Maloney, ’25
Established a mentorship program for local high school students interested in careers in medicine and is a founding member of several student-led organizations, supporting philanthropy, skin cancer prevention, financial management and information technology.
Shresttha Dubey, ‘25
Serves as curriculum vice president for his class, incorporating his knowledge and understanding of education as a former high school chemistry teacher, contributing to improvements in the academic experience of his peers. Working on a mentorship project to connect classes through clinical settings.
To give a gift in honor of Dr. Falls, please call 706-721-4001 or visit www.augusta.edu/giving/makeagift.php.