Don't hide the giant – start trumpeting the greatness of GHSU

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How do you hide a giant?

The question has nagged me for some time, because somehow we have managed to hide a giant in our midst.

The Georgia Health Sciences University enterprise is the state’s academic health center (think UAB for Alabama, MUSC for South Carolina, UTHSC for Tennessee, and so on), encompassing the nation’s 13th-oldest and sixth-largest medical school; the state’s largest allied health sciences school and graduate nursing program; and Georgia’s only college of dental medicine.

IT HAS FOUR MEDICAL campuses, two nursing campuses and more than 800 clinical training sites throughout Georgia and South Carolina. It includes Georgia’s second-largest children’s hospital; one of the state’s four Level I trauma centers; one of Georgia’s designated centers for stroke care excellence; a state-of-the-art multidisciplinary cancer center; and more.

It trains one in five physicians and one in four dentists practicing in Georgia. It generates $90 million worth of biomedical and biotechnology research, with internationally recognized research in stroke, cardiovascular biology, cancer, childhood obesity and regenerative medicine. It has a direct economic impact of more than $2 billion and a statewide impact of more than $8 billion. It is the region’s second-largest employer and generates more than 50,000 jobs throughout Georgia. It is one of the state’s top 20 employers.

WE ARE A GIANT that thankfully is still growing – with relevance to the entire state of Georgia, large parts of South Carolina, the nation and the world.

So how is it that many of our legislators, government officials, statewide communities, peers and colleagues know very little about us?

In 2010 we surveyed a pool of individuals representing more than 70 institutions providing medical and other health education programs around the nation. Fifty percent had never heard of us, and only a third of the remainder knew us as a health sciences university.

When I visited Athens, Ga., shortly after I arrived here, a well-respected and influential community leader there noted that the only thing we had in Augusta was a medical school – and, when respectfully corrected, showed extreme surprise that we were anything else.

AND WHEN RECENTLY meeting with one of Georgia’s most notable philanthropists, he kindly noted that while he appreciated my visit, he had no clue who we were or what we did.

And in fact, why is it that our own Augusta community knows so little about us – considering our university as simply a type of technical college, a school for advanced health professions, ignoring the extensive and innovative research and discovery we do?

Why do people think of our health system as an “indigent” hospital, ignoring that in 2010 we brought more than $90 million in medical tourism dollars to the city – indicating that people who had a choice elected to come here because of our expertise at complex procedures? Thirty percent of our patients came from outside our metropolitan service area.

So really, how have we managed to hide such a giant in our midst?

WE HAVE CAMOUFLAGED the size of the enterprise by allowing the institution to be viewed only in parts – the hospital here, the school of medicine there, the practice plan hither, the school of dentistry yonder, its research over there.

And we have worked hard at misnaming the giant, such as calling the university a “college.”

And we pretended it wasn’t a giant at all. Many of us only highlight the obstacles and barriers facing us. Many said we were not worthy of federal attention, not worthy of recruiting the best and brightest or not worthy of national news coverage.

We pretended we weren’t a giant at all – because that is what we do when we forget to emphasize and celebrate the broad relevance and enormous impact the enterprise currently has on the welfare of our communities, our state and our citizens.

Perhaps we have taken it for granted, routinely walking around its great giant legs without noticing. Many of us and many in our community have taken our enterprise for granted – not noticing its enduring benefit on the immediate health and welfare of the community; on the value of Augusta properties and places; and on the livelihood and fortunes of many.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, we simply were silent, telling no one that a giant sat in our midst. Perhaps we hoped that if we did not say anything, others would not notice the giant sitting in the middle of the room.

Unless we really do not want to be noticed and recognized for what we are – and there are a million reasons, actually many millions of reasons, why we should – then each of us need to go forth, trumpeting who we are and how great we are.

With pride. With confidence. Making noise. Celebrating. Telling our story.

(The writer became president of Georgia Heath Sciences University in 2010.)

