The second-year students at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University will be part of an inaugural group of seven who will spend most of their third year in clinical rotations at the university's new Southeast Georgia Clinical Campus.
The students will do most of their rotations at St. Joseph's/Candler Health System in Savannah and at Southeast Georgia Health System in Brunswick. Grace and Kirks were born and reared in Savannah, and they were born at Candler.
"So going back to do clinical rounds there is going to be kind of interesting," Kirks said.
"It's kind of ironic that I would return," Grace said.
MCG students began doing six-week clinical rotations in Savannah in 2007. Work went so well on establishing the new clinical campus that it is going to start a year earlier than expected.
"We're very excited about that," said Paul P. Hinchey, the president and CEO of St. Joseph's/Candler, which will serve as the home base.
In fact, 150 of the health system's physicians have signed up to be volunteer faculty members and take on teaching duties, he said.
"We had an overwhelming response," Hinchey said. "It was remarkable. Every specialty was represented."
The physicians have been impressed with what they've seen so far of the MCG students, he said.
"They are bright, they are high-energy, they are well-read," Hinchey said. "That has helped tremendously with the enthusiasm, with the doctors wanting to serve as a clinical rotation."
The hospital and its physicians also benefit from having the students around, he said.
"What they get out of it is everybody stays current that way because they ask so many questions and they are so up to date on the literature and that keeps all of us, the nurses, the doctors, on our toes," Hinchey said. "We enjoy that as well. It's nice to see all of those young faces walking around."
The newness of the experience will be exciting for both the students and the new physician faculty members, Grace said.
"A lot of them that are signing on, they're new to this experience too," he said. "They're excited. Some probably have some history teaching medical students. Some don't. They will have fresh ideas, new experiences."
The students could also benefit from working with the private practice doctors whose community environment might be closer to what they will have when they start their own, he said.
"They follow the doctor in the office and when the doctor hops in the car and comes to the hospital, they make rounds with the doctor early in the morning and late at night," Hinchey said. "The day-to-day life of a private practice doctor."
The plan is to have 20 students there soon, but Hinchey said he would like to see 30, including some fourth-year students.
This year for the students, it means going from a class of 190, moving through various clinical rotations to just seven in the whole community program, Kirks said.
"Another part of the Southeast campus, as well as all of the other clinical campuses, is the low doctor-to-student ratio," he said. "There are probably not going to be any shared clinical rotations. So going from 190 to seven and seeing each other in our down time, that's really going to be a big change. We'll probably know each other pretty well by the end."
Hinchey said he hopes the experience brings them back to Savannah or at least persuade them to stay in Georgia.
"(MCG) is a public institution and it is supported by public funds so hopefully we all benefit by keeping them in Georgia," he said. "That's where our local community will hopefully benefit from that."
It should be an easy sell -- both Grace and Kirks profess a love for Savannah and would like to set up practice there one day.
"I like the history," Grace said. "It's old. It's got a lot of character to it. It's got unique things about it that you really can't find anywhere else. Old, quaint. I find that if I didn't live in Savannah it would probably be one of my favorite places to visit."