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Athens MCG med school on track for fall opening

Officials interview for first class of 40

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While medical schools across the country are stalling or even reversing enrollment growth, Dr. Barbara Schuster in Athens is quietly building her branch campus of the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine.

"It is moving along," said Schuster, the dean of the branch campus. "We're focusing on the first two years because that is what is facing us as Aug. 9 is only a few months away."

Concerned with an anticipated shortage of physicians in coming years, the Association of American Medical Colleges has been urging its members to increase enrollment by 30 percent by 2015.

And schools have responded -- 110 of the 125 schools have expanded or have plans to expand, said Edward Salsberg, the director of the Center for Workforce Studies for the AAMC.

The number of accredited schools went from 125 in 2002 to 132, with eight new medical schools under review and discussions under way in 11 additional communities, he said. But the recession, which has hit state budgets hard, is now curbing that effort, said Salsberg, whose annual survey of medical school enrollment will be released in a few weeks.

"What we found is that the long-term trend for growth continues," he said. "But definitely the recession has had an impact on the pace of expansion. And for the first time we're seeing a number of schools planning on retrenchment and cutting back enrollment."

About a dozen medical schools are cutting back on enrollment, while some planned new schools, such as at the University of California at Merced, have not moved forward. It is a particular concern in Georgia, Florida, California and Texas, which grew rapidly over the past 30 years while medical school enrollment did not, Salsberg said.

"I am pleased that (Georgia has) been able to continue to look at expansion," he said.

In Athens, Schuster still has a few faculty positions to fill, with 16 full-time and four part-time hired so far. By August she would like to have 25 full-time and up to 10 part-time on board.

"We try to recruit them in order to help plan, but not too early so that the person is not without an active role," Schuster said.

Working with the University of Georgia, which is helping to create the branch campus, has been a help, she said.

For instance, the original budget called for two instructors in neuroscience, but a faculty member at UGA is stepping in to help plan and teach, she said.

"So in a sense that has been a saving," Schuster said.

That first class of 40 medical students will be seated in August as 190 colleagues set up shop at the main campus in Augusta. Only 26 have been accepted for the Athens branch so far. Admissions officials have finished interviewing potential students and then will assign them to each campus based on criteria that include GPA, academic rank and gender so that the classes are as much alike as possible, Schuster said.

Clinical rotations, which the students will do in their third and fourth years, have yet to be set for Athens, but the new campus has a list of more than 150 physicians in northeast Georgia who have expressed an interest in helping.

"We have a very large list of people, which keeps growing, actually," she said. "That is not (at) the top of our priority list because it's not the most acute need for the students who begin August of 2010."

A year from now, UGA is scheduled to acquire the 58-acre Navy Supply Corps School campus, which eventually will become the home of UGA's School of Public Health and the branch medical school. How quick and how extensive the renovations are to that campus, however, might be affected by the economic woes.

"Nobody is talking too much about how much renovation. There are no plans of grandeur ... that I've seen," Schuster said.

Fortunately, the branch campus can stay in its newly renovated building on UGA's campus until the new home is ready, she said.

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Laguria
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Laguria 03/14/10 - 10:10 pm
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The Bubba Purdue School of

The Bubba Purdue School of Medicine. That has a nice ring to it. He is not a very good role model. Way too much bar-b-cue there Bubba. How can we afford this new school with all the budget cut's you are proposing? There is a time and a place for such things and at the present time, this is very very inapproiate. You obviously want this Bubba for you legacy before you fade away? We will always remember how serious you were regarding these budget reductions. How's that land in Florida working out for you? How's Linger Longer doing at Jekyll Island Bubba. How is your Fishing Georgia going and all the other land deals you have enriched yourself with. Sleep well. Lag

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/15/10 - 04:05 am
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We continue this insane

We continue this insane course of action that will end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars. This is Perdue's biggest mistake as governor. So we are going to have 35 faculty members for the FIRST YEAR. Any guesses how much a physcian faculty member makes? Any guess how much support staff each faculty member requires?

We have gone from the promised clinical rotation slots to talking with physicians who have shown an interest. Insanity with the state unable to pay its bills. Wait until next year when the budget tightens even more and the fun really starts.

themaninthemirror
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themaninthemirror 03/15/10 - 08:07 am
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35 faculty members and only

35 faculty members and only 40 students? I guess each student will have their own personal mentor!

Roycliff
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Roycliff 03/15/10 - 08:38 am
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The overwhelming majority of

The overwhelming majority of faculty are basic scientists, not physicians. They make less than half of full-time clinical faculty. Each member of the faculty would love his or her own "support staff", but the truth is they share. One "secretary" might support as many as six or eight faculty. Everyone talks of costs, but never benefits. A lengthy study projects that the new school will generate almost $2.50 for every dollar of "costs" over time. Medical schools are economic engines that stimulate the economy.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 03/15/10 - 09:12 am
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But, Roycliff, those “lengthy

But, Roycliff, those “lengthy studies” cannot be trusted. They say whatever the person paying for the study wants them to say.

