MCG aims to expand class size with new building

Despite a rapid rise in research funding and the amount of funding per scientist, Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine must adapt quickly to meet tremendous changes, the school's dean said Friday. It must also get a new building if it is going to meet targets for expanding medical education in Augusta, Dr. D. Douglas Miller said.

 

In his biannual State of the School address to the school's Faculty Senate, he outlined many of the changes over the past several years:

- An increase in outside research funding from $50 million in 2003 to a projected $100 million or more in 2010;

- An increase of funding per scientist, going from $76,360 per researcher in 1997, 81st in the country, to $312,154, 20th in the country in 2006;

- An increase in medical students from 180 per class in 2006 to 230 this year.

That growth, which includes 190 in Augusta, cannot expand any further in Augusta without a new medical education commons, Miller said. Under statewide medical education expansion plans, the Augusta campus is to expand up to 240 students per class, in addition to those in Athens, Savannah and Albany.

The school has secured $9 million for planning and design and has spent $6 million on plans so far, he said. The building, which could cost about $100 million, is on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents' list of capital requests, and the school would like to push in the fall to get it on the funded list, Miller said. The project is mentioned in the Tripp Umbach plan for medical education expansion that the Regents have broadly accepted, he noted.

"My understanding is that the regents are viewing this very seriously," Miller said. The school has also received an initial analysis of what it might be able to raise on its own, and $20 million is a good target for fundraising, he said.

Expanding medical education will be critical to meeting an expected shortage of 124,000 physicians by 2025. This will be even more critical in the Southeast. Georgia Power projects that 39 percent of the U.S. population will be concentrated in seven states by 2024, Miller said.

"We will feel this disproportionately in Georgia," he said.

But the state is not increasing a key aspect of medical education -- postgraduate residency training programs -- and physicians often practice in the area where they completed their residency, said Dr. Jack Yu, the section chief of plastic surgery at MCG.

Of this year's class, 20 percent are doing their residency in Georgia, Miller said. But the school sees about 54 percent of its graduates return to practice in Georgia at some point, he said.

"I do expect that students will always, whether their residencies are here or elsewhere in the country, will always find Georgia to be an attractive place to practice, just like we have," Miller said.

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