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Dipshot
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Dipshot 12/31/11 - 12:00 am
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To answer your question Dr

To answer your question Dr Azziz.. it's because it's located in Augusta. This city is only known for one thing, The Masters, and that's probably all it ever will be known for. Not saying it's right; it's just true. The fact that you had to write this column explains why the state wants to move the medical university to UGA.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/11 - 12:14 am
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Dr. Azziz, I believe your

Dr. Azziz, I believe your perceptions may not be accurate. GHSU is certainly valued and known in the state. Locally, we spent $6 million of county money to get rid of the public housing to give you land to expand. The economic impact of GHSU on the CSRA is noted often. Why in the world would you think we have such an uninspired vision of GHSU?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/11 - 07:32 am
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I suspect Dr. Azziz has read

I suspect Dr. Azziz has read something about public relations from a magazine in the rack of his orthopedic surgeon's waiting room and is trying out a few of the themes here. He is also reminding us how powerful GHSU is as he seeks to close the street cutting through the campus like a surgeon who has a 4 o'clock tee time. Then there's the information starting to come out about combining with ASU which he is against. So why not use the power bait to remind us of how big GHSU is...as if we needed it.

scott-hudson
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scott-hudson 12/31/11 - 08:35 am
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Come on ya'll give Dr. Azziz

Come on ya'll give Dr. Azziz a break here. He has been a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor. Azziz has a vision for the university and the research that has been produced there is world class and deserves attention. When I faced a health crisis that nearly killed me, all the doctors at the hospital I was in (not MCG) scratched their heads not able to diagnose me, they just kept shocking me back when I flatlined...it was a "teaching doctor" from GHSU that is an extended family member that figured out what was wrong with me and instructed the team at the hospital what treatment to give even though he did not have working privileges there...I am still here, so his treatment must have worked.
Also, the students at GHSU rent tons of homes in the surrounding area and always take care of the property (my grandparents will only rent to GHSU students).
Some have accused Dr. Azziz of coming into town like a bull in a china shop, when really the opposite is true, he is accessible and wants the university to grow. Now that Augusta has virtually lost its manufacturing facilities, without GHSU and Fort Gordon Augusta would be nothing but that "little town with a yearly golf tournament."

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/11 - 08:41 am
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Scott, I'm not being too hard

Scott, I'm not being too hard on Azziz. I generally like the guy. I'm simply pointing out what he's doing. Heck, maybe we need to hear about the importance of GHSU again. What do I know?

By the way, there are medical experts all over the CSRA, not just at GHSU. Don't fall into stereotypical thinking of where the most knowledgeable practitioners are.

agustinian
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agustinian 12/31/11 - 09:51 am
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Dr. A, What's in a name? A

Dr. A,
What's in a name? A rose by any other name still smells as sweet. Scott Hudson was saved by an "MCG" physician, I doubt a "GHSU" physician would have done any better.
How 'bout working on the Electronic Medical Records program there that is a complete nightmare and a multimillion dollar failure -- not many headlines there in fixing that.
How 'bout working on billing systems that are actually readable and understood by a person with a 9th grade reading level. Not many headlines there either.
You got the headline grabbin' down pretty good, now let's work on some substance.

John Locke
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John Locke 12/31/11 - 11:01 am
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For the past year Aziz has

For the past year Aziz has been trying to warn Augusta that it had better shape up. However, he's talking to a community that is too stupid to realize there is a world out there beyond them. Have any of you ever seen the former Naval Supply Center land in Athens. It is beautiful, parklike, with a self contained campus with trees, sidewalks, etc. Given a choice of where I'd want to work or go to school in the medical field, it is not hard to decide - Athens has the culture and location that far exceed Augusta. One day, when the state - not Augusta - decides to consolidate higher education, its a no brainer to put it all on that great property in Athens. Then Augusta will go "what happened?" Well you've been warned for the past year or so by Aziz. He's doing it in a polite and sugarcoated way. Read between the lines and not on the surface - either love GHSU or it will leave - that is the only decision Augusta can make. Aziz is building his case should that day come that he tried all kinds of ways to get community support - every letter to the AC, every speech, etc. He will present that as evidence to some state board who will see - yes - he tried but Augusta didn't care. Remember, GHSU belongs to someone who doesn't live here and it's fate is in someone elses hands.

