UGA students in Augusta say 'we are MCG'

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The patch on Jennifer Jones' white coat sometimes draws curious looks on the campus of Medical College of Georgia.

University of Georgia pharmacy students Jennifer Jones (from left), Christy Cecil and Kimesh Bhana are doing part of their course work in Augusta.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
University of Georgia pharmacy students Jennifer Jones (from left), Christy Cecil and Kimesh Bhana are doing part of their course work in Augusta.

"Whenever you pass somebody and they are looking at your coat and they see we have Georgia on our arms instead of Medical College there, they say, 'What program are you with?' " the fourth-year pharmacy student said. "And when I say pharmacy, they say ..."

" 'I didn't know MCG had a pharmacy school,' " fellow fourth-year student Christy Cecil chimed in.

It doesn't, technically. But the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy has been training students in Augusta in collaboration with MCG since 1973, working closely with all of MCG's schools and sharing faculty and research projects.

The pharmacy school's building was recently renovated and the class in Augusta expanded to provide for up to 60 third- and fourth-year doctor of pharmacy students and postgraduate and residency students in collaboration with MCG and its health system. While a future branch of the MCG School of Medicine in Athens in partnership with UGA has drawn attention recently, the two schools have been collaborating in pharmacy in Augusta for decades, Assistant Dean Susan C. Fagan said.

"We feel like we are MCG. This is our campus," she said. "Most of us have never worked in Athens. When we go there, we're tourists."

The college has moved to a "2 2" program. The students do two years in Athens before some come to Augusta for their final two years. MCG and Augusta's hospitals give students the chance to get clinical experience and expose them to research opportunities, Dr. Fagan said.

Most Augusta students go on to do some type of research program. The college has 10 residency programs in the state, including a new second-year residency in pediatrics in Augusta, she said. That kind of training is critical to becoming a clinical specialist in a particular field, such as oncology, Dr. Fagan said.

The pharmacy students can train with other MCG students and take advantage of the faculty physicians, she said.

"They take it as their responsibility to educate not only medical students but pharmacy students and other students on the team with them," Dr. Fagan said. "Our students just really enjoy that."

Pharmacy students' motivations are much like those in other health care professions.

Kimesh Bhana was inspired by an uncle in Zimbabwe whose small community pharmacy made him "an integral part of the community."

Half a world away in Morven, Ga., Ms. Jones had a similar inspiration.

"My grandfather was a pharmacist, and I love patient interaction and talking to people," she said.

"There are no appointments," said Ms. Cecil, who drew inspiration from a pharmacist church friend in Gray, Ga. "People call you about everything. You have lots of interactions with patients. I really like that."

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


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