Medical student Joseph Pate just completed a surgical rotation that he'd volunteered for in Savannah, and now he can't wait for more at sites outside of the Medical College of Georgia's Augusta base.
"The nature of the hospital in Augusta: there's lots of students, lots of residents. So there are lots of hands in the pot so to speak," said the third-year student from Gainesville, Ga.
School officials are betting other future physicians feel the same way because they are adding clinical rotations in Savannah, Brunswick, Columbus and Albany, and are getting encouragement from physicians in Rome. Additional sites for clinical training are needed around the state if MCG is to grow from 230 incoming students to 300 by the year 2020 as a way to tackle Georgia's physician shortage.
Students learn by observing in their third and fourth years of medical school, rotating from four to six weeks through various specialties where they are instructed by practicing physicians who volunteer to share their knowledge. MCG administrators plan to establish residential campuses in cities with volunteer faculty.
The first residential campus to open will be in Albany in July, following a visit next week from the accreditation agency, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. Unlike the branch campus opening next fall in Athens, the Albany campus won't have classrooms for first- and second-year students.
Next will be Savannah and possibly Rome. MCG administrators have set meetings with providers Monday in Savannah to talk further.
Students like Mr. Pate already take some rotations in Savannah and in nearby Brunswick.
"So much of the experience has nothing to do with the town. It has everything to do with the physician you're working with," he said.
Recruiting busy physicians to become volunteer instructors is a full-time job for Kathryn Martin, assistant dean for Southeast Georgia.
They have to cover the school's curriculum in order to maintain accreditation, and the students are tested on what they are supposed to learn.
"It isn't just show and tell. It's the real deal," she said.