MCG stays in Augusta, leaders say

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Medical College of Georgia officials and the University System chancellor faced down Augusta officials Friday as they explained a controversial plan to open a satellite medical school campus in Athens, Ga.

And while some were satisfied, others said important questions and concerns about the future of MCG in Augusta remain.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis tried to make one thing clear to Augusta officials worried about eventually losing MCG to the University of Georgia.

"The Medical College of Georgia is going nowhere," he said. Even so, state Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, later asked him to repeat it.

"The Medical College of Georgia is going to remain in Augusta," he assured her.

UGA officials have made the satellite medical school campus part of their proposal for the Navy Supply Corps School campus, which is to be vacated after 2011.

And UGA President Michael Adams has for years publicly pined for a medical school on his campus.

"I think everybody here is happy with you," Augusta Commissioner Joe Bowles told MCG President Daniel W. Rahn. "It's just the business partner you've chosen in Athens with President Adams. I think that leads to a lot of the concerns here in Augusta, dealing with President Adams and what his ultimate goals are."

The satellite campus is a way to take advantage of the scientific faculty at UGA and to potentially acquire a valuable piece of real estate free, Mr. Davis said. And that would be the most cost-effective place to do it. But he said he could understand the concerns Augusta officials might have about any effort to set up a rival medical school in Athens.

"I can understand that fear quite easily," Mr. Davis said, "the fear of my medical school will wither and that one will prosper. But we don't have that here. We have a satellite campus of MCG."

The university system has invested about $130 million in buildings at MCG over the past few years and $20 million to $30 million more in routine capital expenditures, Mr. Davis said.

"We're investing tons of money in Augusta, and we're investing tons of money because we expect this to be the center of medical planning and execution and research for this state," he said.

Dr. Rahn last year was appointed to Mr. Davis' staff as senior vice chancellor for health and medical programs, and that should assure that Augusta's interests are always represented when those kinds of decisions are made, Mr. Davis said.

And there is no question that the state is facing a growing deficit of health care professionals that will worsen over time, Dr. Rahn said.

The Association of American Medical Colleges has called for a 30 percent increase in medical class sizes by 2015, Dr. Rahn said.

MCG expanded last year from 180 to 190 students, with aspirations to go to 200 on campus. But the classroom where Augusta officials sat Friday has only 200 seats, School of Medicine Dean D. Douglas Miller said. And the educational efforts are hampered by the number of clinical teaching opportunities students can get in Augusta, he said.

Already, more than 20 percent of those rotations are done outside of Augusta in clinics around the state, Dr. Miller said, and that will be the same for the potential 40 MCG medical students a year who go to class in Athens beginning in the fall of 2009.

Everything will still be directed from here, he said. "The heart of the medical school is here."

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver pronounced himself satisfied, particularly if MCG can get funding for a new building for the School of Dentistry that Gov. Sonny Perdue did not include in his budget proposal for next year.

"I have no concerns on MCG picking up and moving," he said. "They're too heavily invested in Augusta."

But state Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, said officials did not answer his central concern: "That is, whether or not this expansion in some way opens the door for this institution to be taken away piece by piece over a period of time."

That gradual erosion also concerns the chairman of the Augusta legislative delegation, Democratic state Rep. Quincy Murphy.

"Once it begins, how do you stop it?" he asked. "You think about the Augusta National (Golf Club) and MCG. These are two major landmarks in our community, and we want to retain them right here."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or


"The chancellor said, 'MCG is going nowhere.' I take him at his word for that. My biggest goal right now is to see that the dental school gets funded and is built in Augusta. ... I'm not scared of a satellite, particularly if we get the dental school built here."

- Mayor Deke Copenhaver

"We're talking about spending millions of taxpayers' dollars to provide the same opportunity we're currently providing in Augusta. Is that the best use of taxpayers' dollars?"

- State Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta

"The main thing is I don't want anybody taking anything away from the Medical College of Georgia of Augusta, Ga. I'd love the expansion to be here. I understand in part, but still I'm here for Augusta. That's what I was elected to do - to take care of our community."

- State Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta

"I really trust what they're saying. I have to. I can't go on anything else but what they're saying. I think they mean well. I really do."

- Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams

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JimCox 03/03/07 - 08:21 am
Quincy, exactly where would

Quincy, exactly where would the Augusta National move? Augusta, Maine, Augusta, Kansas, Augusta, Kentucky, maybe Augusta, Ontario? If you are going to use an example in a press statement, at least make it one that is believable.

lisakc 03/03/07 - 10:17 am
Replying to itswhatitis: IF

Replying to itswhatitis: IF the Augusta National were to want to move out of Augusta (and I can't see that happening), I imagine they would want to change their name to reflect their new identity. But my question is: I understand that one of the reasons for expanding to Athens is that the current campus in Augusta doesn't have adequate facilities to cope with the need for increased class sizes. I wonder if anyone has explored the possibility of taking the money to build a satelite campus in Athens and using it instead to increase the facilities in Augusta.
Lisa: MCG Alumni

eeggers 03/03/07 - 11:34 am
What a bunch of morons. This

What a bunch of morons. This is a great example of backwards Augusta politicians' paranoia.

helpaugusta 03/03/07 - 03:39 pm
I beleive this will in the

I beleive this will in the long run hurt augusta progress and mcg of augusta. Untill the city can get its act together and create business, progress, and decrease crime why would someone want to go to school in augusta when they could get the same training and degree from mcg in athens, a progressive city with plenty of things to do for college students without the risk of getting mugged downtown. Where would you rather go to school augusta or athens, i think that is an easy decision for most that follow augusta politics. Augusta will suffer from this expansion to athens, but they did it to themselves.

iletuknow 03/03/07 - 04:11 pm
They are just bailing out

They are just bailing out from the poor,sick, and uninsured as they have drained Medicaid for all it's worth and now have a chance to slip out at the taxpayers expense.

red10778 03/03/07 - 06:52 pm
iletuknow: don't confuse MCG

iletuknow: don't confuse MCG (the school) with MCG Health Inc. (the hospital). They are two VERY different things.

JTDagupan 03/11/07 - 12:11 am
If the hospital around

If the hospital around Augusta, in particular University Hospital (a teaching hospital without anyone to teach?), would allow students and residents to staff ward teams, MCG would not have to send medical students throughout the state. There are only so many medical students that can be handled at MCG Hospital facility. Athens is a perfectly logial choice as it has the capacity to handle more students, with academic resources to handle this. Please, if Augustans want to keep MCG in Augusta, tell University Hospital, Doctors Hospital, etc. to establish ward teams for medical students and residents to learn from. Otherwise you're just saying "keep them here" just because you want to keep them here without thinking about how much the medical students would actually learn. We want to produce competent physicians, not just physicians that "stayed in Augusta" to receive their training.

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