The Medical College of Georgia Foundation is providing $8.7 million to match a new state appropriation for a program aimed at increasing the number of primary care physicians for rural and underserved Georgia.
“We are committed to serving the underserved,” says Ian Mercier, president and CEO of the MCG Foundation. “The foundation wants to make an impact both locally and statewide and we believe that investing in the 3+ Primary Care Pathway Program is one way to make that impact. I am thankful to our state leaders, MCG Dean Dr. David Hess and other MCG leaders for their vision and leadership and enabling a program that will truly make a difference in the lives of so many.”
In the 2022 Georgia legislative session, the General Assembly, with the support of Governor Brian Kemp, allocated $8.7 million in state funding for the MCG 3+ Primary Care Pathway Program, which allows students who commit to primary care practice in rural or underserved Georgia to graduate in three years and immediately enter a residency in Georgia in either family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology or general surgery. In exchange for service, those students will receive a scholarship to cover their tuition, enabled by funds from philanthropy and the state.
“Since day one of my administration, we’ve recognized a need for and worked to strengthen Georgia’s nursing and physician pipeline — especially in rural Georgia,” says Governor Kemp. “Investments in programs like the MCG 3+ Primary Care Pathway help us toward our goal of building a safer, stronger and healthier Georgia, and we are grateful that the Medical College of Georgia Foundation has generously chosen to match these funds and support this critical need.”
Last year, the Legislature and the Governor also provided $5.2 million for the program, matching a generous gift from Peach State Health Plan.
“With these investments, we are able to do the exact thing you would expect the state’s public medical school to do, and that is to provide physicians for rural and underserved areas in Georgia,” says Augusta University President, Dr. Brooks Keel. “I am incredibly excited about the leadership and the vision of our colleagues in the medical college and the continued support of our state leaders. These critical funds will help provide scholarships for the medical students who commit to practice frontline medicine in areas where the need for physicians is the greatest.”
“I am immensely thankful to Governor Kemp and the Georgia Legislature for their continued support of this important program and for further ensuring that all Georgians have access to quality primary care, no matter their zip code,” adds Hess. “As the state’s only public medical school, it is our responsibility and our privilege to help ensure the health of Georgia’s citizens and communities.”
Like much of the nation, Georgia is facing a growing physician crisis. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the projected shortage of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032 includes both primary care (between 21,100 and 55,200) and specialty care (between 24,800 and 65,800) — a problem that will only worsen as the country’s population ages and more physicians reach retirement age.
Georgia, one of the fastest growing and most populous states, ranks 39th in physicians per capita. Of the state’s 159 counties, eight have no physician; 11 have no family medicine physician; 37 no internist; 63 no pediatrician; 75 no obstetrician/gynecologist; 78 no general surgeon; 54 no emergency medicine physician; and 84 no psychiatrist, according to the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce.
The first cohort of eight students were selected from among students already at MCG in June 2020. They will graduate and enter a primary care residency in Georgia in 2023. A new cohort will be selected this month.