Program places pediatricians in rural Georgia

A $200 million effort in Georgia will provide healthcare for thousands of families in rural areas.
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 11:11 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A $200 million effort in Georgia will provide healthcare for thousands of families in rural areas.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Mercer University School of Medicine are providing full-tuition scholarships for ten medical students specializing in pediatrics. Scholarship recipients have ties to rural Georgia and will commit to four years in rural counties after completing residency.

Dr. Jean R. Summer, Dean of Mercer University School of Medicine, said the scholarships will change healthcare for rural families for centuries to come.

“These counties have no pediatricians or at best too few pediatricians, and pediatricians set the agenda for health and family,” said Dr. Summer.

Sixty-three of Georgia’s 159 counties do not have a single pediatrician according to the most recent data from the state.

States across the country report similar shortages in rural areas. Oftentimes, families without access to pediatricians must drive – sometimes hundreds of miles – for care.

Nelliena Young, one of the scholarship recipients, believes the scholarship program will make a significant impact on rural Georgia.

“Being from Albany, which is southwest Georgia, I see the need for pediatricians. To have this program – which is not only going to encourage people to go to southwest Georgia, but to go back to their communities and be involved and help better the lives of children and their healthcare,” said Young.

Experts cite pay as one reason for the shortage. Pediatricians are one of the lowest-paid professions in healthcare.

The full-ride scholarship should alleviate some financial burden.

Children’s calls the impact “incredible” for students and communities they’ll help.

“It’s going to give them the chance to do the thing they love – practice medicine and do it in the places and hometowns with families and kids that they love,” said Dr. Jim Fortenberry, CMO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The first two scholarship recipients will graduate May 6 and enter residency summer 2023 before returning to southwest and southeast Georgia to serve communities.