Accrediting body approves MCG Athens campus

The Medical College of Georgia can proceed with selecting 40 first-year medical students for a satellite campus in Athens after getting a favorable report from its accrediting body.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education found that the school is meeting its goals and providing the resources to open a branch of the School of Medicine in conjunction with the University of Georgia in fall 2010.

"We're pleased to be on track and moving ahead with this project and getting closer all of the time," said D. Douglas Miller, dean of the MCG School of Medicine.

The school has submitted a "template" for how it will provide key services, such as faculty and financial support for students, and the accrediting body wants periodic updates on how that is being done, he said.

"We expect to be -- as we've been for two years now -- in intermittent communication with the LCME about our progress, and they will keep evaluating it, but I think they are pleased with where we are now," Dr, Miller said. That updating will continue after the branch campus is running.

The committee wants to ensure that what is offered in Athens is equal to what students can get in Augusta, he said.

One key area that is still being fleshed out is clinical education and establishing residencies in Athens and Gainesville. The school has been working with St. Mary's Health Care System, Athens Regional Medical Center and Northeast Georgia Health System in Gainesville on establishing residency programs, and those hospitals have worked with an outside consultant to determine what types of residencies they would want. There will be meetings this summer to help determine what needs to be done next, Dr. Miller said.

"Now we're going to start comparing notes with the hospitals in Athens and Gainesville and also in Albany and other parts of the state as to how our needs and their needs can be dovetailed," he said. "That process is just beginning right now."

The school has clinical campuses in Albany and Savannah.

In the coming weeks, MCG will begin taking applications for the fall 2010 class of 230 students -- 190 in Augusta and 40 in Athens. It will ask students for the first time during the admissions process if they prefer to go to the Athens branch.

"That I think is a new wrinkle, and managing that student preference will be for us something we haven't done before," Dr. Miller said. The goal will be to provide an equally diverse class in both places, he said.

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