The Med School Project is a series of video documentaries and print stories produced by health and medical journalism graduate students at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. It began in August 2010 when a new medical school campus opened in Athens, home of the state’s flagship university for more than 200 years.

The Medical College of Georgia-University of Georgia Medical Partnership was created to expand physician training and improve access to care in Georgia, where many communities face shortages of healthcare professionals.

Pat Thomas
Pat Thomas – Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism

Six years later, the effort to grow new doctors in Athens has had four names and been led by two deans and one interim dean. The school moved from its interim building on the main campus to UGA’s new Health Sciences Campus on Prince Avenue.

Ties with community clinics and organizations have strengthened, members of two graduating classes have matched for residencies throughout the U.S., and the Augusta University-University of Georgia Medical Partnership now offers internal medicine residency training in partnership with St. Mary’s Health System.

Six teams of student reporters have documented many of these changes, producing multimedia packages for local and statewide audiences. Between 2011 and 2015, they also produced three television specials that aired on WUGA-TV.

I’m the executive producer of the Med School Project.  I got the idea from two NOVA documentaries, “The Making of a Doctor” (1992) and “Doctor’s Diaries” (2009). The first follows seven Harvard Medical School students through four years of training; the second tracks them for 15 more years.

These are terrific films but they are told entirely from the point of view of seven medical students. Their teachers, families, clinical mentors and coworkers make only cameo appearances and the impoverished neighborhood pressing against the HMS campus is nearly invisible.

The Med School Project aspires to tell a richer story by using more points of view. Student reporters videotape in-depth interviews and report stories on beats including medical students, faculty and administrators, hospital-based physicians and residents, community clinic providers and the people of Athens – especially those in underserved communities.

What happens here, of course, is happening in cities, towns and rural areas through the country. The Med School Project gives students reporters the opportunity to tell stories – and start conversations – of state and national importance.

While working on the project, students learn to shoot and edit HD video by producing documentaries in teams or working on their own. Every year, members of one crew graduate and the baton is passed. All media files are available to all students, and these files are being preserved as a permanent archive.

When the new medical campus celebrates its first 10 years, or its first 50, historians and documentarians will be able to see The Med School Project documentaries and use the archive.

Enjoy the stories.

Patricia Thomas
Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism