The coming year will bring changes -- and new challenges -- to Medical College of Georgia and its faculty, the school's president predicted Thursday.
"MCG, as an academic health center, is facing a financial crisis which is expected to continue into future years," MCG President Dr. Francis J. Tedesco said. "Let me repeat that -- facing a financial crisis."
During his annual State of the University address, Dr. Tedesco highlighted ongoing efforts to help the highly rated institution climb out of a $22 million deficit that is certain to grow larger if left unattended.
One of the initiatives to reduce costs is an early retirement program. "I believe that of the options available for downsizing the work force, this has the least negative effect on our MCG family."
Although the early retirement program has drawbacks, it also opens doors for new opportunities, he said.
"Surely, the loss of a tremendous amount of institutional memory and intellectual talent will be felt for a time," he said. "And those that remain at the institution will have to do the same amount of work with fewer colleagues to assist them."
However, he added, the changes will offer the school an opportunity to fine-tune educational, research and patient care capabilities to adapt to an increasingly competitive world.
"We didn't emerge as one of the nation's oldest medical schools by buckling to challenges," he said, noting that MCG survived closing during the Civil War and efforts to close the school during the Great Depression.
"And we'll survive this," he predicted. "We'll continue to devise ways to combat these financial problems."
Brighter spots on the horizon include a one-time $12.9 million state grant to help offset the budget, and an additional $5 million proposed by the Board of Regents to offset the hospital's fiscal 2000 shortfall.
MCG also is nearing the conclusion of its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools institutional self-study process, which occurs only once a decade and -- this time -- involved more than 200 faculty members.
Dr. Tedesco also reminded faculty members that MCG has much to be proud of -- and much to celebrate.
"Since MCG's inception in 1828, we've educated more than 25,000 physicians, dentists, nurses, biomedical scientists and allied health professionals," he said. "Today, we're admitting the highest caliber students in the institution's history."
Foundation assets, he said, have topped $100 million -- a tenfold increase since 1988. "And since 1990, we've established over 20 endowed chairs, representing each of our five schools."
Additional endowed chairs will be announced within six months, he added.
"I applaud your efforts to position MCG as a leader among academic health centers," he concluded. "I will, however, remind us that we must work together, confidently and creatively, to reshape our university to be a model of excellence today, tomorrow and into the 21st century."
Dr. Tedesco, a graduate of St. Louis University School of Medicine, has been a member of the MCG faculty since 1978 and has been president since July 1, 1988.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.