Georgia Governor Brian Kemp allocated $1 million to Mercer University in his 2022 State of the State address on Jan. 13. The funds are part of a proposed healthcare plan to address the "short supply" of physicians and nurses in rural Georgia.
"While the Biden administration plays politics, in Georgia, we’re making healthcare more affordable for millions of our citizens," Kemp said in his address.
In addition to the funds for Mercer, $3 million will be dispersed among the University System of Georgia for nursing program expansions and over 130 residency slots.
"We’re making key investments in the healthcare workforce pipeline in hopes to add 1,300 additional healthcare practitioners in our state," a statement from the governor's office said.
According to the Georgia State Office of Rural Health, residents of rural Georgia are less healthy than those living in urban areas but more likely to be underinsured or uninsured. Of Georgias 159 counties, 120 of them are considered rural. In these counties, there are a total of 85 rural health clinics and just 59 total hopitals.
"Rural communities deserve the same quality of care and access to care as urban communities,” said Dr. Jean Sumner, dean of the School of Medicine.
The Mercer School of Medicine is already involved in the battle to get more accessible and affordable healthcare to rural areas. The university is home to two centers for rural health: The Center for Rural Health and Health Disparities (CRHHD) and The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center.
The CRHHD is one of only two National Institutes of Health designated Centers of Excellence in the nation focused on rural health issues. The center focuses on eliminating disparities in maternal and infant mortality, opioid overdose and chronic diseases.
“We are honored to have the state trust us with this money," Sumner said. "We want them to know that Mercer uses every dollar that comes this way to help rural Georgia citizens become healthier and provide increased access to quality medical care.”
Mary Helene Hall ‘23 is a journalism and women’s and gender studies student who has worked for The Cluster throughout her time at Mercer. She spent the summer and fall semester of 2021 as a reporting intern at AL.com, Alabama's #1 media site, covering a variety of topics including politics, crime and culture.