Let us pause to acknowledge a bright spot on our local landscape. On Tuesday, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine cut the ribbon on its South Georgia campus in Moultrie. Classes will start Monday for the 55 students of its inaugural class.

The idea of having a medical school in Moultrie has seemed fanciful at times, but thanks to the leadership of many people throughout the region and at PCOM, it is now a reality.

We salute everyone who had a hand in making this day happen.

In four years, these students will graduate as doctors. Some will go directly into research. Others will attend Graduate Medical Education, what is sometimes called a medical residency, to prepare them to treat patients.

Their Graduate Medical Education experience may also be here in South Georgia. Albany’s Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital has had a residency program for years. Colquitt Regional Medical Center started one here three years ago, and several other hospitals across the area are working to build such programs at their facilities.

PCOM and Colquitt Regional officials talk about a “pipeline” guiding students from high school to college to medical school to residency to medical practice without ever having to leave South Georgia. The pieces of that pipeline are falling into place.

There is even activity well before high school. Sunset Elementary School boasts Georgia’s first STEM campus south of Macon. Proficiency in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — is a core requirement for physicians, other health care workers and workers in a variety of other fields too. And Sunset’s program has a particular emphasis on health care.

Health care is one of the nation’s fastest growing fields. The needs are acute in rural areas like ours.

Let’s not fail to celebrate the opening of PCOM South Georgia as a vital part of meeting the needs of Colquitt County, South Georgia and the nation as a whole.

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