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Residency program welcomes Class of 2016

Gov. Nathan Deal, left, makes an appearance at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on Wednesday to welcome five new resident physicians into the Southwest Georgia Family Medicine Residency Program. They are, from left, Drs. Tracey Anyanwu, Jonathan Lawrence, Nazia Moiz, Emantavius Williams and Tiera Williams.

Gov. Nathan Deal, left, makes an appearance at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on Wednesday to welcome five new resident physicians into the Southwest Georgia Family Medicine Residency Program. They are, from left, Drs. Tracey Anyanwu, Jonathan Lawrence, Nazia Moiz, Emantavius Williams and Tiera Williams.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Georgia's highest-ranking government official took the time to welcome five new resident physicians into the Southwest Georgia Family Medicine Residency Program based in Albany on Wednesday.

Every year, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital sets aside a day to welcome a new class of residents. This year, Gov. Nathan Deal was the speaker, shaking hands with a few of the hospital's employees before making his way into the main entrance.

In his remarks, the governor spoke of the need to bring more physicians into what has traditionally been an underserved area, as well as some of the things that are being done to help offset the problem -- including a recent initiative to establish 400 new residency slots in Georgia.

"We know when doctors do a residency (in a certain area) in a hospital setting, they are more likely to stay in that area," Deal said. "There have (been potential residents) that could not find a slot here, leave and then don't come back. I see that as a drain on our resources, and that's something we need to do something about."

Another point that came into play was the significance of providing job opportunities for the young doctors making their way into the work force.

"The only way we are going to be able to (provide for) this part of the state is to have employment opportunities," Deal said. "(This would) not only enrich their lives, but enrich lives in the area in which they live."

The goal of the residency program, Phoebe officials say, is to train family physicians to practice throughout Southwest Georgia. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited program was developed in direct response to physician shortages.

Drs. Tracey Anyanwu, Jonathan Lawrence, Nazia Moiz, Emantavius Williams and Tiera Williams are the physicians who comprise the Class of 2016. In the outgoing Class of 2013, five of the six residents have committed to staying in Georgia with two practicing in Albany, Phoebe officials say.

During the ceremony, the residents received the traditional white lab coat and pager and were formally introduced to the community. Dr. George Fredrick, the residency program's director, handled the coat and pager presentation, along with Dr. Doug Patten, senior vice president of medical affairs at Phoebe, and Dr. John Vance, vice president of the hospital's medical staff. Cynthia George, chair of the board for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, gave the community introduction by handing each incoming resident a suitcase full of items provided by chamber members.

The residents will undergo training in the program for three years to become eligible for board certification in family medicine. During those three years, the resident physicians will work in multiple clinical areas at Phoebe and around Albany, officials at the hospital say.

"Governor Deal's participation in this year's New Resident Welcoming Ceremony emphasizes the impact that this program has on the region and the entire state," Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick said in a statement. "Our hope is that these young physicians will plant their roots in Southwest Georgia and remain in our communities.

"Over the past 17 years of graduating classes, more than 90 physicians have completed their residency here, and 67 have remained in Georgia. This is a huge impact on the health and quality of life in our state."