ALBANY, Ga. -- Deep in la-la land, the surgical patient lays at the center of the bustling medical team. In the operating room were techs, nurses, an anesthesiologist, plus Sarah Peterson and the surgeon.
Peterson is a fourth-year student at the Medical College of Georgia and is receiving a part of her education at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Even though she plans to specialize in family medicine, she must complete the required 4- to 6-week surgical "rotation," and this procedure would be a part of that.
Dr. Craig Murray, an Albany general surgeon and a participant in the partnership with MCG, seated himself beneath the bright lamp where he would work. Peterson came to assist -- and to learn.
An instrument cart was positioned near the surgeon and when everything was counted, Dr. Murray began the procedure.
While Murray's experienced, gloved fingers did their work, he occasionally turned and spoke to Peterson about the identification of physical "landmarks," and the "ligation of inferior veins using an ultrasound device." Later, Peterson would comment how valuable the "hands-on" experience had been, especially when compared to what would have been a competitive, crowded situation at MCG.
Peterson and 16 others made up the first full group of MCG students to reside in the area and attend Phoebe's Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus. According to a recent "partnership" between Phoebe and the medical college in Augusta, students have the opportunity to study at the campus and to learn from participating physicians and other medical professionals.
Peterson's student group arrived last year as third-year medical students and will continue to study at Phoebe through their fourth year at MCG. A second group of third-year students arrived at Phoebe this year.
Like the others, Peterson was given a tour of the hospital and the area. She said she was impressed by Phoebe's state-of-the-art technology and professionalism and had talked to a number of MCG students who had studied there.
Even though the campus had only just been completed, there were already students who had completed rotations at Phoebe.
Jennifer Yam, a student from Peterson's group, worked as a microbiologist at the CDC in Atlanta before deciding to study medicine.
"My dad always wanted a doctor in the family," she said, smiling. "I'm Chinese, and we try to please our dads."
Yam delivered her statement with a perfect English accent. She said she decided on Phoebe based on her opportunities for hands-on learning.
"At MCG, there's a chain of hierarchy," Yam said. "At the top is the attending physician. Below that are the residents, then the first-year intern, the second-year intern, and finally the third-year student doing rotations."
Yam was impressed with "every important area" at Phoebe, and even though she had some preconceived notions of the generally rural area, all of those were dispelled, she said.
Philip Neiheisel understands the reasons for the competitive nature of learning at MCG but said the situation can sometimes get a little "edgy" when students have to "fight" for the opportunity to learn.
"We learn more here. We learn by doing. In Augusta, we learn by reading or seeing. This is better," Neiheisel said. "Here, I'm the ONLY student at a given time. Everyone is eager to convey everything they know to me."
Neiheisel said he plans to pursue a pediatric-internal medicine career in an underserved area.
Hospital officials say they hope many of the MCG students will complete their residency training here and even decide to live and work in the Albany area.