Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Mercer partner on pediatric rural health

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

The initiative will fund 10 full-tuition scholarships in 2023 for Mercer medical students specializing in pediatrics.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Mercer University School of Medicine have entered a $200 million alliance to address pediatric health care access in rural Georgia Wednesday.

The partnership will seek to improve the readiness of rural hospitals to treat pediatric patients, provide training and resources to rural pediatricians and increase pediatric mental and behavioral health services in rural communities. As part of the partnership, 10 full-tuition scholarships will be awarded in 2023 to Mercer medical students specializing in pediatrics who agree to commit to serving in rural Georgia for four years after completing their residencies.

“I believe this is a transformational opportunity for the State of Georgia and rural children,” said Mercer University School of Medicine Dean Dr. Jean Sumner in a press release. " It also aligns perfectly with MUSM’s mission to meet the primary care and health needs of rural medically underserved areas of Georgia, to which we are committed.”

Across the nation and state, the trend of rural hospitals closures has been increasing. From 2012-22, at least eight rural hospitals in the state were shuttered. Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 120 are considered rural. According to Gov. Brian Kemp, 67 counties in Georgia have zero to ten physicians and 65 counties have no pediatricians.

“Children’s is very excited to work with Mercer University School of Medicine and the Georgia Rural Health innovation Center because they are are trusted community partner and best suited to guide us in addressing the current and future needs of Georgia’s rural pediatric population,” Donna Hyland, chief executive officer of CHOA, said in a statement.

CHOA will also increase their support for Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities to help families that have to travel to Atlanta for healthcare needs.

On behalf of all Georgians, especially those who live in rural parts of our state, I want to thank Mercer University School of Medicine and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for partnering to tackle this critical need,” said Kemp at a press conference announcing the alliance. “We’ve got to continue to work for access and cost availability for health care access.”

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Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed