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Phoebe welcomes new resident students

Third year students from the Medical College of Georgia arrive at Phoebe Putney Hospital for two years of advanced hands-on training. Hospital officials hope that many of the students will remain in Albany after selecting their specialties.

Third year students from the Medical College of Georgia arrive at Phoebe Putney Hospital for two years of advanced hands-on training. Hospital officials hope that many of the students will remain in Albany after selecting their specialties.

ALBANY, Ga. -- They aren't doctors yet, but they will be -- the 15 fresh-faced, white-jacketed group from the Medical College of Georgia.

All were gathered Tuesday for orientation at Phoebe Putney's Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus.

The resident students were addressed by Joe Austin, chief operating officer of Phoebe Putney Hospital. Austin stressed three points to remember during their time at the Phoebe campus -- the level of quality and safety of the care given to Phoebe patients, customer service and the financial cost of care to the patients.

"Be aware of what you're doing and what it will cost the patient," Austin said. "Do what you can to minimize the patient's bill while maintaining quality and safety."

Phoebe Putney hospital has formed a partnership with MCG, Southwest Georgia AHEC and physicians and clinics located between LaGrange and Valdosta, according to hospital officials.

For the next two years, the students, who are entering their third year of study at the Augusta medical school, will benefit from intensive "rotations" of four to six weeks in a variety of medical specialties, said Dr. Linda Boyd, associate dean for Regional Campus Coordination at MCG. The rotations will include such specialties as family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, surgery, internal medicine, neurology and psychiatry.

Boyd said that MCG third year medical students are often forced to "compete" for hands-on experience with those who are more advanced. By taking advantage of the partnership with Phoebe Putney, students have a real learning advantage, Boyd said. Third- and fourth-year medical students don't actually treat patients or perform procedures. Patients aren't required to have them present, although most don't object.

"They understand that everyone has to learn," Austin said. He sees the enhanced learning opportunities as a win/win situation, with benefits to everyone, including the community.

"They (the students) keep the staff on their toes," he said. "You have to stay sharp in order to teach."

Austin expects many of the students to eventually settle in Albany. "I want to give them a real dose of Southwest Georgia," he said. "They do our marketing for us. They tell their fellow students, 'You want to go to Phoebe.'"

"Phoebe's Board of Directors recognized 15 years ago that we had both an under supply of physicians and a growing number of patients," said Joel Wernick, president and CEO of Phoebe Putney Hospital. "We have deliberately built our program in partnership with other organizations, such as the MCG School of Medicine, that have other pieces of the puzzle."