St. Mary’s, AU/UGA Medical Partnership Welcome 12 New Physician Residents

St. Mary’s contact: Mark Ralston



AU/UGA Medical Partnership contact: Lindsey Derrick



St. Mary’s Health Care System and the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership are welcoming 12 new physician residents to the Internal Medicine Residency Program (IMRP) this summer.

The new residents began practicing at St. Mary’s on July 1 under the supervision of advanced resident physicians and physician faculty from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and area community-based teaching faculty.

Residents are medical school graduates who are working toward full licensure as independent physicians. Residency is a three-year program with increasing levels of independence. It’s the final stage in their internal medicine education. At the end of the three-year program, they will take their licensure exam (“Boards”) and then either go into practice or continue into training for a specialty.

The IMRP is accredited to host up to 37 residents. They provide supervised inpatient care at St. Mary’s Hospital on Baxter Street and outpatient care at Community Internal Medicine of Athens on Oglethorpe Avenue. In addition, third year residents spend two months in a rural healthcare setting, providing inpatient care at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Greensboro.

“Our Internal Medicine Residency Program offers a wide range of experiences,” said Lela Ward, MD, Program Director. “From critical care and inpatient units to a rural outpatient clinic, our residents have a diverse range of practice opportunities that will prepare them well as they further their careers.”

The IMRP Class of 2024 started on July 1. They and their medical college are:


·      Laasya Cherukuri, MD, medical degree from Rangaraya Medical College

·      Yoonhee Choi, MD, medical degree from Eulji University College of Medicine

·      Vinh Dong, MD, medical degree from American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine

·      Rahim Fazal, MD, medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine

·      Lauren Holland, DO, medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

·      Alexandria Hoy, MD, medical degree from University of Medicine and Health Sciences

·      Kevin Moriles, DO, medical degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine

·      Caroline Musa MD, medical degree from Washington University of Health and Sciences

·      Juan Vigo, MD, medical degree from University of Medicine and Health Sciences

·      Manal Zafar, medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

They are joined by Shelby Sweat, DO, a preliminary year resident who will practice for a year with the IMRP before continuing her training in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Sweat earned her medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

This year’s Chief Residents are Dr. Jamila Pham and Dr. Joshuam Ruiz Vega, recent graduates of the residency program who will be staying with the IMRP for an additional year. The Chief Residents act as liaisons between faculty members and residents, serve as mentors, and help design and create educational activities, in addition to providing patient care.

“We are thrilled to have this new group of physicians join our residency program.  Their backgrounds, achievements and connections to Georgia will be an asset to our program and community for years to come,” said Dr. Ward.

Program leaders also are celebrating the success of the outgoing Class of 2021. Of the 10 graduating residents and recently departed former Chief Resident, four will remain in Georgia to practice or will continue their medical education at Emory University. Of those four, two will stay in the Athens area: Dr. Pham and Dr. Ruiz Vega as Chief Residents at St. Mary’s Hospital.  The other two will be practicing as hospitalists in Rome and Moultrie, Georgia.

“This is tremendous that four of our residents will be staying in Georgia as we continue to combat the physician shortage,” said Shelley Nuss, MD, Campus Dean and Designated Institutional Official of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership.

The IMRP is a joint effort by the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership and St. Mary’s, the program’s Major Participating Site. The program’s goal is to address the physician shortage in Georgia.

“Being the site of the first medical residency program in Northeast Georgia continues to be a tremendous honor for St. Mary’s,” said Jason Smith, MD, St. Mary’s Chief Medical Officer. “Residents bring new energy and enthusiasm into our clinical areas. At the same time, working with these new physicians is exciting for our medical staff. We welcome our sixth class of residents and are looking forward to working side-by-side with them over the next three years to further raise the bar for clinical excellence at St. Mary’s and across Northeast Georgia.”

For more information about attending the Medical College of Georgia at the Medical Partnership campus

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