MOULTRIE, Ga. — Overheard Thursday at the medical college on Tallokas Road: “Both campuses are nice, but I think we picked the nicer one.”
A classmate replied, “Yes, we did!”
About half of the 55 students enrolled at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine’s South Georgia Campus attended a welcoming lunch Thursday and were treated to a tour of the school. Many had also applied at the college’s Suwannee, Ga., campus.
This will be the first class at PCOM-South Georgia. Several members are from Colquitt County, and even more are from nearby areas of South Georgia.
Julia Patterson of Doerun gained PCOM’s attention when she won the essay contest held in conjunction with last year’s groundbreaking for the South Georgia campus. Now, equipped with a four-year biology degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Patterson is a student.
“I really see myself practicing here or in Tifton,” she said, in part because of her experience volunteering with the Migrant Farmworker Project through the Southwest Georgia Area Health Education Center, which is based in Albany.
That attitude is exactly what PCOM South Georgia was aiming for when it chose the 55 students from among 3,138 applications, said Dr. Michael Sampson, chief academic officer of the South Georgia Campus.
“PCOM is South Georgia’s medical school,” Sampson said. “It’s their hometown medical school. We’re here for (the people of South Georgia).”
Rural health care has its own nuances, Sampson said, different from the way medicine is practiced in urban areas. Teachers at PCOM South Georgia will incorporate those differences into every lecture, he said.
“(Students) are training in and learning about rural medicine,” he said.
The college is one part of what is intended to be a pipeline from South Georgia public schools, through college, through the medical college, through residency, to a medical practice, possibly within the same town the student grew up in. Even before it’s open, PCOM South Georgia is inspiring public school students to consider careers in health care, Sampson said. The school has sponsored programs for juniors and seniors at Colquitt County High School (which included students from Grady County) and at Bainbridge High School.
“We’re not even open yet and the pipeline is starting,” he said.
Campus Officer Joanne Jones extended to Jim Matney, president and CEO of Colquitt Regional Medical Center, a lot of the credit for PCOM coming to Moultrie. Sampson agreed but said the college works closely with all five hospitals in a South Georgia consortium — Colquitt Regional, Tift Regional in Tifton, South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta, Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany.
Jones said PCOM is seeking federal grants to start three residency programs at those hospitals. Phoebe Putney started one in 2010, and Colquitt Regional’s Georgia South Family Medicine Residency Program welcomed its first class in 2016. She said the school should know in mid-August which if any of the grant applications were successful.
The students were impressed as they toured the facility.
“When I applied for medical school, there wasn’t even a building here,” Christian Edwards of Moultrie said. “You’re kind of taking a risk. But you get here and it all pays off.”
Sampson said all the equipment at the school is state-of-the-art, but they also rely on the old standards of hands-on learning.
There’s an anatomy lab that includes cadavers donated by the families of the deceased. On Thursday the lab was cool, but not cold. Odors were minimized by a ventilation system that changes the air in the room 20 times an hour, Dana Brooks, assistant director of admissions, told students as she toured them through the campus.
Several simulation rooms look just like the examining rooms at a doctor’s office. In those rooms, students will meet with actors in the role of patients, and their interactions will be monitored from computer stations outside the room. Outside the simulation area is a debriefing room, where teachers can go over how a student performed.
Other simulation rooms are equipped with mannequins that can be manipulated by computers outside the rooms. Actors can use microphones to speak through the mannequins.
“Do they scream during delivery?” one student asked in the obstetrics and gynecology simulation room.
Counting all the different simulation rooms, “we’ll be covering all the gamuts,” Sampson said: Caesarian sections, natural births, pediatric care all the way up to adults.
PCOM-South Georgia, which received final accreditation June 25, will begin student orientation Aug. 5. A ribbon cutting ceremony with Gov. Brian Kemp will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 6, and an open house will go on until 6 p.m.; the community is invited. Classes will actually start Aug. 12.