Athens, Welcome to the Health Sciences Campus!
UGA celebrates as it opens the Prince Avenue campus to students this semester.
The weather was perfect, the crowd was happy and University of Georgia President Michael Adams was grinning like a cat with a mouthful of briars at the open house for UGA's new Health Sciences Campus in Normaltown.
The day, Adams said, was "the culimination of a lot of dreams," ones that included bringing together UGA's College of Public Health and its Georgia Health Sciences University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership in one place.
There are 575 public health students and 120 medical students on the campus. When all renovation and other work is finished in 2015, there will be 1,400 faculty, staff and students on Prince Avenue.
On Wednesday, the audience in the packed auditorium of Miller Hall included elected and appointed officials, deans and directors from Athens and Augusta, Athens community leaders and politicians, students and UGA staff. President Adams pointed out a feature many may have missed: the fence along Prince Avenue is gone, signaling the close ties between the community and the facility and its mission.
Senator Johnny Isaacson spoke briefly, saying his UGA diploma "is worth a lot more," thanks to the work President Adams has done to improve academics at Georgia. He said the Health Sciences Campus is "another jewel in Georgia's crown."
What prompted the idea of another medical school?
A few years ago, Georgia ranked 42nd nationally in terms of the ratio of doctors to patients. It ranked near the top nationally for incidents of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. These sobering statistics helped spur the creation of another medical school, to educate more doctors who would choose to work in-state. Students who graduate from the programs at the new campus will help address these problems, Isaacson said.
Peter Buckley, dean of the Medical School in Augusta, said he values the partnership with Athens, and that students are "out and about" in Athens, in the hospitals. Plans are underway to establish residency programs at both St. Mary's and Athens Regional, he said. What he sees in Athens "is a community coming together to answer our state's issues."
The former site of the State Normal School and the Navy Supply Corps School, the 56-acre campus has buildings that are being renovated in three phases, said architect Danny Sniff, head of the university's office of planning and university architects. Each phase costs about $10 million, and the first has been finished.
Medical students from the Athens campus won't be working just in town, officials said. They have worked in clinics and hospitals from Elberton to Monroe, and will continue to do so. They will range across all of Northeast Georgia.