Intelligent. Altruistic. Humble.
Those are just a few words used to describe Dr. Hamzah Ali, a 2022 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and the recipient of this year’s John F. Beard Award for Compassionate Care.
Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, presented the Beard Award to Ali during the MCG Hooding Ceremony on May 12. Ali attended the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, MCG’s four-year campus in Athens.
“Hamzah stands out amongst the top 1-2% of service-oriented, selfless and compassionate students I have ever met,” says Dr. Shelley Nuss, campus dean at the Medical Partnership.
As an undergraduate at the University of Georgia with an interest in health equity and social determinants of health, Ali, who hails from Columbus, Georgia, worked with Dr. Suzanne Lester, family medicine site clerkship director at the Medical Partnership, to assess the feasibility and subsequently establish a multidisciplinary free mobile clinic to provide health care to the underserved.
Since its opening in 2018, the clinic has provided more than $132,000 in free medical care to more than 600 underserved people in Athens. It also has provided more than 3,400 free COVID-19 tests to vulnerable community members who are transportation-limited, homeless and uninsured.
The clinic also has provided meaningful perspective to future generations of physicians.
“When he helped design the clinic, little did he realize the impact would be much greater than getting care to people who needed it,” says Dr. Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, a professor of medicine at the Medical Partnership. “He also helped instill in his colleagues, and the medical students to come after him, firsthand knowledge of how social determinants impact health for individuals in our own community.”
“What makes him stand out among his medical student peers is his commitment to patient care, his phenomenal work ethic and his humility about his part in the process,” adds Dr. Mary Bond, director of clinical skills and assistant professor of medicine at the Athens Campus.
Ali also co-founded the Shifa Clinic in Athens, another nonprofit clinic, located near the University of Georgia’s Health Sciences Campus, that has a mission to provide free health care services to those who are underinsured and living within 200% of the poverty line. In addition, the clinic provides resources for hunger prevention, transitional housing and disaster relief.
He has volunteered more than 500 hours at the Mercy Health Center Clinic, which provides free medical, dental, pharmacy and health education to low-income, uninsured people in the counties surrounding Athens, and has helped coordinate and oversee many community events, including Red Cross blood drives, healthy Halloween trunk-or-treats, free sports physicals for middle school children in Athens and Boy Scouts Health Merit Badge training.
“Health care in the United States is facing multiple crises: a pandemic, burnout, moral injury and attrition, just to name a few,” says Dr. Robert McClowry, interim campus associate dean for student affairs, diversity and inclusion at the Medical Partnership. “Students like Hamzah, who wield compassion, kindness and altruism for their patients, patients’ families and their communities are what will sustain improvements and enhance health care.”
This summer, Ali will begin an internal medicine residency at the University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School.
The $40,000 Beard Award is given annually by William Porter “Billy” Payne and his wife, Martha, to a graduating MCG or other health sciences student at AU who exemplifies caring and compassion in health care. Payne, the immediate past chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, established the award in 1998 in memory of his father-in-law, who died of cancer in 1997. The award honors Augusta University President Emeritus Francis J. Tedesco and Beard’s physician, Dr. Mark F. Williams, a 1988 Medical College of Georgia graduate who treated Beard during his hospitalization at Augusta University Medical Center.