MACON/SAVANNAH/COLUMBUS – Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) recently announced 15 new Nathan Deal Scholars for the 2021-2022 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 are:

  • Brandon Aldridge of Blackshear (Class of 2022)
  • Mary Rachel Bonner of Albany (Class of 2025)
  • Benjamin Day of Brinson (Class of 2024)
  • Ashlee Dixon of Sandersville (Class of 2025)
  • Kaleigh Foster of Sparta (Class of 2025)
  • Zachary Gallatin of Fortson (Class of 2023)
  • Chandler Hammond of Fitzgerald (Class of 2024)
  • Emily Hartley of Butler (Class of 2025)
  • Megan Hobbs of Hazlehurst (Class of 2025)
  • Samantha Johnson of Lyons (Class of 2025)
  • Alicia May of Toomsboro (Class of 2024)
  • Kaylien Muller of Sandersville (Class of 2025)
  • Payton Phillips of Winterville (Class of 2025)
  • Elizabeth Pittman of Nashville (Class of 2025)
  • Catherine Sanders of Jeffersonville (Class of 2025)

These 15 M.D. students join 56 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 2021 Scholars were honored along with the 2020 Scholars during a luncheon on Sept. 10 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 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 and Coliseum Medical Centers 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.

Katherine Lybarger is the marketing and communications specialist at Mercer University School of Medicine.