ALBANY -- The ongoing mission to build the health care industry in the region has reached another level.
A scheduled Dec. 3 visit by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) to Albany will assess the faculty and facilities to pave the way for the residential status of the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) School of Medicine Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus based at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
"They are coming to see our campus," said Dr. Iqbal Khan, assistant dean of the campus. "They want to make sure we have facilities and materials to provide a good education to our students."
The Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus, MCG's first, opened in 2005. It is on target to become a residential clinical campus in July 2010. It will house students during their third and fourth years of medical school.
Officials say everything is in place for the visit to go well.
"The expectations are clearly articulated," said Dr. Doug Patten, senior vice president of medical affairs at Phoebe. "(The standards) have either been responded to, or plans are in place to respond to every requirement."
Last year, more than 200 MCG medical students completed one or more clinical rotations in Southwest Georgia, working with physicians for four-six weeks per rotation in specialties including family medicine, pediatrics, surgery and obstetrics-gynecology.
"We established the campus to meet the medical needs in the region," Khan said. "It's our mission to serve Georgia."
Residential campus status will effectively relocate physician-hopefuls to Albany, enabling students to spend more time in a medically under served area of the state. It also means they are more likely to stay in the area once they get their degree.
"The more robust the student experience here, the more likely they are to practice here," Patten said.
Aside from meeting the health care needs of the area's residents, keeping physicians here can also have a significant impact economically -- $1 million for each one that stays in Southwest Georgia.
"The side benefit of all this is that it's an economic engine," Patten explained.
The MCG campus, along with others throughout the state, are part of an overall plan to increase their School of Medicine class size from 190 to 300 students by 2020. The state ranks ninth in the nation in both population and population growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and ninth as well for physicians retained in the state after public undergraduate medical education.
The state currently ranks 40th in the number of physicians per capita, according to the American Medical Association.
"We are very below the national average," Khan said. "We definitely need physicians at Phoebe to participate in clinical training for third- and fourth-year students.
"The faculty (on the Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus) is very capable of providing hands-on training."
The number of clinical rotations conducted in the region have increased four-fold since the campus' establishment, Khan said.
The statewide plan includes a second clinical campus, Southeast Georgia Clinical Campus based at St. Joseph's/Candler Health System in Savannah, which is slated for residential campus designation in coming years. The medical school class size will grow from 190 to 240 in Augusta and 40 to 60 in Athens. Facilities to accommodate the larger class in Augusta are under design.
Southwest Georgia Family Medicine Residency: In related news, the Southwest Georgia Family Medicine Residency program at Phoebe received full accreditation for a three-year program from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
"This means we can continue to train physicians for rural Southwest Georgia. We continue to meet the standards of the ACGME, which governs physicians' education," said Dr. George T. Fredrick, program director in a statement.
The three-year accreditation followed a one-day site visit. The site visit consisted of site examiners ensuring that what they found aligned with Family Medicine Residency Program's responses to a 75-page, complex questionnaire about the details and policies governing training, evaluation, monitoring, discipline, promotion and correction of deficiencies during the education process. In addition, the site examiner conducted interviews, made observations and reviewed documentation.
Plans are in place to seek six new residency candidates in the upcoming year instead of the five the program usually accepts. There is potential for it to ultimately seek eight people, Patten said.
The Accreditation Council is an arm of the American Medical Association.