beboisme
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beboisme 12/31/11 - 11:43 am
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In the begining GSHU was

In the begining GSHU was Talmadge Hospital a teaching facility and for those who had no means of paying for treatment. Then it became the new Medical College of Georgia, still an indigent care facility and as always a teaching facility. So many people through out Ga. were dependent on the State of Ga. and Federal funds to see them through their illnesses. Still Dr. Azziz isn't State and Federal money a big, big part of the University? That is why people still think GSHU is an indigent care facility. The GIANT has grown as big as it's going to get and no amount of HGH can make it bigger. Now with that said let's get on with the research,re-open the "indigent care" pharmacy again for those who can't afford the prescriptions and put someone over filing the paper work to the State for reimbursement of said medicines for the "indigent", as it does require an educated mind to file for the "indigent." Students in the Dental School are just that ,students. The cost of being a guinea pig for the students to practice on you is rediculous. The school should be glad to get indigent patients for the dental students to practice on as well as all other departments throughout the campus. Dr.Azziz GSHU has always been what it is, care for the "indigent" and the State of Ga., through much of taxpayers money, has always taken care of it's own,"The Indigent."

bailmeout4
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bailmeout4 12/31/11 - 11:48 am
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I went to medical school at

I went to medical school at MCG. There is no way this school is moving to Athens, not enough faculty or clinical opportunity. The Athens campus is a way for GHSU to branch out and increase its foothold on the state and recruit the best and brightest students, for the primary reason of trying to keep these students in state for training and practice.

Dipshot
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Dipshot 12/31/11 - 12:43 pm
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Stellar comment John Locke..

Stellar comment John Locke.. my sentiments exactly. Seems to me Azziz is doing all he can to save the institution here in Augusta and make it better.. what does he get for his efforts? Endless criticism from the community. As I said in an earlier thread.. the proposed merger of ASU (which is a essentially a community college) and GHSU which is a state level research university should raise major red flags. THis is not about raising the stature of ASU, but rather lowering the stature of the medical school here to that of just a regional medical campus.. the flagship public medical school will be in Athens.. mark my words. As Locke said, Azziz is giving us a kind warning.

allhans
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allhans 12/31/11 - 12:43 pm
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Approve billboards for I-20.

Approve billboards for I-20. You know, advertise!

Patients come from all over the state for health and dental care, it's the outsiders that aren't aware.
The dental school is excellent.

John Locke
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John Locke 12/31/11 - 01:41 pm
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Well bailmeout4, maybe in the

Well bailmeout4, maybe in the past that may have been true. Not enough faculty? When the university says your job is now in Athens, not Augusta, how hard is it to move? Either do it or don't have a job. Pretty simple. Recruiting new faculty to live in Athens, not a problem either. The Athens campus is closer to the flagpole so to speak. Faculty are seen more, interacted with more, network in Athens, etc, etc. The math is simple Athens postives + Augusta negatives = a decision, again by someone who can only go by what they read and is reported in the public record. This has nothing to do with quality of medical care. Dipshot made an excellent point about the relations ship with ASU (really a community college even though they like to think they are a UGA) and GHSU, the loser in that equation is GHSU, not ASU so right now this is a critical time with a UG system just looking for a reason for action. Augusta will surely give them one, one way or the other.

countyman
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countyman 12/31/11 - 02:30 pm
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When did Augusta lose it's

When did Augusta lose it's manufacturing facilities?? Augusta Newsprint had a $55 million expansion, Potash $40 million, DSM purchased the former Pfizer plant, multi-million algae facility, FPL foods $3 million expansion, and Bennett International came here and invested $35 million this year.. Not to the mention the largest single investment in South Carolina's history(Bridgestone in Graniteville), and the $115 acre plant coming to South Augusta next year..

