Former Medical School Dean Receives Honorary Degree


MACON – Mercer University awarded an honorary doctor of science degree to W. Douglas Skelton, M.D., public health director for Chatham and Effingham Counties, Georgia Department of Human Resources, at the School of Medicine commencement on May 6. Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey made the presentation to Skelton after Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, gave the commencement address.

Skelton attended Mercer University from 1957 to 1959, earned his M.D. degree from Emory University School of Medicine in 1963 and served as a Trustee of Mercer University from 1983 to 1985.

After a distinguished career as professor of psychiatry and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Emory University, Skelton joined Mercer in 1985 as dean of the University’s new School of Medicine, dedicated to educating physicians to meet the primary care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Under Skelton’s exemplary leadership, the School of Medicine received full accreditation the next year from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, becoming the last medical school to be accredited in the 20th century.

In 1991, as a result of Skelton’s steadfast commitment to the Medical School’s mission, the Association of American Medical Colleges ranked Mercer’s Medical School number one in the nation in percentage of graduates entering primary care. In 1992, he led the School of Medicine to national prominence as it received the Gold Achievement Award from the American Academy of Family Physicians for leading the nation in percentage of graduates entering family medicine, an accomplishment that would be repeated for many years.

After serving as dean of the School of Medicine for 15 years, Skelton was named senior vice president and provost for health affairs, providing the vision for the University to establish the Mercer Health Sciences Center, which includes Mercer’s medical, nursing and pharmacy schools. In February 2004, he was named the public health director for Chatham and Effingham counties by the Georgia Department of Human Resources, yet has remained a faculty member at the Mercer School of Medicine’s Savannah Campus at Memorial Health University Medical Center.

About Mercer University and the School of Medicine:

Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. The School only accepts Georgia residents into its medical degree program. Students entering Mercer University School of Medicine will be graduated from a school that utilizes a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. The School has two teaching hospitals: Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon and Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah.

Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as three regional academic centers. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 16 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South.