First class of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Pediatric Scholars announced

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scholarship recipients stand with officials
From left are Kimberly Gunby, Nelliena Young, Leeia Fields, Jonathon Edgy, Megan Hobbs, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Fortenberry, Mercer University School of Medicine Dean Dr. Jean Sumner, Mercer University President William D. Underwood, Mackenzie Best, Alyssa Lorenzen, Harsimran Singh, Lauren Brooker, Landon Simmons. Photo by John Knight

MACON/SAVANNAH/COLUMBUS — Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) recently announced the first group of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Pediatric Scholarship Program recipients for the 2023 academic year.

MUSM selected scholars based on their commitment to become pediatricians, strong ties to rural Georgia, character, leadership qualities, community involvement, and their commitment to serving in rural, underserved Georgia after their scholarship obligations are met. They will receive full tuition for up to four academic years and must maintain good academic standing.

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Pediatric Scholarship Program was established as part of a joint initiative between MUSM and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (Children’s), which was announced in February 2023. The scholarship, along with other projects, is funded by a dedicated and long-term sustainable fund allocated by the Children’s Board of Trustees.

“On the heels of our announcement earlier this year, we are thrilled to recognize the inaugural recipients of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Pediatric Scholarship Program,” said Donna Hyland, CEO of Children’s. “These medical students will fill a need in rural communities and will make a tremendous impact on the families who are seeking care from a pediatrician close to home.”

MUSM Dean Jean Sumner, M.D., said, “Most of Georgia’s rural counties are without pediatricians, and almost no rural counties have enough pediatricians. This scholarship, in time, will allow all Georgia’s rural children to have access to the care they need close to home. We are deeply grateful for the trust in us and the commitment Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has to help rural communities.”

This year’s class of Rural Pediatrics Scholarship Program recipients include:

  • Mackenzie Best of Bonaire (Class of 2026)
  • Lauren Brooker of Sandersville (Class of 2025)
  • Jonathon Edgy of Waynesville (Class of 2023)
  • Leeia Fields of Douglas (Class of 2025)
  • Kimberly Gunby of Stapleton (Class of 2024)
  • Megan Hobbs of Hazlehurst (Class of 2025)
  • Alyssa Lorenzen of Forsyth (Class of 2025)
  • Landon Simmons of Euharlee (Class of 2026)
  • Harsimran Singh of Bainbridge (Class of 2026)
  • Nelliena Young of Albany (Class of 2023)

Two of these scholars are graduating on May 6 and will enter residency this summer. In just three years, Nelliena Young and Jonathon Edgy will be ready to serve rural Georgia as pediatricians. Young will complete her pediatric residency at Morehouse College, and Edgy will complete his at the University of Florida. They plan to return to rural southwest and rural southeast Georgia.

“It’s a huge honor for me to have been selected for the Rural Pediatric Scholarship,” said Young. “This program is going to make a huge difference in my hometown and for the people in my community, and I wanted to be a big part of that.”

The 2023 scholars were honored during a pinning ceremony on April 26 in the presence of Children’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Fortenberry, Mercer University President William D. Underwood, Dean Sumner, and Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center Executive Director Glenda Grant, and scholars’ families.

About Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon, Savannah and Columbus) 

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. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia. Mercer medical students benefit from 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 opened additional four-year M.D. campuses in Savannah in 2008 and in Columbus in 2021. Following their second year, students participate in core clinical clerkships at the School’s primary teaching hospitals: Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The School also offers master’s degrees in preclinical sciences and biomedical sciences and a Ph.D. in rural health sciences in Macon and a master’s degree in family therapy in Macon and Atlanta.