Mercer Medicine launches student-staffed clinic in Jimmy Carter’s hometown


Inside the Mercer Medicine Plains primary care clinic. Photo provided by Mercer School of Medicine

The Mercer School of Medicine (MSUM) opened a primary care center in Plains, Georgia, this summer to address the lack of health care services after the closure of the Plains Medical Center in March. The center also provides specialty care, mental health services, gynecological services, x-rays and more.

Students and faculty from Mercer’s medical school, nursing school, college of pharmacy and college of health professions will be involved in providing services, according to Mercer News.

“Mercer Medicine Plains is a fantastic opportunity to meet Mercer University School of Medicine’s mission to serve the underserved in rural Georgia,” Charles Duffey, chief operating officer of Mercer Medicine, said to Mercer News.

The Plains clinic is a test-run for other rural care centers that may be established in the future. The project will also include a research component through MUSM’s Department of Community Medicine, which will conduct a community health assessment on the rural population the clinic will serve.

Wesley Durrance is a Mercer medical student who will spend at least four years practicing medicine in rural communities post-graduation as a stipulation of his scholarship to the medical school.

“The people in rural Georgia suffer from poverty, they suffer from lack of access to health care right now, and they suffer from lack of education, in terms of proper nutrition and medical education,” Durrance said to The Telegraph.

The Telegraph also reported that seven rural hospitals closed in Georgia in 2010, and only two states closed more than Georgia during that year.

When the medical center in Plains closed, former United States President and current Mercer Life Trustee Jimmy Carter reached out to Mercer to suggest establishing a clinic to address the crisis in his hometown.

Just four months later, the clinic opened to the public at 107 Main St. in downtown Plains. Appointments are almost fully booked through October.

“The fundamental premise behind this clinic is that folks in rural Georgia put food on our table. They’re the backbone of our state, and they deserve the same access to quality health care as everyone else in the state of Georgia,” Mercer University President William Underwood said.

“That’s the mission of our medical school, and this clinic in Plains represents part of a broad-ranging initiative by the University to transform access to health care in this state.”

President Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter helped lead the grand opening of Mercer Medicine Plains Aug. 22.

“Graduates at Mercer stay in state and practice at about twice the national average, and of those who practice in Georgia, about 80 percent choose to stay in a community that’s either rural or underserved,” President Carter said to Mercer News.