ALBANY, Ga. -- The University of Georgia College of Pharmacy has proven successful in strengthening its influence on other regions of the state -- including Southwest Georgia.
The college's Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus held its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, a move that officials say should bring more pharmacists into the region.
"This is truly an exciting day for the college," said Svein Oie, dean of the UGA College of Pharmacy. "Southwest Georgia, for a long time, has not had an adequate number of pharmacists.
"We (aim to) train them here in hopes they will stay here."
The program, which will begin classes this fall, is based out of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's learning center -- which is in the same building as the Medical College of Georgia Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus -- on North Jefferson Street.
Joel Wernick, Phoebe Putney Health System CEO, gave insight to those present at the ribbon-cutting as to why it is important to expand the presence of health care education in this area of the state.
In so doing, he repeated the same message he has given at other occasions similar to Wednesday's event.
"I remind myself that it's not buildings or equipment that takes care of patients, it's people that take care of patients," he said. "That's why we feel it's important to train people (to care for others).
"Our quality of life here may be of a slower pace, but people need to come here to experience it in order to stay and make it home."
The campus will cater to undergraduates in the university's pharmacy program during their final two years of training, and will also add onto the graduate pharmacy program already operating out of Phoebe.
If nothing else, the new space should help students feel more comfortable with their surroundings.
"The students have never had a place to call their own," said Nancy Nix, a pharmacy resident at Phoebe. "They have always had to share (resources) with the pharmacy staff."
The new facility includes a computer lab, a lounge and classroom space to allow for distance learning.
Officials say that expanding pharmacy programs encourages a stronger collaboration within the health care team when it comes to helping patients, in turn allowing pharmacists more time at the bedside.
"(Traditionally), pharmacists haven't been out so much on the clinical floors," Nix said. "Everyone is now having input on patients.
"We all have things we are focused on, but if we have all the specialties together, it results in a better outcome for the patient."
Based on the experience of Dr. Doug Patten, Phoebe's senior vice president of medical affairs, this is a far cry from what it used to be.
"Thirty-one years ago, I was a medical student," Patten recalled. "Thirty-one years ago, as far as I was concerned, the pharmacist was someone behind the counter.
"Now, (pharmacists) are truly partners at the bedside."
The program expects to be able to accommodate 50 students and five faculty members at the Albany campus.