Mercer University School of Medicine, Gov. Nathan Deal Recognize First Students in Physicians for Rural Georgia Scholarship Program

Staff Report From Middle Georgia CEO

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Mercer University School of Medicine recognized the first 25 students to receive inaugural Physicians for Rural Georgia Scholarships, which cover 85 to 100 percent of tuition for up to four years in the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program.
The University funded the scholarship program with the entirety of a one-time infusion of $35 million from the state of Georgia as a result of a settlement agreement offer from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in February 2016.
“It is critical that we remain focused on improving access to quality health care in rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia,” said Deal. “When rural hospitals shut their doors, it’s not only bad for healthcare access but also for the local economies. The Physicians for Rural Georgia Scholarship Program is instrumental in prioritizing this access by training and placing graduates in high-demand areas of our state. I am proud of these inaugural scholars and the commitments they are making to share their talents with those in rural Georgia.”
Also at this afternoon’s luncheon in the Presidents Dining Room on the Macon campus, Mercer President William D. Underwood announced that current and future recipients of the scholarship will be called Nathan Deal Scholars in recognition of Georgia’s 82nd governor who is a graduate of both the University’s College of Liberal Arts and School of Law.
“Gov. Deal, who was raised in Sandersville, has been a strong advocate for rural health care in the state,” said Underwood. “He was instrumental in directing the federal settlement proceeds to programs that enable the preparation of more physicians for rural and other medically underserved areas of our state. We are very grateful for his steadfast support for the cause of rural health in Georgia.”
The Physicians for Rural Georgia Scholarship Program will accept new applicants each fall among admitted first- through fourth-year students. Second-, third- and fourth-year students who meet the program’s criteria will be eligible to receive funding for each of their previous years of study.
In return, those who accept the scholarship commit to at least four continuous years of full-time medical practice in a medically underserved, rural Georgia county upon the completion of residency. Furthermore, the medical practice must accept Medicaid patients.
“Mercer University School of Medicine, our faculty, staff and students are committed to service in rural Georgia and underserved communities of this state,” said Dr. Jean R. Sumner, dean of the School. “The Physicians for Rural Georgia Scholarship Program enables well-prepared students from rural communities, who want to return to their rural community after medical school, to begin practice with essentially no debt. We are grateful for this opportunity and solidly focused on improving access to quality health care in these areas. These Nathan Deal Scholars will help to reestablish a strong foundation that will grow through the years.”
Mercer School of Medicine was established in Macon in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and healthcare needs of rural and other medically underserved areas of Georgia.  
The School only accepts Georgia residents, and now offers its full four-year M.D. program in both Macon and Savannah, where a campus was established in 2008 at Memorial University Medical Center, as well as the third and fourth years of the M.D. program in Columbus, where a campus was established in 2012 in affiliation with Columbus Regional Health and St. Francis Hospital.
More than 60 percent of M.D. graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of the state, placing Mercer School of Medicine among the nation’s leaders in those categories.