Roycliff
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Roycliff 03/15/10 - 09:52 am
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Little Lamb, many "studies"

Little Lamb, many "studies" are bogus, of course. One has to look at the source, the process, the data, etc. If you are interested, visit the University System of Georgia website, and search for "medical education expansion." Read the reports done a couple of years ago. Then make your own conclusion. However, to measure any medical school only by "costs" is terribly short-sighted. There are enormous economic benefits. By the way, do you always reject any study just because it's paid for?

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/15/10 - 10:29 am
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Does anyone else get the

Does anyone else get the feeling nobody is listening to people from Augusta on this matter?

baronvonreich
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baronvonreich 03/15/10 - 12:14 pm
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What beneficial inventions or

What beneficial inventions or innovations have come from the "scientific studies" at MCG over the years?

DoggieMom
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DoggieMom 03/15/10 - 12:22 pm
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Of course, no one is

Of course, no one is listening to the people from Augusta! Nor are they paying attention to how much unemployment benefits they will be paying for all the people associated with the programs they just cut. It would make a LOT more sense to let these kids finish their programs, and THEN open other campuses, than to risk even one successful lawsuit by the students that are being dropped. When a school accepts students into any program, the school is implying that in good faith they will stick around so the student and all his/her time and money invested will be able to finish the program successfully. The very fact that the programs are being cut, but other programs are opening is excellent evidence that there is still money for education.

I'd suggest all the students being "let go" get a very good class action attorney, or at least apply to be a medical student in Athens....except, wait, there's no more housing in Athens! So homeless medical students.

And right.....35 people to teach/administer/educate only 40 students. Smells pretty fishy to me. And what about the rotations? Medical students need lots of time in surgery and hospitals....like about 2 years worth of monthly rotations. A very small part of their rotations are in Dr. offices. This is so poorly thought out and pushed through without a plan, for both campuses. Someone, get a legal opinion, and a real cost/benefit analysis. Did Sonny even attend college? I'm getting the feeling that he doesn't even understand the implications of booting good students with credits that don't transfer.

Come November, let's vote out all the incumbents, and start over!

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/15/10 - 03:40 pm
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RoyCliff, you say the

RoyCliff, you say the majority of faculty are not M.D.'s. You do have some PhD's I readily admit, but out of the 35 faculty members hired how many are not M.D.'s? I'm talking professors which is what the majority of the 35 people mentioned are. Want to clarify?

Junket831
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Junket831 03/15/10 - 05:08 pm
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Riverman is absolutely

Riverman is absolutely correct. This is one of the biggest boonedoogles in Georgia history. It would be bad enough in tight fiscal times, but these are dire times in the state, perhaps some of the toughest years in nearly the last half century. ALL expansion of any government program should be stopped immediately until the state is in much better financial shape. Hard to believe the conservative politicians and tea party supporters aren't all over this one. Fiscal conservatives should be screaming loud and hard about this absolute waste of taxpayer funding.

BuckeyeInGA
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BuckeyeInGA 03/15/10 - 06:51 pm
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Doggie Mom, our governor is a

Doggie Mom, our governor is a veterinarian - a graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 03/15/10 - 07:26 pm
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Baron, not that I'm a fan,

Baron, not that I'm a fan, MCG did the research that led to birth control pills. Also, ground breaking Alzheimer research, major stoke studies, sickle cell research by Dr. Heismann back in the 1970s, 80s and on until he retired, and a very big recent project was instrumental in the development of a vaccine to young women and girls to prevent the most common forms of human papillae virus, in the Family Medicine Department of all places. You might also remember the tobacco warning and advertising to kids research (the "Joe Camel" studies) that happened in the late 80s, early 90s. Those studies led to huge lawsuits of and by the tobacco industry giants, and to many Congressional hearings as well. There was also a huge international study on the effect of pregnant women taking anti-seizure drugs on the their babies' development and intelligence level. The effect was so clear and dramatic that they reported the preliminary results in JAMA or the New England Journal, I can't remember which, several years before the study was to be finished. Very important study, that.

Those are just a few that I can name off the top of my head and type up in a few minutes. Of course, there are dozens upon dozens more.

Any reason in particular that you were asking that question?

DoggieMom
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DoggieMom 03/16/10 - 01:40 pm
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A veterinarian...I wonder

A veterinarian...I wonder what he would have done if half way through his program and training, the Governor decided that we needed more medical students, and cut his veterinary training?

Wouldn't it make more sense to close the programs, but finish with the students already in those programs before booting them out the door?

There have been schools all over the country that have shut down due to finances, but they have done all that they could to help the students get accepted into other schools and finish their training. This is NOT due to finances if we are clearly starting another school of medicine.

I had a child transfer to UGA, and about 1/2 of her college credits from a fully accredited University did not transfer. I don't think people are thinking about the time and money all of the students have invested into programs in Augusta and will have to start over.

If our Governor is a UGA graduate, he is also biased, and needs to recuse himself from any decisions that have to do with UGA and eliminating schools from other parts of the state of Georgia.

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