MOULTRIE — With the opening of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, based here in rural southwest Georgia, there is also hope for the development of economic opportunity as well as increased access to health care.

Gov. Brian Kemp, in welcoming the 55 medical students beginning their path to becoming doctors at the 75,000-square-foot facility this week, spoke of the role south Georgia plays in the overall picture of the state and what he looks forward to seeing from the campus.

“We (the Kemps) are certainly no strangers to this part of the state,” the governor said. “(South Georgia) feeds, clothes and provides not just for the state but for the entire nation. We are spurring action for a new day in southwest Georgia; we know the problems too many communities face. Some have to travel one, two even three counties to see a doctor.

“I heard it on the campaign trail, and I continue to hear it as governor.”

Kemp praised members of the delegation who have been instrumental in the expansion of medical education, as well as those within the Moultrie community.

“You got the ball rolling to get the students raised here to ensure they stay here,” he said. “You will see the value in that; I hope you will.

“Together I know we can continue to work hard. I look forward to seeing (the PCOM South Georgia class) graduate in a few years, and to see what they will do in our state.”

More than $30 million was invested to establish PCOM South Georgia, built primarily by JCI Contractors while offices for faculty and staff members were temporarily located at Hospital Park in Moultrie. Spending more than three years in the planning and construction stages, PCOM South Georgia is the culmination of a mission to bring more physicians to the area.

“PCOM will become a good corporate citizen,” Dr. Jay Feldstein, PCOM president and chief executive officer, said. “I am extremely excited about the future of both (Georgia PCOM) campuses in this state.

“I do believe with your help we can have an impact on the health in our region.”

The campus started when a memorandum of agreement was signed that laid out a plan to begin the accreditation process with the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, the college’s accrediting agency.

Passion was evident within the student body. Some 2,500 applications were received from interested candidates hoping to become members of the first PCOM South Georgia class. Of the 55 who would get in, 33 percent are from southwest Georgia.

The ribbon-cutting this week was the first step in a long journey.

“We are plotting a new course for the future of southwest Georgia,” PCOM Board of Trustees Chairman John Kearney said to the class. “As board members, we are driven by the goals of this organization.

“We have great pride in giving you the best education with the lowest cost we can. You have made us happy; you are the formula for tomorrow’s success.”

Colquitt Regional Medical Center President and CEO Jim Matney serves as the chairman of the South Georgia Medical Education and Research Consortium, a partnership of five independent health care systems in south Georgia. The consortium was established in an effort to address health care access and physician planning through the development of a medical education pipeline and graduate medical education programs.

As such, Matney was in position to sell the idea of PCOM South Georgia. Not everyone was immediately receptive to the idea, he said, and some even laughed at the thought at first. Eventually, partnerships formed and the land the campus would be built on was donated so PCOM could expand its footprint.

“There were some ups and downs in the process, but we did it,” Matney said.

Hospital members of the consortium include Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville, Colquitt Regional, Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany, Tift Regional Health System in Tifton and South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta.

PCOM South Georgia joins PCOM Georgia, located in Suwanee in metro Atlanta, to become part of the health care work force solution for the state. On June 25, evaluators from the AOA’s COCA visited the PCOM South Georgia campus, the final step in determining that all accreditation requirements were met to open the facility to students.

The institution offers a full four-year medical program leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. Located at 2050 Tallokas Road on a 31-acre plot of land, the college is under the leadership of Vice Provost Dr. W. William Craver III, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Michael Sampson and Campus Officer Joanne Jones.

“To this region, this community is the best,” Sampson said to the students. “(The campus) was built to be student-centric; high-tech, high-touch. We are going to give you the best, (so please) give us your best.”

Thirty-three faculty members prepared the new campus, which was under construction for more than 400 days, for classes. Officials with PCOM said many regional physicians have joined the team to provide clinical supervision to students during their third and fourth years.

PCOM is a private, not-for-profit institution that trains professionals in the health and behavioral sciences fields. It was founded in 1899.

For more information on the Moultrie campus, visit www.pcom.edu or call (229) 798-4710.

Staff Writer

I'm a 2007 graduate of Georgia Southern University, and I've been a reporter for The Albany Herald since 2008. I cover news related to health care, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, SOWEGA Council on Aging and other areas as assigned.

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