Augusta offers more than Masters's including the Westobou, Arts in the Heart, US Cycling world championships, ESI Ironman, Border Bash, etc..

GHSU is definitely not leaving Augusta and moving to Athens.. They just built a $112 million dental school who opened three months ago.. The Medical Commons building is coming in the near future.. The Augusta school has 190 students compared to the 40 in Athens..

Their is already tons of more shopping, dining, and things to do in Augusta compared to Athens... Outside of football season I can't imagine how boring Athens would be

countyman
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countyman 12/31/11 - 02:43 pm
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The numbers don't lie about

The numbers don't lie about which campus students prefer..
http://onlineathens.com/stories/042210/new_615881875.shtml

''Students accepted to the Medical College of Georgia prefer the main campus in Augusta over the new branch campus in Athens by about 6-to-1, MCG Dean Douglas Miller told the University System Board of Regents on Wednesday.''

As downtown continues to grow along with the gentrification happening in the inner city neighborhoods/areas of Harrisburg, Laney Walker, East Augusta, and Bethlehem.. I expect the numbers to lean even more towards Augusta in the future.. Providing students the ability to walk or bike between the Medical District and downtown Augusta can't be beat.. The new Saint Sebastian way help jumpstart the potential when it opened..

If GHSU wants to take the next step, they need to have a 'campus' feel.. Either build the dorms on the former Fatmans property, somewhere in Laney Walker, the Kroger shopping center, or the CBD.. They desperately need a research/biotech park somewhere in the CBD, Laney Walker, or Kroger shopping center..

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 12/31/11 - 03:04 pm
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I agree with Scott Hudson. I

I agree with Scott Hudson. I can't say enough good things about GHSU, their doctors and staff. We are so fortunate to have some of the best physicians in the world in this facility. They have taken such good care of me. It's the place to go when either badly injured or seriously ill; no other hospital here compares to them.

Piperpig
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Piperpig 12/31/11 - 03:49 pm
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THe UGA medical school

THe UGA medical school expansion is similar to what happened in South Carolina. When USC expanded to include a medical school many at MUSC were nervous that it would attract many of their students. Instead, MUSC is still the preferred school; not just because Charleston is a nice place to live, but also because of the sophisticated medical community they have down there (as a result of having a medical college in the first place).

Augusta is the same way. Our medical community is more sophisticated than any other in GA (outside of Atlanta, and I think we compete with Atlanta pretty well). Our hospitals and medical professionals are better. If you live in this area, chances are you're related to someone in the medical profession. If you're a young med student you're going to go where you stand the best odds of getting experience and maybe getting a great job after school. Augusta offers that--Athens does not.

I appreciate the new leadership at GHSU. I think it's a world class institution and is only getting better. I do have to say, however, that when I go to other towns (particularly in the Carolinas) most people seem to know Augusta for the medical field--the burn center at Doctors in particular. Obviously we're also known for being the home of the Masters (which I don't know why that seems to upset people so much). At least we're known for something.

Dipshot
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Dipshot 12/31/11 - 05:29 pm
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Point taken about MUSC.. but

Point taken about MUSC.. but big difference.. MUSC is in Charleston.. USC is in Columbia.. Now which city do you think would have an easier time attracting students, faculty and researchers? Hands down, Charleston. But in the case of GHSU, we are talking about Augusta vs Athens.. sorry.. Augusta may be a bigger town, but it has the culture of Mayberry.

countyman
20120
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countyman 12/31/11 - 06:11 pm
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Six to one.. I think Augusta

Six to one.. I think Augusta wins hands down in terms of attracting students, researchers, and faculty..

Augusta is lacking in terms of culture compared to a couple of peer cities(Savannah, Charleston, Madison).. Vibrant downtown create a sense of 'city' and bring local shops, restaurants, etc.. Musicians, artist, etc also add to the mix of culture, and they love nice urban areas..

Augusta does offer a gay, hispanic, and greek festival.. Along with the Arts in the Heart and Westobou.. All we have to do is continue growing our downtown, because the culture is already here... Fort Gordon, SRS, and the Medical District attract people from diffrent backgrounds(add Plant Vogtle to the list in the future)..

