Papers hint at MCG expansion

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It appears a long-awaited report on expanding the Medical College of Georgia will recommend expansion in Augusta, Athens and possibly three other sites in the state, according to internal documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.

The consulting firm that is preparing the report, Tripp Umbach, is also asking to be paid $250,000 during the next several months to help sell it.

The consultant and MCG President Daniel W. Rahn are scheduled to present recommendations Tuesday to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents on expanding medical education in Georgia.

The idea of creating a satellite campus of MCG's School of Medicine in Athens in conjunction with the University of Georgia was first broached last year in a budget request from Gov. Sonny Perdue, who asked for $3.8 million to help plan it. A year earlier, Chancellor Erroll B. Davis denied to The Chronicle that there were any plans for a medical school in Athens.

Mr. Perdue's request ignited a storm of protest from Augusta legislators and civic leaders who feared eventually losing one of Augusta's largest employers to the state's largest school. A legislative compromise resulted in the planning money being awarded to look at expansion in Athens, Augusta and elsewhere. Tripp Umbach, a nationally known consulting firm that has worked on other medical school expansions, was hired for $332,000 in September. The House Medical Education Study Committee, led by Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, also held hearings on the issue in the past few months.

According to e-mails and documents obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act, MCG and UGA officials have been meeting continuously to plan for expansion while the study committee and the consultant were at work.

The "MCG/UGA Medical Initiative" met from Oct. 3-5 in Athens and Augusta, according to the agenda, which included briefing Tripp Umbach and attending one of the House medical education study committee hearings in Augusta. The "MCG/UGA Planning Committee" was scheduled to meet in November and December, according to e-mails, and MCG School of Medicine Dean D. Douglas Miller has held weekly "Expansion Team" meetings in his office in Augusta.

Through a spokeswoman, Dr. Miller refused a request for an interview. Consultant Paul Umbach also did not return calls seeking comment.

In its "Medical School Expansion Study," Tripp Umbach lists among the study objectives "assess the feasibility of expanding the School of Medicine in other locations within Georgia, to include at least Augusta and Athens. Tripp Umbach will also evaluate three additional sites."

There is no specific mention of which additional sites, but the consultants traveled to Albany, Savannah, Athens and Rome and met with MCG alumni in Atlanta. MCG already has a clinical campus in Albany and is looking to establish one in Savannah.

The invitation list for a "Strategic Communications Meeting" in early December in Madison included public relations staff from MCG and UGA, the Board of Regents and the Atlanta public relations firm Boyette Levy. That meeting agenda included a chart that outlined having specific messages for audiences in Augusta, Athens, Albany, Savannah, Atlanta, statewide and nationally.

In an addendum to one of its original proposals dated Sept. 2, Tripp Umbach proposed a $1,500-a-day fee for "presentations and public relations as needed" from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2008.

In a Nov. 28 report entitled, "A Proposal to Provide Ongoing Communications Support to Medical College of Georgia for Medical College of Georgia's Expansion Study," Tripp Umbach proposed working with Boyette Levy so the expansion report is "reaching the right targets with the right message." This includes promoting the final report and Mr. Umbach "to select media," having Mr. Umbach deliver a minimum of 12 speeches to "key audiences," having Boyette Levy ghostwrite guest editorials that would be attributed to Mr. Umbach and Dr. Rahn, conducting "media training" and "facilitating crisis communications." The fee for these services, from December through June 30, would be $250,000.

Parts of the report were previewed for Mr. Davis, and Dr. Rahn provided an update to the Regents at a strategic retreat earlier this month. But Regents spokesman John Millsaps said the board was taking pains to preserve its objectivity before the report's first public presentation Tuesday.

"That will be the first chance the Regents have to really engage the consultant and ask questions," he said. "They didn't want this to be seen as anyone driving anything."

Tripp Umbach also did an economic analysis of MCG in Augusta that said in 2005 MCG accounted for $735 million and directly or indirectly provided 6,930 jobs. It projected that would grow to $896 million and more than 8,000 jobs by 2015. The report will evidently be provided in a color brochure.

A Dec. 3 e-mail from Annie Hunt Burriss, a recently hired special assistant to Dr. Rahn who is based in Atlanta, noted that Dr. Rahn is concerned about the "rollout" for the brochure.

"He was fine with (the) idea that his team will develop a distribution plan as part of MCG's strategic communications plan," she wrote.

Dr. Rahn was also offered a chance to comment but declined.

"Dr. Rahn and Dr. Miller will be happy to talk about the report after the report is presented on Tuesday," MCG spokeswoman Jennifer Hilliard said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT

Consulting firm Tripp Umbach and MCG President Daniel W. Rahn are scheduled to present a plan Tuesday on expanding medical education in Georgia.

