School of Medicine announces 2024 Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Scholars

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2025 Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Scholars at Mercer University
Left to right: 2024 Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Pediatric Scholars; Larry Greenbaum, M.D., Ph.D., Division Chief, Nephrology, Children’s; Jim Fortenberry, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Children’s; School of Medicine Dean Jean Sumner, M.D., FACP; Marc Welsh, Vice President of Child Advocacy and Chief Diversity Officer, Children’s; Linda Matzigkeit, Chief Administrative Officer, Children’s; Mercer University President William D. Underwood; and 2024 Children's Rural Family Therapy Scholars. Photo by John Knight

MACON/SAVANNAH/COLUMBUS — Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) recently announced the first cohort of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Marriage and Family Therapy Scholars and the second cohort of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Pediatric Scholars for the 2024 academic year.

These scholars will receive full tuition for up to four academic years and have made a commitment to serve children of rural Georgia after completing their education. The scholars will also receive specialized training at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s (Children’s) facilities, including autism training for the Master of Family Therapy students.

MUSM selected scholars based on their commitment to become pediatricians or family therapists, 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 must maintain good academic standing. The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Rural Health Scholarship Programs were established as part of a joint initiative between MUSM and Children’s, which was announced in February 2023.

“These scholars are filling a critical need in our rural communities,” said Jim Fortenberry, M.D., chief medical officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “The pediatric expertise they develop through their training will have a tremendous impact on the areas where they serve, and we are grateful for their commitment to the kids and families of Georgia.”

MUSM Dean Jean Sumner, M.D., FACP said, “Physical health includes mental health, yet rural Georgia has few mental health providers. There is no pediatrician in over half of Georgia’s rural counties. The presence of family therapists with additional training in autism will bring profound improvement in mental health to rural areas.”

The 2024 cohort of Rural Pediatric Scholars is:

  • Jimmy Asbell (Class of 2026)
  • Christian Casteel (Class of 2026)
  • Addison Clark (Class of 2028)
  • Logan Dominique (Class of 2028)
  • Anna Catherine Gates (Class of 2027)
  • Haley Holloway (Class of 2028)
  • Ritij Sarvaiya (Class of 2028)
  • Jordan Simmons (Class of 2028)
  • Tré Steel (Class of 2027)
  • Ke’Aysha Willis (Class of 2028)

The inaugural cohort of Marriage and Family Therapy Scholars is:

  • Kyana Brown (Class of 2024)
  • Audrey Pugh (Class of 2024)
  • Lakeshie Robinson (Class of 2025)
  • Haley Troup (Class of 2025)
  • Haley Waters (Class of 2025)

The 2024 scholars were honored during a special ceremony on April 11 in the presence of Dr. Fortenberry, Mercer University President William D. Underwood, Dr. Sumner, Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center Executive Director Glenda Grant, and scholars’ families.

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

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, and a clinical campus in Valdosta in 2024. 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; Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus; and SGMC Health in Valdosta. The School also offers master’s degrees in preclinical sciences and family therapy and Ph.D.s in biomedical sciences and rural health sciences.

About Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

As the only freestanding pediatric healthcare system in Georgia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is the trusted leader in caring for kids. The not-for-profit organization’s mission is to make kids better today and healthier tomorrow through more than 60 pediatric specialties and programs, top healthcare professionals, and leading research and technology. Children’s is one of the largest pediatric clinical care providers in the country, managing more than 1.1 million patient visits annually at three hospitals (Egleston, Scottish Rite and Hughes Spalding), Marcus Autism Center, the Center for Advanced Pediatrics, urgent care centers and neighborhood locations. Consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has impacted the lives of kids in Georgia, across the United States and around the world for more than 100 years thanks to generous support from the community.