People complain Raleigh lacks 'culture', but it's one of the fastest growing metros in the US..

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/31/11 - 06:18 pm
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Yeah, just to put things in

Yeah, just to put things in perspective again, GHSU is going to be the major state public medical school in our lifetime. The infrastructure is here. It's going to take Athens decades to catch up. But the rub is they are going to be drawing money from OUR school immediately. They already are.

Pu239
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Pu239 12/31/11 - 06:45 pm
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Giant?....Cool!
Unpublished

Giant?....Cool!

Dipshot
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Dipshot 12/31/11 - 06:47 pm
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Riverman.. you are right..

Riverman.. you are right.. this will not happen immediately.. it will happen a little at a time under everyone's noses until one day people come to the realization that the main public medical school in the state in in Athens.. not Augusta. But regardless how long it takes to happen.. it will have a devastating effect on Augusta's economy. And as Locke said, Augusta is giving them all the ammunition to do it. Azziz wants to think big and as usual Augusta wants to think small and is happy with the status quo..

John Locke
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John Locke 12/31/11 - 07:06 pm
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Note this comment from Aziz -

Note this comment from Aziz - "Perhaps we have taken it for granted, routinely walking around its great giant legs without noticing. Many of us and many in our community have taken our enterprise for granted – not noticing its enduring benefit on the immediate health and welfare of the community; on the value of Augusta properties and places; and on the livelihood and fortunes of many." There it is, the smoking gun. He's put out the warning but again, it is subtle. This is called strategic planning which is exactly what men like Aziz get paid to do at their level. Long range = long time, not tomorrow, which is the attention span of the local leaders and most of the residents who say, GHSU is too big to move - not over 20 years its not. So unless Augusta embraces GHSU and yes, that means supporting any expansions, special needs, etc then maybe not you, but your children and their children will be affected, as Aziz said - "the livelihood and fortunes of many."

Dipshot
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Dipshot 12/31/11 - 08:28 pm
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sorry countyman.. But Augusta

sorry countyman.. But Augusta vs Athens is no contest and this is from someone who has lived in both. Not to mention Athens is less than an hours drive to Atlanta and is already home to a major research university. Let's see.. a medical school attached to UGA or one attached to a community college? Yeah that's a tough decision.

carcraft
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carcraft 01/01/12 - 12:04 am
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GHSU IS a major research

GHSU IS a major research university. There are projects that are going on between GHSU and other well recognized medical research facilities on sickle cell and other diseases. Athens lacks the hopitals and patients to become the primary location for the major Georgia health sciences university. UGA could not expand into Atlanta, do you want GHSU to become a subsidiary of Emory? GHSU is not going anywhere but people in Augusta and Georgia do need to recognize what goes on at GHSU. There is far to much invested by the State and the Georgia board of regeants to abondon Augusta as the home of GHSU. WE have top notch pahysicians that get recognized as Doctors best or attract patient's from all over the US. I had a friend who went for a routine screening at the hospital we are told to insist on. The lab work came back the same day which showed a life threatening illness. She was transfered to GHSU and treatment was started the next day at GHSU not the hospital we are told to insist on. GHSU is great and Dr A just wants people to start realizing it and appreciating it!

kiwiinamerica
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kiwiinamerica 01/01/12 - 12:04 am
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Hell must be freezing over.
Unpublished

Hell must be freezing over. For once I agree with countyman. MCG is going nowhere. The huge sums spent on new plant over the past decade or so, guarantees that.

Let me tell you folks a story. Listen up, those who of you who've posted above and who've been drinking the Azziz Kool-Aid and who think the words "subtle" and "Azziz" are synonymous.

