Man in gray suit stands at podium with the MCG logo on it
Medical College of Georgia Dean David Hess, MD

MCG dean honors Keel, Braun, Hamrick at annual State of the College Address

Medical College of Georgia Dean David Hess, MD, gave his annual State of the College address on Feb. 16 and honored Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, who has been a powerful advocate for the medical school; an MCG graduate who leads her alma mater’s admissions office; and a federally-funded investigator who leads MCG’s research efforts.

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AU President Brooks A. Keel, PhD

Keel, who has enjoyed a successful 40-year career in research and higher education administration, was named president of Augusta University in 2015. Hess honored him with this year’s MCG Advocacy Award.

“Dr. Keel’s leadership has been key to the evolvement and growth of our medical school,” Hess said. “He was an early proponent of our 3+ curriculum redesign, which is helping us produce more primary physicians for underserved Georgia. He also has advocated for continued growth in our class size and helped us cement plans for our newest four-year campus in Savannah. I have been immensely thankful for his guidance and for his support.”

In his capacity as acting CEO for then-Augusta University Health System, Keel also oversaw the completion of a partnership with Wellstar Health System to create Wellstar MCG Health last August. This new partnership financially stabilized the health system, and it will enable more educational growth as the medical school looks to establish a new regional clinical campus in Atlanta at Wellstar Kennestone.

Late last year, Keel announced his plans to retire this summer, at the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

Kelli Braun, MD, MCG’s senior associate dean for admissions, received the MCG Professionalism Award. The 2004 graduate, who also completed her OB/GYN residency at MCG and Wellstar MCG Health and then joined the MCG faculty in 2008, is a professor and director of simulation and virtual education in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

a woman in a white coat and blue scrubs stands in a lab smiling at the camera
Kelli Braun, MD, is the senior associate dean of
admissions for the Medical College of Georgia.

Braun has led the admissions office since 2016, overseeing some of the largest increases in enrollment in MCG’s almost-200-year history. The medical school currently has the eighth largest class size in the nation and is on track to have the fifth or sixth largest first-year class size next July, when an additional 40 students will enroll at the four-year Savannah Campus, a partnership between AU, MCG and Georgia Southern University.

“As a Georgia native and MCG graduate herself, Dr. Braun has always had a uniquely qualified understanding of our mission to recruit the very best students,” Hess said. “It has been no small feat to oversee such large, but crucial growth of our student body. I continue to be grateful for her clear and concise vision and leadership as we work together to produce more physicians for Georgia.”

Hess also honored Mark Hamrick, PhD, the medical school’s senior associate dean for research, with the Distinguished Leadership and Outstanding Service Award.

Hamrick, a bone and muscle biologist and an honored educator and scientist, has worked closely with Hess and other MCG research leaders to move the medical school toward the top 60 in National Institutes of Health funding. Among the nation’s medical schools, MCG currently is ranked 68th by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, with nearly $61 million in funding. That represents a 17% increase in funding over last year when MCG was ranked 74th.

Man in a white shirt and light blue tie sits in front of a microscope in a lab smiling at the camera
Mark Hamrick, PhD, is senior associate dean for
research at the Medical College of Georgia.

He also has worked with department chairs, center and institute directors to recruit and retain new federally funded research faculty and identify and develop new research collaborations across MCG departments, other AU colleges and with university and industry partners across Georgia and beyond.

His service has included his role as interim chair of the MCG Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy since longtime chair, Sylvia Smith, PhD, retired last August.

“Dr. Hamrick embodies what a leader should be — humble but persistent; someone who puts service above self,” Hess said. “His exceptional understanding of the innerworkings and importance of research, paired with his relentless pursuit of broadening this medical school’s impact have been a true asset to MCG.”

Hamrick will retire from MCG later this month.

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Written by
Jennifer Hilliard Scott

Jennifer Hilliard Scott is Director of Communications at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-721-8604 or

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Woman smiling Written by Jennifer Hilliard Scott

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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