Amos gift to Emory supports increasing primary care providers in Georgia

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Sept. 23, 2021

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Jill Wu
jill.s.wu@emory.edu

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Emory University School of Medicine

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Kathelen and Dan Amos have pledged a $5 million gift to Emory University School of Medicine to establish The Kathelen and Dan Amos Medical Student Loan Forgiveness Program: Improving Access to Primary Care in Georgia.

In addition to engaging young talent and attracting Emory School of Medicine physician graduates back to Georgia, this program will address the issue of physicians-in-training moving into more lucrative sub-specialties, instead of following office-based primary care tracks.

For decades, there has been a growing deficit of primary care physicians around the country. The situation in Georgia is more dire, having a per capita ratio worse than the nation’s average, and having been worsened by the pandemic.

Data collected by Emory School of Medicine has found that Georgia lacks more than 2,000 primary care physicians to meet the national average for the state’s population.

“Our family has become increasingly concerned about the well-documented shortage of, and lack of access to, primary care physicians for Georgians of all ages,” says Kathelen Amos, trustee of the Daniel P. Amos Family Foundation. “By removing some of the financial barriers to choosing a primary care discipline, we are investing in the future for both Emory students and trainees, as well as our fellow Georgians.”

The onus of student debt is a major factor when medical specialties are chosen. Lower salaries and reduced government reimbursement contribute to the shortage of physicians in primary care specialties such as internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics and geriatrics.

The goal of the new program is to provide an opportunity for young Emory-trained physicians to stay true to their passions by easing the stress that comes with high education loans and to encourage them to practice primary care in the state of Georgia. Recipients will commit to two to five years of primary care practice in Georgia commensurate with the level of assistance they have received.

“Student debt is a major contributor to student and resident anxiety, depression and burnout,” says Vikas P. Sukhatme, MD, ScD, dean of Emory School of Medicine. “We are tremendously grateful for the Amos family’s generosity and faith in the talented, young medical professionals and students we are training at Emory. Together we can make a profound impact on health care for families everywhere.”

The effects of student debt, and the choices it creates, are felt by millions of people, particularly in rural, underserved parts of the country. Studies have shown that states with a higher ratio of primary care physicians have better health and lower rates of mortality. Furthermore, patients who regularly see a primary care physician have lower health costs than those without one.

Kathelen Amos is president of The Aflac Foundation Inc. and retired as executive vice president after 20 years with Aflac. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in political science from Emory and her juris doctor degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. She later earned a nursing degree from Columbus Tech. A member of the Emory Board of Trustees since 2009, Kathelen serves on the executive committee, the governance, trusteeship and nominations committee, and as vice-chair of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center committee.

Dan Amos is chairman and chief executive officer of Aflac Incorporated, a position he has held since 1990. He is former chairman of the boards of the Japan America Society of Georgia and the University of Georgia Foundation as well as a past trustee of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Dan earned his bachelor of arts degree in insurance and risk management from the University of Georgia.

Learn more about the Kathelen and Dan Amos Medical Student Loan Forgiveness Program.