June 29, 2020 - South Georgia Medical Center (SGMC) and Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) recently announced a partnership that will bring internal medicine and emergency medicine residency programs to Valdosta. 

Upon approval by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the residency programs will begin in 2022.

“This partnership leverages the strengths of both organizations in developing a high quality graduate medical education option for physicians seeking residency training in South Georgia,” said SGMC President and CEO Ronald E. Dean. “As a teaching hospital, SGMC will couple academics with some of the best-trained medical staff, nurses and healthcare professionals within our highly capable health delivery system to advance our ability to better serve the health care needs of Valdosta, Lowndes County and South Georgia.”

Research shows that medical residents tend to stay close to their training site to work after they graduate. The new programs are intended to enhance recruitment and retention efforts at SGMC. 

“The mission of the Mercer University School of Medicine is to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia,” said MUSM Dean Dr. Jean Sumner. “We are proud to partner with SGMC.”

Residency programs in internal medicine and emergency medicine last three to four years under the guidance of senior physician educators. Residents are students who have graduated medical school and are completing additional training in their medical specialty.

“Residency programs can provide clinical and administrative support to deliver comprehensive and coordinated community-based care,” said SGMC Chief of Staff Dr. Sid Staton. “They generally provide 24-hour hospital coverage of patients and they also have been shown to produce improvement in quality outcomes.”

According to Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce President Myrna Ballard, bringing residency programs to a community can be a boost for the economy. “Having a teaching hospital here in Valdosta enhances community standing and improves employment opportunities throughout the region,” she said. “It brings young professionals and couples to the area with a potential to have them stay here.”

In addition to graduate medical education, the agreement between SGMC and Mercer includes the development of rotations for third- and fourth-year medical students, which will allow them “to see the high-quality care offered in a rural hospital and the difference a physician can make in rural communities,” Dr. Sumner said. 

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