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Mercer University to get $1 million to help alleviate Georgia's doctor shortage

There's one primary care physician for every 1,500 Georgians, but on the county level, it's worse.

MACON, Ga. — Governor Brian Kemp delivered his State of the State Thursday, during which he announced plans to give $1 million to Mercer University to help them fight the doctor shortage in rural Georgia.

13WMAZ went to Mercer to get reaction and spoke to a graduate and the dean to learn more about the program.

Governor Kemp says his proposed budget is all part of his effort to keep the state's economy strong as we fight through the pandemic. The money is supposed to help Mercer's School of Medicine continue providing doctors and clinics in some of the state's most-underserved areas.

Doctor Miles Wei graduated from Mercer's School of Medicine in 2018.

Wei said, "I'm happy, because I am able to be a part of the community here and get established."

Now, he's an internal medicine primary care physician in Putnam County.

"A lot of times, they've been driving at least 45 minutes to an hour to see a primary care doctor," Wei said.

According to a WalletHub report, the Peach State ranks 35th in the nation for access to health care. There's one primary care physician for every 1,500 Georgians, but on the county level, it's worse. County Health Rankings data from 2018 shows there is one primary care physician for every 740 people in Macon-Bibb County. In Putnam County, it's 1 to 2,730 people.

"Rural communities deserve the same quality of care as urban areas," Doctor Jean Sumner, Dean of Mercer's School of Medicine, said. 

Sumner says they will use the $1 million effectively.

"We want to be the best money the state ever spent on trying to change our state," Sumner said. "We want them to feel every dollar that comes this way is used to make our state a healthier state in the areas that have the most need."

"It's amazing to be able to get that funding and the opportunity to do a lot more good for the residents of Georgia," Wei said.

Sumner said the funding will not only help bring medicine to places that can't support a practice, but give their students -- young Georgians -- a place to work and start their careers.

Mercer University's School of Medicine has more than 150 graduates each year, and the majority of them stay in Georgia.