MACON/SAVANNAH/COLUMBUS – Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) recently announced 12 new Nathan Deal Scholars for the 2022-23 academic year.

Scholars are selected based on their strong ties to rural Georgia, character, leadership qualities, community involvement and their likelihood of serving in rural, underserved Georgia after their scholarship obligations are met. They will receive 85-100% of tuition for up to four academic years.

The scholarship is funded by the interest on a $35 million grant to MUSM from the state of Georgia. These funds were proceeds of a settlement the state received from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in February 2016.

Former Gov. Nathan Deal, who was Georgia’s governor at the time of the settlement, and state legislative leadership committed half the $70 million settlement to Mercer’s School of Medicine honoring the dedication exhibited in furthering the School’s mission to educate physicians who practice in the state’s rural counties.

“The Nathan Deal Scholarship enables and supports students who want to return to rural communities to become outstanding physicians. These scholars represent the highest commitment to providing excellent health care to rural Georgians,” said Jean R. Sumner, M.D., dean of MUSM. “These scholarships remove the significant financial burden of medical school debt, which has been perceived as an obstacle for doctors going to rural areas. With this opportunity, students are empowered to return to communities who need them most, the small towns they know and love.”

This year’s class of Nathan Deal Scholars includes:

  • Lauren Brooker of Sandersville (Class of 2025)
  • Hannah Cabe of Warthen (Class of 2026)
  • Lindsey Duke of Bainbridge (Class of 2026)
  • James Dunaway of Griffin (Class of 2025)
  • John Exum of Nashville (Class of 2026)
  • Leeia Fields of Douglas (Class of 2025)
  • Kimberly Gunby of Stapleton (Class of 2024)
  • Alaina Joiner of Sandersville (Class of 2026)
  • Peyton Parker of Jesup (Class of 2026)
  • MaKayla Paulk of Willacoochee (Class of 2026)
  • Andrew Register of Donalsonville (Class of 2026)
  • Camron Sohn of Dublin (Class of 2025)

These 12 M.D. students join 76 other Nathan Deal Scholars in supporting MUSM’s mission. The program’s first four Scholars have completed residency requirements and are taking their places in rural, underserved areas of Georgia.

Mercer’s chosen use of the $35 million grant to perpetually provide these scholarships will in 10 years prepare approximately 100 doctors who will serve the 120 rural designated counties of Georgia.

“The Nathan Deal Scholars will make a difference in the health status of Georgians,” added Dr. Sumner. “This scholarship is one more way Mercer is reinforcing its commitment to rural Georgia.”

The 2022 Scholars were honored during a luncheon on Sept. 23 in the presence of Gov. Deal, Mercer University President William D. Underwood and state legislators.

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 Hospital 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.

Featured photo by John Knight