New money helps Augusta universities pursue priorities

Georgia Health Sciences University will get nearly $4 million to pursue initiatives in public health and to add more doctoral students, and Augusta State University will get nearly $500,000 to retain students and help them graduate.

The strategic planning funding of $3.1 million from the University System of Georgia will help GHSU recruit for its newly formed Institute of Public and Preventive Health and help to address health disparities in the state, Provost Gretchen Caughman said.

An additional $750,000 will help GHSU add 30 slots for first-year Ph.D. candidates, essentially doubling the 30 to 35 it adds each year. Access to those students and the strength of the Ph.D. program are often the first things research recruits ask about, she said.

“They want to grow the next generation of scientists,” she said.

Top research universities all have strong Ph.D. programs, the provost said.

“The two go hand in hand,” she said.

GHSU recently launched its Institute of Public and Preventive Health, and the new money will enhance its recruiting efforts, Caughman said. The institute is trying to look at areas where there is the greatest need, such as in obesity, hypertension and especially cancer, she said.

The university wants “to look at what really plagues Georgians, the kinds of diseases and issues in the community that are problematic,” she said.

It also plays in well with the university’s pursuit of National Cancer Institute Cancer Center designation, she said.

The money will allow ASU to look at streamlining its admissions and enrollment process, add to its freshman transition program, and add a second program aimed at sophomores with an eye toward helping them stay in school and graduate, Caughman said.

ASU and GHSU are expected to consolidate early next year, and Caughman will be provost of the consolidated university. The University System asked each institution for strategic priorities if money were available, and both universities are grateful for the additional funding, she said.

“(The system) understands the need that Georgia has for enhanced public and preventive health research, and this is a great vote of confidence for us to put it to good use,” Caughman said. “And we intend to.”

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