School of Medicine dean cares deeply about health of rural communities | Women Who Lead

Dr. Jean Sumner
Dr. Jean Sumner

This Women’s History Month, The Den is celebrating some of Mercer University‘s top leaders — our female deans. Eight of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges are led by women, and we are highlighting each of these deans on separate days throughout March. Today, we spotlight Dr. Jean Sumner, dean of the School of Medicine.

Dr. Jean Sumner

How long have you worked at Mercer?
I joined Mercer as a volunteer clinical faculty preceptor in 1989 after completing my internal medicine residency at the Medical Center of Central Georgia (now Atrium Health Navicent). I was appointed to a part-time role in 2014, associate dean for rural health, to lead initiatives in rural communities. I returned to Mercer full time in January 2016 and was named dean of the medical school in July of that year.

What was your career path to become dean?
I’ve always cared deeply about the health of rural communities and the quality of health care available to rural Georgians. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing from the Medical College of Georgia and returned home to work in the small town where we lived. Experience on that front line convinced me that these communities and the good people who live there needed high quality medical care in their county to grow and prosper. I applied to Mercer University School of Medicine, graduated with my M.D. in 1986, and began my career practicing as an internal medicine physician in Washington and Johnson counties in 1989.

What do you enjoy most about being dean?
I enjoy seeing the commitment Mercer University and the School of Medicine, its faculty, staff and students, have to make a difference in the lives of people in our state. I enjoy watching our students, with guidance from our faculty and staff, grow and gain the knowledge and skills needed to become outstanding physicians. They are capable and determined to change rural health care in Georgia. It is quite amazing. We are working hard to develop sustainable solutions for difficult problems in Georgia and hopefully creating models that will be replicated in other states across the country.

What in your academic field are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about rural health and helping to reduce health disparities through access to quality patient-centered care.

What advice would you give to future women leaders?
Follow your passion, care about others, and work really hard to make the world a better place.


Do you have a story idea or viewpoint you'd like to share with The Den?
Get in touch with us by emailing or submitting this online form.