The Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and Augusta University Medical Center are the recipients of federal funding supported by U.S. Sens. Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff as part of this year’s Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which was approved by both the U.S. House and Senate. The bill is waiting on President Biden’s signature.
Warnock announced $2.1 million for MCG’s 3+ Primary Care Pathway Program, with the funds aimed at investing in the retention of Georgia-educated physicians practicing in rural and underserved areas.
“I’m proud this funding bill includes so many priorities I fought for to benefit Augusta-Richmond County,” said Warnock. “These investments will provide more support to keep medical professionals practicing in our state’s rural and exurban areas. I’m going to keep working, like I said I would, to deliver more of these tangible benefits to hardworking Georgians all over the Augusta area.”
Additionally, Ossoff announced funding to purchase and install new MRI machines at Augusta University Medical Center, totaling $3.5 million to replace two of the facility’s machines. The move will increase the medical center’s capacity by an additional 2,000 scans per year.
“This will ensure that every single person in the Augusta area will have access to the MRI imaging and health care that they need,” Ossoff said.
Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, applauded both senators’ efforts to support the future of health care in Augusta and in rural areas throughout the state.
“Augusta University thanks both U.S Sens. Warnock and Ossoff and their teams for helping secure funding to support these requests. Their support allows the Medical College of Georgia to put more doctors out in the field more quickly and affordably,” said Keel. “We also greatly appreciate the work of Sen. Ossoff to supply AU Medical Center with two much-needed new MRI machines. Augusta University remains committed to serving our community and the state through world-class education and medical care, and legislative support allows us to further our mission.”
Dr. David Hess, dean of the Medical College of Georgia, said the physician shortage in Georgia — which consistently ranks among the nation’s fastest growing states in population — is already significant. Without significant intervention, the shortage likely will worsen, particularly in more rural areas of the state that are already struggling.
“Primary care physicians are essential to the health of individuals and families and to the economic wellbeing of communities,” Hess said. “As Georgia’s only public medical school, educating great physicians for our state is our mission and our privilege, and this federal support for our innovative 3+ Primary Care Pathway will enable us to expand and strengthen our efforts for all Georgians.”
Along with addressing physician shortages, MCG’s 3+ program is a solution to address the growing concerns over the student debt crisis and disparities in health care, especially in rural and underserved areas. MCG 3+ is an accelerated medical school curriculum that has been developed to recruit, train and place more primary care physicians in underserved communities around Georgia.
According to the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce, 60 of the state’s 159 counties have no pediatrician, 76 are without an obstetrician or gynecologist, 18 have no family medicine physician, 32 have no internist and 74 do not have a general surgeon.
The MCG 3+ program waives medical school tuition for students who commit to one of seven primary care pathways in rural and underserved Georgia. The primary care pathways include family medicine, emergency medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology or general surgery.
“Our goal is to create a continuing pipeline of physicians who are dedicated to meeting the health care needs of the state, both now and well into the future,” Keel said. “We believe that, through leveraging the combined efficiencies of the accelerated three-year MD curriculum, coupled with a tuition-free medical education and an in-state primary care residency experience, MCG will dramatically enhance our contribution to Georgia’s physician workforce and significantly impact the health and economic prosperity of all Georgians, especially those living in our rural and underserved areas.”
“Ultimately, these funding initiatives will be invaluable when it comes to live-saving care in Augusta and throughout the state”, said AU Health System CEO Katrina Keefer.
“As Georgia’s only public academic medical center, Augusta University Medical Center is grateful to Sen. Ossoff for his support of funding for two MRIs,” said Keefer. “With his vision and support, this technology will ultimately save lives and continue to allow AU Health to provide world-class care to the patients we serve from every county in Georgia.”