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patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 01/13/08 - 06:50 am
0
0
The wheels of progress turn

The wheels of progress turn slow. This expansion has been in the works for decades without any apparent progress being made. Now something seems to be happening. Good! Good for Augusta, good for Georgia. Tax money well spent.

Riverman1
82445
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Riverman1 01/13/08 - 09:35 am
0
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It appears Dr. Rahn and

It appears Dr. Rahn and Chancellor Davis have had their minds made up for a long time. Before the report is released they are already planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring PR firms to sell the idea. No, MCG won't close, but in future years when funds are needed, it will have to battle UGA's medical school for the money. There is only so much to go around. Opening a second medical school will mean less funding for MCG down the road. If anyone has any doubts, look to our neighboring state, SC, for an example of what happens when a second medical school opens. Charleston fought the same battle Augusta is fighting. Ask them what happened. Funds were taken from MUSC to create one of the lowest ranked medical schools in the country. Resident training programs in GA are what's needed.

Ron Martin CPP
2
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Ron Martin CPP 01/13/08 - 09:37 am
0
0
MCG is one the three Augusta

MCG is one the three Augusta Economy Drivers. Local, State and Federal legislative delegations must assure the political and community infrastructures supoort MCG.

getagrip
0
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getagrip 01/13/08 - 09:48 am
0
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The difference between MCG

The difference between MCG and UGA and SC is that the new medical university at USC is separate from MUSC. Nothing is wrong with having satellite sites of MCG. With the shortage of physicians, it is a win/win for all of the citizens of Georgia and we are very fortunate to have such good leadership at the helm. The residency program will be able to expand. Mercer is already doing the same thing in Savannah.

september 5th
1
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september 5th 01/13/08 - 10:24 am
0
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getagrip, there is no

getagrip, there is no shortage of physicians, the shortage is on persons having insurance so that the physicians can bilk money from non-sick patients that abuse their insurance by running to the doctor for every toe ache, because "i pay for insurance and i need to use it"....doctors create their own income and unfortunately fraud abounds! if americans would only seek medical care when needed insurance premiums would go down! why should a person need blood work everyday when hospitalized or why should a person be able to "walk" into a doctors office and be sent to walk to another office to get a big toe xray because he/she bumped against a piece of furniture?

Riverman1
82445
Points
Riverman1 01/13/08 - 10:31 am
0
0
Getagrip, do you really think

Getagrip, do you really think UGA will not end up with control of the medical school campus in Athens? Do you really think it will not end up a separate medical school soon as they can work it out? The reason it is beginning as a satellite campus is because credentialling is automatic this way. It would be a complicated process if they started as a separate school. Keep in mind, whatever it is called, it will take funds away from MCG in Augusta eventually.

Little Lamb
45377
Points
Little Lamb 01/13/08 - 11:21 am
0
0
There might be good reasons

There might be good reasons for having satellite campuses all around the state for medical training, just as there are other vocational schools all around the state. Let's not be too parochial here.

Bizarro
13
Points
Bizarro 01/13/08 - 01:46 pm
0
0
It may serve Georgia best to

It may serve Georgia best to eventually move the medical college to Athens. The dynamic of a strong university like UGA with a medial college would be a great benefit. Already both UGA and MCG have collaborations with Georgia Tech and other institutions. Athens is a great location to reach Atlanta, Columbia, Charleston, Chapel Hill-Triangle area, etc. A large pool of students (UGA) would provide an excellent resource to recruit bright staff for research, a larger pool of Phd researchers and academics would be a resource for the medical school, the area may offer more room for expansion, create a busy hub of research and academic collaborations, them Dawgs, etc. This would have to be a gradual thing over a ten to fifteen year period. Nothing against Augusta just trying to envision what would serve Georgia best down the road. In any case, for MCG to expand to Athens and all over the state is a good idea.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 01/13/08 - 09:17 pm
0
0
Hush your mouth Bizarro.

Hush your mouth Bizarro. Augusta's economy depends alot on MCG with the highly paid staff at the hospital.

philippe
0
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philippe 01/14/08 - 03:36 pm
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Is MCG expanding?

Is MCG expanding?

katiescarlet
0
Points
katiescarlet 01/23/08 - 10:31 pm
0
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it is a good idea to open a

it is a good idea to open a medical school in athens. the navy school property is available and that is the stipulation to acquire this property. also I am aware of plans to develop a mixed use development next to this site called fred's uptown. it all sounds good to me.

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