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Medical College of Georgia receives $2.2 million commitment to combat rural health care shortage

Peach State Health Plan, a care management organization that serves the needs of Georgians through a range of health insurance solutions and a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, and the Centene Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Centene Corporation, have announced a $2.2 million funding commitment to Augusta University.

The funding will facilitate the expansion of Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia (MCG) 3+ Primary Care Pathway Program (MCG 3+ Program), as well as support the launch of a new loan forgiveness program for the university’s Dental College of Georgia (DCG) students who commit to five years of practice in rural and underserved areas. This commitment builds on an existing relationship with Augusta University and is another example of the work underway to approach challenges that result from provider shortages in rural areas of the state.

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The Medical College of Georgia’s 3+ Scholar 2023 pinning ceremony [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Peach State Health Plan and the Centene Foundation played a critical role in the launch of the MCG 3+ Program, with an initial $5.2 million investment in 2021.The program, now in its third year, is a critical element in efforts to combat the rural physician shortage by placing doctors where they are needed most in Georgia. The new loan forgiveness program will offer dental students – who agree to practice in rural, underserved Georgia counties after completing their dental training – with financial support for tuition. $200,000 will fund the development of this program.

“Our collaborative efforts with Augusta University – and its MCG and DCG – are shining examples of how public-private partnerships provide long-term solutions to complex health care shortages in rural areas,” said Wade Rakes, Centene’s chief growth officer, plan president and chief executive officer of Peach State Health Plan. “We are proud of the progress being made by the MCG 3+ Primary Care Pathway Program, which graduated its first cohort of medical students in May 2023. Peach State Health Plan is confident that a similar program at the Dental College of Georgia will share the same success.”

According to the 2022 Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce Report on rural physicians, ongoing shortages of physicians and health care specialists in rural areas of Georgia have resulted in serious gaps in access to quality health care. In 2022, the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce’s Annual Dentist Workforce Report found that there were 22 counties in Georgia with no practicing dentist, while the Georgia Department of Community Health found that 127 counties in Georgia are experiencing at least partial shortages in dental care.

“Augusta University, our MCG and now our DCG are proud to partner with Peach State Health plan to expand and create programs that are working to place physicians and dentists in areas of Georgia where they are needed most,” said Brooks A. Keel, PhD, president of Augusta University. “Our MCG 3+ Primary Care Pathway Program has been a tremendous success, and with this additional investment, we are closer to establishing a fund that will work in perpetuity. We look forward to seeing the same success with a similar program at our DCG.”

“The DCG’s new partnerships with Peach State Health Plan and the rural dentistry program is an innovative milestone in making sure our new dentists are financially capable of opening new practices in rural areas of the state,” said Nancy Young, DMD, dean of the DCG at Augusta University. “As Georgia’s only dental school, we are constantly working to make sure the dentists we train are prepared to serve residents in all parts of Georgia. This new program will help us do that.”

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Augusta University Staff is a collection of talented writers, photographers, students and professionals; all working together to promote and support the amazing impacts and every day wins of Augusta University and the people that make up JagNation.

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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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