Athens campus causes concern

Special
MCG President Daniel W. Rahn said there are estimates of a sizable doctor shortage.

ATLANTA - Medical College of Georgia President Dan Rahn reassured lawmakers Wednesday that plans for an Athens campus are no threat to the Augusta-based school.

"We're not exiting, and we're not forming a second medical school," Dr. Rahn told members of the Augusta legislative delegation. "Our strategy is for this to be a regional campus of MCG."

The lawmakers, however, remain wary.

"I would rather that investment be made in Augusta," Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, said of the 40 additional slots in Athens for first-year medical students. "Athens is only 91 miles away from Augusta. I can't see where it makes that much of a difference."

Mr. Tarver also told Dr. Rahn that members of the Augusta community appeared to be left out of the school's expansion plans, which only recently became publicly confirmed after Gov. Sonny Perdue included $3.8 million in his budget request to fund an MCG project in Athens.

Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, brought up another concern.

"We're aware there's a need for a new dental school," he said. "Do we have a commitment that the (MCG) dental school will remain in Augusta?"

Dr. Rahn said that although new buildings soon will be needed to accommodate equipment for dental students, "There is no plan for that to be anywhere but the MCG campus. "

Dr. Rahn told the lawmakers that MCG hopes to have 40 new first-year students enrolled and living at the University of Georgia campus by fall 2009 because Augusta's facilities are unable to take in more students immediately and the demand for new doctors continues to increase.

In Athens, where university system officials are looking at the soon-to-be vacant Navy Supply Corps School for MCG classes, area hospitals are eager to take in new students needing to perform clinical work, Dr. Rahn said.

"We just felt it was a much steeper hill to climb to expand in Augusta," Dr. Rahn said.

MCG is trying to meet national industry goals to increase medical school enrollment, which has remained flat for years, by having 200 students annually starting classes in the next four or five years.

To do that, the school hopes to use the Athens campus in addition to satellites in Savannah and Albany.