ATLANTA — Georgia Regents University is taking 30 medical students out of class today and busing them to the state Capitol to lobby legislators for residency program funding in Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed budget.
“One of the first things we’re going to do is thank our legislators for their support,” student Brett Heimlich said.
The dean of the Medical College of Georgia, Dr. Peter F. Buckley, said there is nothing inappropriate about a public university’s taking students to, in essence, lobby for taxpayer funding.
“There’s nothing weird and wonderful about this. This is part of their training,” Buckley said.
Most public medical schools in other states taken students to meet with lawmakers, he said, but this is the first time GRU has done it. GRU’s Athens satellite campus bused in students last year and again last week.
GRU will cover the cost of transportation and pay for a lunch the students will have with legislators.
“There is not a huge expense,” Buckley said. “And this is part of their curriculum.”
It’s not a curriculum requirement, however, and the school’s 200 other medical students won’t get the experience.
Administrators chose students based on leadership and hometowns to ensure that as many legislators as possible will be visited by someone local.
The students will make the point that Georgia’s physician shortage would be best addressed by increasing residency positions at state’s hospitals because doctors are more likely to spend their careers where they undergo their residency training.
“I haven’t really decided where I’ll practice. It depends on where I have my residency,” said Florida native Lael Reinstatler, the class president, who received her master’s from Emory University.
The governor is recommending $2 million to help hospitals. After each residency is established and accredited, the hospitals expect to receive Medicare funding to cover part of the continuing costs.