Residency program granted continued accreditation

The Internal Medicine Residency Program, Northeast Georgia's first medical residency program and a joint effort by the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership and St. Mary's Health Care System, has been granted continued accreditation, the highest status possible, by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

"This is a major milestone," stated Shelley Nuss, M.D., Campus Dean and Designated Institutional Officer for the AU/UGA Medical Partnership in an email announcing the accreditation. "Savor the moment – and celebrate!"

The Internal Medicine Residency Program (IMRP) enables graduates of medical school to complete the final phase of their medical education. A maximum of 10 residents are recruited each year through a national process that matches medical school graduates with residency programs around the nation. The IMRP is accredited for a maximum of 30 residents, 10 for each year of the three-year program.

As residents advance from year to year, they gain increasing independence and autonomy, culminating in the opportunity to take their medical board exams and become fully licensed, practicing physicians. Some will go directly into internal medicine practice, providing primary care in the Athens area or other communities, while others will go into fellowships for specialties such as cardiology, neurology or surgery.

"Our program has enjoyed fantastic success, especially for a brand new program," said Pete Yunyongying, M.D., Program Director. "We have successfully recruited two full classes of 10 residents each, with more than 1,300 applications for our first class, more than 1,800 for our second class, and over 2,100 for our third class. Most importantly, between their practice at St. Mary's Hospital and our residency clinic, Community Internal Medicine of Athens, our resident physicians are building the foundation they need to become highly skilled practitioners."

"Thanks go out to many individuals who worked tirelessly to bring GME to Athens, and to St. Mary's, our hospital partner," Dr. Nuss said. "Without St. Mary's and their relentless support, this would not have been possible."

Dr. Nuss specifically thanked Don McKenna, St. Mary's President and CEO, and Bruce Middendorf, M.D., St. Mary's Chief Medical Officer, praising both for their "support and drive for excellence."

She also thanked Dr. Yunyongying, Seth Jelinek, M.D., Assistant Program Director, and Achilia Morrow, M.D., Associate Program Director, for "their dedication and hard work to bring the program to this level. They, too, have worked tirelessly to provide the highest quality education to our future residents."

Finally, Dr. Nuss thanked the more than 70 physician faculty members who work with the residents, as well as the nursing, ancillary and support staff of St. Mary's and the IMRP whose behind-the-scenes efforts keep the program running smoothly and contribute to the residents' education. She also extended her appreciation to Medical College of Georgia Dean Peter Buckley, M.D., and UGA Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten for their support of GME through the Medical Partnership.

The Internal Medicine Residency Program received initial accreditation in 2014, clearing the way for the first class of medical residents to begin their residencies in July 2015. Initial accreditation is valid for two years, so in summer 2016, ACGME conducted a rigorous site visit and review of the program to assess how well it is meeting requirements and goals for resident training and education. The process resulted in ACGME granting continuing accreditation, which provides for ongoing accreditation for 10 years with routine annual review of program data to ensure the IMRP continues to meet requirements.

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The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is a private professional organization responsible for ensuring the quality of more than 9,600 accredited residency and fellowship programs that are collectively responsible for the education of more than 120,000 residents and fellows. The organization accredits sponsoring institutions and residency and fellowship programs, confers recognition on additional program formats or components, and dedicates resources to initiatives addressing areas of import in graduate medical education. For more information, visit

About the AU/UGA Medical Partnership
Created to help alleviate the physician shortage in Georgia, the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership brings together the instructional and research resources of UGA, the state's flagship land-grant university, and the expertise of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Georgia's only public medical school. The four-year program hosts 40 students in each class, providing intensive classroom instruction along with third-and fourth-year rotation in private practices, community clinics and hospitals across Northeast Georgia. For more information, visit

About St. Mary's Health Care System
St. Mary’s is a faith-based, not-for-profit health care ministry whose mission is to be a compassionate and transforming healing presence in the communities it serves. Named one of America's 100 Best Hospitals in 2016 by Healthgrades, St. Mary’s puts special focus on neurosciences, cardiac care, orthopedics, general medicine, general surgery, women’s and children’s health, and care for older adults. The system includes hospitals in Athens, Lavonia and Greensboro, as well as a region-wide home health care/hospice service, retirement community, numerous physician practices, outpatient care facilities, and medical education. St. Mary’s was named Georgia's Large Hospital of the Year in 2006, 2010 and 2015. For more information, visit St. Mary’s website at