Dr. Peter Buckley, dean of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, gives a presentation to the Dougherty Rotary Club on the progress the institution has made. The school has a clinical campus based at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY —With already sound footing, officials say medical education efforts in Georgia are continuing to get stronger.
Dr. Peter F. Buckley, the 26th dean of the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Georgia Regents University, addressed the Dougherty Rotary Club on Tuesday to give an update on how the school is doing and what the future may hold for the education of future doctors in the state.
The Medical College of Georgia, located in Augusta, was founded as a result of a charter that passed Dec. 20, 1828. The dean highlighted some of the accomplishments the state’s sole public medical school has had in its history, such as the first hysterectomy in 1850 and Georgia’s first open heart bypass surgery in 1956.
The breakdown at MCG currently includes 920 medical students, 469 residents and fellows training in 44 programs, 155 postdoctoral fellows, 1,719 clinical and adjunct faculty, among other populations, spread throughout Georgia.
“Forty percent of our training efforts take place outside of Augusta,” Buckley said. “We train not just medical students, but residents and fellows. We do that not just in Augusta, but in your community and others (throughout the state).
One such example is Albany’s Southwest Georgia Clinical Campus based at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital that was established in 2008, which also reaches facilities in Columbus, Cordele, Moultrie, Valdosta, Thomasville, Tifton and LaGrange — and currently has 17 residential students and more than 200 transitional student rotations per year. At this campus, Buckley said, it has been found that students have a good experience not just in terms of training in various specialties, but becoming familiar with a more rural setting than they might find in the northern part of Georgia.
“We are particularly proud of the opportunity you have given us in Albany,” he said.
The hope behind establishing such campuses is to bring budding physicians in and hope that they eventually decide to practice in Georgia, and interest in that cause appears to be growing — not just in the increasing number of medical residency slots officials are trying to bring in, but also in the popularity of the MCG institution itself.
“Interest (in MCG) is up 18.5 percent in the last two years,” Buckley said. “Nationally, (that number) is 2.5 percent. People are banging down the door to come to the Medical College of Georgia. We are very proud of that.”
Buckley also made note of the growing research portfolio at MCG in areas including regenerative and reparative medicine, cancer and neuroscience — and also of its increased rankings in funding from organizations such as the American Heart Association.
Mention was also made of the J. Harold Harrison Education Commons set to open in August, which has been named after an alum who donated $10 million in 2012 to help make the facility a reality. More was later donated from his estate to MCG — a sum of $66 million given to the institution, which has since been earmarked, among other uses, to go toward scholarships.
“It is believed to be the largest single gift to a public university in the history of public universities in Georgia,” Buckley said in his presentation.
Buckley became dean of MCG in 2011. A psychiatrist and expert in schizophrenia, Buckley also is a professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and radiology at the institution. He joined the faculty of the state’s public medical school in 2000 as chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior. From 2007 to 2010, he also served as associate dean and then as senior associate dean for leadership development in the medical school.