School of Medicine announces 2022 Primary Care Accelerated Track Scholars

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MACON/SAVANNAH/COLUMBUS – Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) recently announced its latest class of Primary Care Accelerated Track (ACT) Scholars.

Mercer’s Primary Care ACT Program was one of the first two programs of its kind to be created in the United States. It is designed to address Georgia’s critical shortage of primary care physicians by allowing students interested in a career in family medicine, general internal medicine or pediatrics to complete their medical school coursework in an accelerated three-year program with less tuition debt.

Scholarships are awarded to highly-qualified medical students upon the completion of their first year of medical school and cover tuition for the second and third years. These students must be in good academic standing and have a strong desire to practice primary care in a medically underserved rural area.

Upon completion of residency, Scholars are required to participate in three years of continuous, full-time, primary care medical practice in a medically underserved rural area of Georgia. The practice must also accept Medicaid patients.

“ACT students complete the same curriculum as four-year students, excel in their studies and are excellent physicians. They represent the best and brightest and are committed to communities with the greatest need in rural underserved Georgia,” said Jean Sumner, M.D., FACP, dean of the School of Medicine. “The School of Medicine is committed to its mission, and the accelerated track is the epitome of the mission. It allows native Georgians to complete their medical education at Mercer, enter a Georgia primary care residency and remain in our state to serve those most in need.”

This year’s class of Primary Care ACT Scholars includes:

Macon Campus:

  • Kayla Kelley, from Sharpsburg, specializing in pediatrics
  • Christine Okaro, from Macon, specializing in family medicine
  • Michelle Simmons, from Hawkinsville, specializing in family medicine
  • Lindsay Smith, from Swainsboro, specializing in family medicine

Savannah Campus:

  • Jonathan Coates, from Savannah, specializing in family medicine

Columbus Campus:

  • Joshua Fertig, from LaGrange, specializing in family medicine
  • Cristina Huaca, from Cartersville, specializing in family medicine

The Primary Care ACT Program builds upon the strengths of MUSM’s problem-based curriculum with clinical experiences and community medicine activities built into the preclinical years and reinforced through continued longitudinal clinical experiences at the ACT site, clerkships, sub-internships and elective experiences. The innovative curriculum compresses the educational objectives of the four-year M.D. program into three years and culminates in a medical degree that prepares students for early entry into a traditional primary care residency.

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 a full four-year campus in Savannah in 2008 at Memorial University Medical Center. In 2012, the School began offering clinical education for third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus. Following their second year, students participate in core clinical clerkships at the School’s primary teaching hospitals: Medical Center, Atrium Health Navicent in Macon; Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The School also offers master’s degrees in family therapy, preclinical sciences and biomedical sciences and a Ph.D. in rural health sciences.