A Partnership in Athens
New Dean Brings Rochester Influences to Georgia
Barbara L. Schuster, M.D. (M '77, R '80), a former University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty member, leads the development of a new medical school campus, the Medical College of Georgia/University of Georgia Medical Partnership in Athens, Ga. As dean of the Athens campus, Schuster will welcome her first class of medical students in August. She is one of a trio of Rochester alumni leading new medical schools and campuses. Deborah German, M.D. (R '79), dean of the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, met her school's first class last August. Lawrence G. Smith, M.D. (R '79), dean of the Hofstra University School of Medicine, will admit his school's first class in 2011.
- RM: What is the status of the medical school?
- The Medical College of Georgia in Augusta is the state's only public medical school. The University of Georgia in Athens is the largest of the state's universities. UGA is a major research university but it does not have a medical school. The universities are two excellent institutions collaborating to develop this new medical partnership in Athens.
- RM: What is the mission of your new medical school?
- Our mission is to address the shortage and maldistribution of physicians in Georgia. Our first class will have 40 students and it is anticipated that the class size eventually will grow to 60 students in each class. Enticing students after completion of their postgraduate education to return to the communities in which they were educated requires demonstration of quality up-to-date medical practices and an environment for a good lifestyle. You need more than just a rotation in an area. You have to spend substantial time in a community in order to learn the opportunities and strengths of a community. Developing a new campus in Athens will increase the number of students who will experience quality medical education in northeast Georgia. We also have an excellent opportunity for research collaboration with the University of Georgia. UGA has a tremendous amount of medical-related research in its 16 colleges in Athens. Faculty investigate infectious diseases, drug development, and public health issues. A medical campus can facilitate more collaborative research between MCG and UGA. Many of the university faculty, from the humanities to the sciences, are anxious to participate in programs with our medical students.
- RM: Are you pleased by the results of faculty recruitment?
- We have not had any problem with recruitment. By the time our doors open, we will have 25 to 28 full-time faculty, 10 paid part-time faculty and many community faculty. We will grow from there. Each faculty member has a scholarly interest. We will need to extend our research as we grow, but to begin, I emphasized the need for outstanding educators. We're going to know each student and they will know us. We are all in the same building. In recruiting faculty, I have told them my expectation is that they will actively interact with students and students will interact with them. If a student wants to speak with a professor, the professor will be here. Medical students usually are gifted adults and gifted adults do well when they are not passive learners. We are setting up an environment that allows them and encourages them to interact. Our professors need to feel comfortable and exhilarated by that. I do not want passivity on either side.
- RM: Is there a Rochester influence in what you are doing in Athens?
- I am a graduate of the Rochester medical school system. That system had a tremendous impact on me. Many physicians—George Engel, Lawrence Young, Rudolph Napodano, Elizabeth McAnarney and others—were mentors and role models. You will see Rochester in what we do. We will spend a lot of time on the core skills that were emphasized at Rochester: the medical history, physical exam, clinical decision making and verbal and non-verbal communication. I've recruited a Rochester alumnus as associate dean for curriculum. W. Scott Richardson (R '83, FLW '85) is an internationally recognized expert in evidence-based medicine. He also brings a philosophy of education that draws a lot from Rochester. George Engel, William Morgan and Rudolph Napodano were a major influence for him. One thing we learned in Rochester is that if you want to educate excellent physicians, regardless of the specialty they choose, you have to teach excellent core skills. You educate excellent surgeons with the same core skills and rigor as you educate excellent internists.
- RM: Are you enjoying the job of launching a new medical school?
- I am enjoying it. I have been given a rare opportunity; nothing could be more exciting for a medical educator. It does not matter how many day-to-day process issues I have to solve, I am very optimistic. Our partnership is unique. Our mission is very important. Georgia needs all the physicians we can educate. I was named dean more than 18 months ago. Our official opening day is Aug. 9. We are all getting anxious as opening day draws near.
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