ALBANY, Ga. -- Six new doctors to the Albany area were beaming Wednesday as they received fresh lab coats and pagers in the course of an annual welcoming ceremony at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
The Southwest Georgia Family Medicine Residency Program, based at Phoebe Northwest, welcomed its new class of residents with a Media Day ceremony at Phoebe.
The residency program was started in 1996, and since then, 82 physicians have graduated from the program. Part of its overall purpose, officials say, is to address the shortage of primary care physicians in the region.
"In the 1990s, the (Phoebe) hospital board decided to be proactive about the shortage of physicians," said John Culbreath, former Dougherty County School System superintendent and the hospital board's vice chairman.
In his address to the new residents, he described their medical mission to an individual attempting to save stranded starfish from a beach.
"You may not be able to save every individual, but to the person you are healing, it makes a difference," Culbreath said.
The residents were then introduced and given the lab coats and pagers, a rite of passage for every incoming class.
The new residents are Drs. Jeuslyn Chandlers, Matt Davis, Candance Walker, Jeffrey Lowery, Uzoma Ndukwe and Jimi Malik.
"I'm pretty overwhelmed by the response; this was a pretty warm welcome," said Davis after the ceremony. "This makes me feel at home.
"I'm looking forward to quality training."
Davis, a graduate of the University of West Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia, also noted that he was looking forward to eventually traveling down the Flint River during his time here.
Also present to welcome the new physicians was District 12 State Sen. Freddie Powell Sims.
"It's nice to have you here, and we are not letting you go," she said to the residents during the ceremony.
Also in her address, she noted that, for every physician that sets up a practice in the region, there is an economic impact of $1.5 million. In order to meet the desired ratio of one doctor for every 2,000 people, Georgia has needs to recruit 421 doctors.
Sims added that the state currently has the sixth highest senior migration rate in the country.
"People need to know quality health care is right here," she said.
Residents train with the program for three years to become eligible for board certification in family medicine. All resident physicians, throughout those three years, are expected to work in multiple clinical areas at Phoebe and around Albany.