Hess honors three in state of college address Feb. 16

(Featured image of Dr. Kelli Braun. Courtesy Augusta University)

Dr. David Hess, dean of the Medical College of Georgia, presented honors to three individuals at the annual Medical College of Georgia State of the College address Friday .

A Medical College of Georgia graduate who leads her alma mater’s admissions office; Augusta University President Brooks Keel, PhD, who has been a powerful advocate for the medical school; and a federally-funded investigator who leads MCG’s research efforts received accolades, according to a news release from Augusta University.

Keel, whose career has spanned 40 years in research and higher education administration including becoming Augusta University’s president in 2015, received the MCG Advocacy Award.

“Dr. Keel’s leadership has been key to the evolvement and growth of our medical school,” Hess said in the news release. “He was an early proponent of our 3+ curriculum redesign, which is helping us produce more primary physicians for underserved Georgia. He also has advocated for continued growth in our class size and helped us cement plans for our newest four-year campus in Savannah. I have been immensely thankful for his guidance and for his support.”

Dr. Brooks Keel. Courtesy Augusta University

In his capacity as acting CEO for then-Augusta University Health System, Keel also oversaw the completion, last August, of a partnership with Wellstar Health System to create Wellstar MCG Health. This new partnership financially stabilized the health system, and it will enable more educational growth as the medical school looks to establish a new regional clinical campus in Atlanta at Wellstar Kennestone according to the release.

Keel plans to retire at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year.

Dr. Kelli Braun, MCG’s senior associate dean for admissions, received the MCG Professionalism Award.

The 2004 graduate who also completed her OB/GYN residency at MCG and Wellstar MCG Health and then joined the MCG faculty in 2008, also is a professor and director of simulation and virtual education in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, according to the release.

Braun has led the admissions office since 2016, overseeing some of the largest increases in enrollment in MCG’s almost-200-year history. The medical school currently has the 8th largest class size in the nation and is on track to have the 5th or 6th largest first-year class size next July, when an additional 40 students will enroll at the four-year Savannah Campus, a partnership between AU, MCG and Georgia Southern University, the release said.

“As a Georgia native and MCG graduate herself, Dr. Braun has always had a uniquely qualified understanding of our mission to recruit the very best students,” Hess said. “It has been no small feat to oversee such large, but crucial growth of our student body. I continue to be grateful for her clear and concise vision and leadership as we work together to produce more physicians for Georgia.”

Mark Hamrick. Courtesy Augusta University

Hess also honored Marck Hamrick, the medical school’s senior associate dean for research, with the Distinguished Leadership and Outstanding Service Award.

Hamrick, a bone and muscle biologist, has worked closely with Hess and other MCG research leaders to move the medical school toward the top 60 in National Institutes of Health funding. Among the nation’s medical schools, MCG currently is ranked 68th by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, with nearly $61 million in funding. That represents a 17% increase in funding over last year when MCG was ranked 74th.

He also has worked with department chairs, center and institute directors to recruit and retain new federally funded research faculty and identify and develop new research collaborations across MCG departments, other AU colleges and with university and industry partners across Georgia and beyond.

He’s currently serving as the interim chair of the MCG Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy since longtime chair, Sylvia Smith, retired in August 2023.

“Dr. Hamrick embodies what a leader should be — humble but persistent; someone who puts service above self,” Hess said. “His exceptional understanding of the innerworkings and importance of research, paired with his relentless pursuit of broadening this medical school’s impact have been a true asset to MCG.”

Hamrick will retire from MCG later this month.

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