Originally created 01/31/01

MCG's chief eyes future



His formal portrait now hangs outside his office. His official residence sits silent. But Dr. Francis J. Tedesco can barely sit still in his chair, and his hands fly as he talks about the future. As always, he would rather look ahead than behind.

Today is his last official day as president of the Medical College of Georgia, and he will spend it in Atlanta, where he is to be honored by the House of Representatives and the Senate.

"I gave them my keys already," he said, sitting in an arm chair in his office, where bare hooks adorn most of the walls and boxes of books sit on the floor. Dr. Tedesco, president since 1988, was one of more than 700 who took early retirement to help the school erase a deficit of more than $22 million. A search for his successor is down to three finalists, who are being interviewed in Atlanta, said J. Timothy Shelnut of Augusta, member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and vice chairman of the search committee. The names must be made public 14 days prior to a vote, and the next scheduled Board of Regents meeting where a vote could happen is Feb. 13.

As for Dr. Tedesco, he will now become chief executive officer of beBetter Networks in Atlanta, and will telecommute most days as the company seeks to provide employee assistance programs and training through the Internet.

It is a fitting next step for Dr. Tedesco, who was an early proponent of telemedicine and pushed its development once he became president.

"Early on, I thought telemedicine was the wave of the future and I still think it's going to be the wave of the future. I think we're just now scratching the surface," Dr. Tedesco said. "Telemedicine was a major advance, but that's going to lead us into the Internet, which is going to be the next big thing."

Telemedicine helped Dr. Tedesco and MCG accomplish one of his goals, which was to reach out to the rest of the state, something Dr. Tedesco did in person by traveling to every town.

"I thought it was especially right for us because we touched this entire state," he said. "Access (to care) and our connecting with the entire state is critical."

It is also critical for Augusta to seize the biotechnology possibilities at MCG and run with them, Dr. Tedesco said.

"Savannah River Site is what it is. It may not grow, it may grow," Dr. Tedesco said. "The Fort (Gordon) is what it is. It may grow a little bit. We have this wonderful research engine that has enormous capabilities and we HAVE to grow that. And we have to get all the things out of that - the money it will bring in itself and the small businesses it will spin off. That will create an infrastructure that is desperately needed for the future of this community. And everyone wins with that."

He says he leaves with no regrets, for he promises to be back to visit his staff and friends. He leaves behind a clinical career in which he made pioneering discoveries in antibiotic-created infections in the colon. He was consulted when polyps were discovered in President Reagan's colon. In 1983, when artificial heart patient Barney Clark was dying of a colon infection, his surgeon called Dr. Tedesco. So did Alfred Hitchcock's.

"I get calls now from people who are the children of the people I first started to take care of," Dr. Tedesco said. "If I have the ability to help them, I'll always be willing to do that."

His term is over; his service isn't.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.