I think it's a real belly laugh that Azziz is now trumpeting the greatness of MCG. Shortly before he arrived in Augusta to take up the job and he was still living on the left coast in LA, he honored all the research faculty at MCG with an email which scathingly contrasted MCG's research gravitas and competence with that of MUSC. The punch line of the email was that MCG was so hopeless that MUSC had decided to pursue a particular type of research grant application on its own, rather than combine with MCG in a joint application. You can imagine how this went down with faculty. Someone evidently gave Azziz the message because it was followed a couple of days later by another email which attempted to..........*ahem*........"clarify" his previous email and in full damage control mode, he waxed eloquent about MCG's strengths.

Bear in mind, that this was his FIRST email to most faculty and it was sent before he had even taken up the job. So the first encounter which most MCG faculty had with this guy was a message in their inbox telling them how hopeless they were. Now whatever one thinks of MCG's research prowess, or lack thereof, I think most people who are versed in academic administration would agree that the time to get to grips with this issue is when one has one's feet on the ground and one has started to become familiar with both the facility and its faculty.

I relate this incident because it's typical of the Azziz modus operandi, which I could summarize as ......."floggings will continue until morale improves." This reflects the fact that, prior to this job, he had ZERO experience in medical school administration. He's on a steep learning curve and if anyone doubts this, I recommend a trip to his blog which can be accessed through the GHSU home page and check out his "Reading List". It's composed almost entirely of "How to Succeed......" motivational type books. I think this comes through clearly in the piece above which borrows heavily from that "pep rally" approach to administration. Folks, Steve Jobs when he was alive, did not sit around reading books on "how to succeed in business." He wrote the book.

Nobody but NOBODY is going to have a problem with the goal of raising the profile of MCG but the present way of going about is doomed to failure, I'm sorry to say. Ironically, Azziz himself has set the process back significantly with his hugely expensive and counterproductive name change. If he thinks that name recognition is a problem for the "Medical College of Georgia", I can tell him that absolutely nobody in the entire medical research universe has any clue whatsoever as to what GHSU means or signifies and that many, many alumni are completely underwhelmed by this newly coined moniker.

MCG has attracted some high profile scientists over the last decade and a half but its problem has been and continues to be RETENTION of good people. That's an important point because it gives the lie to the tripe which Azziz has written above. If MCG was truly a giant which was hiding, nobody would want to come here but that's not true. The problems arise when people get here, start working and get to know the place. They see the way the pace is run. They see the "balkanized" nature of its various Center and Departments. They see the low morale. Then they leave. This has ZERO to do with image as implied above and everything to do with the day to day realities of life on campus.

Riverman1
83802
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Riverman1 01/01/12 - 12:14 am
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Carcraft, good post. But

Carcraft, good post. But let's not start downgrading other area hospitals as we we commend GHSU. Honestly, the other area hospitals have specialists that are hard to find fault with. It's strange and a subject for another discussion, but the highest paid specialists in the country are found right here in the private medical sector of Augusta, GA. These guys are good.

carcraft
25803
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carcraft 01/01/12 - 12:31 am
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Riverman, I am not down

Riverman, I am not down grading other hospitals, it is just the FACT that GHSU has medical expertise that is WORLD CLASS and many people in Augusta don't or won't recognize it. GHSU does have it's faults as do other area hospitals, but when I had my surgery for cancer I went to GHSU and have had great follow up. The other facilities and hospitals in Augusta add to what GHSU has to offer and provide compitition that makes GHSU better!

Little Lamb
45908
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Little Lamb 01/01/12 - 12:55 am
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carcraft wrote: Athens lacks

carcraft wrote:

Athens lacks the hospitals and patients to become the primary location for the major Georgia health sciences university.

Maybe for now. But, if they build it, both will come.

Little Lamb
45908
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Little Lamb 01/01/12 - 12:59 am
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Countyman wrote: Augusta does

Countyman wrote:

Augusta does offer a gay, hispanic, and greek festival.. Along with the Arts in the Heart and Westobou.

Yeah, but Dr. Azziz said that Augusta lacks the cool factor.

Riverman1
83802
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Riverman1 01/03/12 - 06:50 pm
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ASU and GHSU will officially

ASU and GHSU will officially announce they are combining tomorrow. Told you.

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