Georgia Health Sciences University students, faculty concerned about name change with Augusta State merger

It is one of the biggest questions hanging over the merger of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities: What will the new name be?

For those at GHSU, it has a familiar feel, having just changed from Medical College of Georgia less than a year ago.

The thoughts of many could be summed up by GHSU senior respiratory therapy student Amber Sherrill.

“That’s my concern is they just spent a bunch of money making a name change,” she said. “Are they going to invest more money making another name change?”

That was the burning question for Lauren Daniels, 24, a first-year student in Medical College of Georgia at GHSU.

“Are they going to change the name again?” she asked.

For Brett Heimlich, a third-year student in the seven-year M.D./Ph.D. program at GHSU, it raises a question about the future.

“When we applied to this school, it was MCG,” he said. “Now it is GHSU. And by the time we graduate, it will actually be a third name yet to be determined. I think there are legitimate questions about what that means to the value of our degree.”

When GHSU was created, MCG was retained as the name of the school of medicine, and it is important that happen again, Heimlich said.

“I think that will be preserved throughout whatever process we’re headed into,” he said.

That process includes four town hall meetings Thursday, two at each campus, with GHSU President Dr. Ricardo Azziz and ASU President William A. Bloodworth Jr. Danielle Pelmore, 20, a sophomore studying communications at ASU, said she will likely go to one of the meetings but is not sure how much effect it will have.

“Why does it matter if they hear our opinion if the vote has already happened?” she asked.

Some see even more long-term implications than just the name change in the move. Supporters have touted the combined school as a potential comprehensive school that could rival the state’s other large research universities. But Dr. Robert R. Nesbit Jr., a professor emeritus of surgery at MCG, scoffs at that.

“Take a look at what’s in Athens and tell me if you really believe that we are going to have here what they have there,” he said. “The University of Georgia is still the flagship school, just as Georgia Tech is.”

In fact, many GHSU faculty have long predicted that a satellite medical school GHSU established at the University of Georgia in Athens will become independent a few years after this merger, which spells trouble for the Augusta school, Nesbit said.

“There’s a lot of history in other states of what happens when a second school is born,” he said. “The new school is always going to take from the old. We can’t give you seats on the 50-yard-line” as UGA can at football games.

And combining with a liberal arts university means part of GHSU’s label might no longer be appropriate, and it would reverse something Azziz was trying to do by creating the GHSU name, Nesbit said.

“I don’t see how you can put medicine in the title or health in the title” of the merged school, he said. “(Azziz’s) point was that we were not nationally recognized as a health sciences university. I don’t see how we do that if we are part of Augusta State.”

 

Staff Writer Steve Crawford contributed to this article.

 

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TOWN HALL MEETINGS

Both Georgia Health Sciences University President Dr. Ricardo Azziz and Augusta State University President William A. Bloodworth Jr. will discuss the consolidation in four town hall meetings Thursday, two on each campus. GHSU will hold meetings at 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the Lee Auditorium, and ASU will have meetings at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. in the Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre.

Complete coverage of the proposed university merger

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