Leukemia patient Michael Bright, of Wrightsville, Ga., had to be helped on and off the stage Friday at Lee Auditorium at Georgia Regents University.
His message was clear, however, as he praised his physician, Dr. Anand Jillella, for the work he did, not in saving Bright’s life but in helping others.
Jillella, the chief of hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplant at GRU, was being honored with the Medical College of Georgia faculty Professionalism Award during Dean Peter F. Buckley’s annual State of the College address.
Bright got up to praise Jillella for his work in pursuing another kind of leukemia that is rarer and deadlier than his.
Jillella worked for years to come up with a protocol to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia, which kills 30 percent of patients within a month of diagnosis. Pursuing it wouldn’t have gotten Jillella much notice because there are few cases to treat, and few lives to save, Bright said.
“He wasn’t interested in numbers,” Bright said. “He was interested in individuals. He was interested in that life, the sanctity of life itself.”
The annual award was a highlight of Buckley’s address, which drew in all five regional campuses by a teleconference. Beginning in July, 40 percent of student training will occur outside Augusta, Buckley said.
“Our program is transforming in front of your eyes,” he said.
Applications to MCG are up 10 percent again this year, and about 1 in 10 applicant is accepted.
“Getting into this medical school itself is an achievement,” Buckley said.
The school is increasing its faculty from a low of 453 members in 2010 to 529 this year, which Buckley called a “regeneration.”
The school and the associated health care system are facing increasing financial strain as payers shift from paying by volume to paying by results and demanding quality, Buckley said.
“Quality is becoming the coinage of health care,” he said.
The school has also taken a significant hit in funding cuts, losing $23.2 million in state appropriations, or 26 percent, since fiscal year 2010.
“We will get through these tough times together,” Buckley said.
There is reason to be optimistic about the future, particularly with the announcement last week of a $66 million gift from a late MCG alumnus, Dr. J. Harold Harrison, that will fund scholarships and endowed chairs at the Augusta campus.
“(That is a) game-changing event,” Buckley said as applause broke out among the faculty. “We need to live up to that.”