During Savannah Rotary’s Weekly meeting on Monday, July 18, Dr. Brooks Keel, the president of Augusta University, discussed the physician and nursing shortage in Georgia.
Data gathered by the American Medical Association found that Georgia ranks 30th in the nation in terms of the per capita number of practicing physicians, and 42nd in its per capita supply of registered nurses.
Georgia is one of the fastest growing states in the nation, and the 9th most populous.
This indicates the need for an increased number of healthcare professionals to meet the demands of a large and growing population. A demand that Keel says is becoming increasingly difficult to keep pace with due to staffing issues and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Augusta University is working to address the shortage of healthcare providers, and provide a potential solution through the MCG 3+ Pathways program and a network of campuses in 350 urban and rural sites across the state.
The program consists of three pathways and condenses medical school to three years rather than four years. For a student's fourth year, they will focus on one of the three pathways.
One of the main goals of the program is to retain young physicians and nurses in Georgia, and have them practice in rural areas.
The MCG 3+ primary care pathway for instance, allows for medical students who commit to primary care practice in rural or underserved Georgia to graduate in three years and immediately enter a residency in either family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology or general surgery.
In exchange for service to a rural or underserved area of the state, those students will receive a scholarship that will pay for the entirety of their tuition.
According to Keel, along with the cost of attending medical school, one of the biggest challenges that nursing and physician programs face is a lack of staff and clinical sites to train new healthcare professionals, especially nurses.
“We are a sick state, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we are a rural and underserved state. We’ve got a unique program at the Medical College of Georgia that’s trying to focus students and give them an opportunity to practice in rural and underserved Georgia,” said Keel.
Krishna Shah and John (Jay) Henriquez are both fourth year medical students that are part of MCG and chose Augusta University’s Southeast campus.Shah explained that coming to Savannah has been a positive experience, and notes that Savannah has given here one on one time with physicians who are passionate about teaching.
She explained that being exposed to physicians who took time to show her the ins and outs of what they do, coupled with being exposed to diverse patients make her want to practice medicine in Georgia.
This sentiment was reiterated by Henriquez who says working in the area has helped him connect with patients and physicians in his clinical sites.
“I chose Savannah because I wanted to get out of academic medicine and see what medicine was like in smaller hospitals around the state,” said Henriquez.
For more information on Medical College of Georgia visit augusta.edu