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Phoebe Welcomes New Class of Residents


Albany, Ga. – Eight new, young physicians are ready to begin caring for southwest Georgia patients as they continue their medical training at Phoebe.  Wednesday, health system and community leaders officially welcomed the Phoebe Family Medicine Residency (PFMR) Class of 2024.

“More than 1,000 medical students applied to join our program this year.  We interviewed 101 of those applicants, and we’re exceedingly pleased with the eight new residents we admitted to our program.  They are a talented and diverse group who share a passion for family medicine, and we are excited to welcome them to southwest Georgia,” said William Fricks, MD, PFMR Program Director.

The members of the PFMR Class of 2024 include:

  • Irenna Agazie, MD – Medical College of Georgia
  • Uchechi Aguwa, MD – University of Nigeria Faculty of Medicine
  • Robert Busic, DO – Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Xavier Capalla, MD – University of Kansas School of Medicine
  • Jithin George, MD – Ross University School of Medicine
  • Shivan Patel, MD – St. George’s University School of Medicine
  • Michael Sonntag, DO – Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Michelle Wilson, MD – Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University

State Sen. Dean Burke, a practicing physician who serves as Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge was the keynote speaker at the welcome ceremony.  He encouraged the residents to remain humble and remember they are here to serve.  “Spend time in your community doing something that doesn’t have anything to do with healthcare, and try to be anonymous.  Don’t let people know what you do for a living.  Make sure you can connect with people as human beings,” Sen. Burke advised the young physicians.

Each resident was presented with a welcome wagon stuffed with gifts from various businesses and organizations throughout the community.  Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Matt Reed welcomed the residents to Albany on behalf of the business community.

“Albany truly is the most welcoming community that I’ve run across, and it’s also a community that’s poised for those like you to make an impact,” Reed said.  “I encourage you to make this your home.  I encourage you to experience and invest in this community and all it has to offer, and I have no doubt you will gain so much from it.”

Phoebe Putney Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dianna Grant and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kathy Hudson presented the residents with their white coats, formally signifying their positions as practicing physicians.

“We take great pride in our many educational partnerships and our role as a teaching hospital.  We are committed to helping train the next generation of caregivers and encouraging them to stay in our region to practice.  Our residency program has an outstanding history of doing just that,” Dr. Grant said.

Over the next three years, the new residents will complete various specialty rotations as they train under a highly-skilled team of faculty members, treating patients in Phoebe hospitals as well as at Phoebe Primary Care at Northwest.  They expressed appreciation for the warm welcome they received from the community at the ceremony.

“I loved it.  Learning about this ceremony during the recruitment process was one of the high points that made me fall in love with Phoebe.  To be where I know that I’ll have a community that will be there for me when times get tough is very comforting to me,” said new resident Michelle Wilson, MD.

With the class of 2021, the PFMR has graduated 140 residents since it began in 1993.  Around 60% of them are currently practicing in Georgia, most here in southwest Georgia.  The program has had a 100% board pass rate every year since 2014.

Photo Caption: New residents (L-R) Irenna Agazie, MD; Uchechi Aguwa, MD; Shivan Patel, MD; Jithin George, MD; Michael Sonntag, DO; Xavier Capalla, MD; Michelle Wilson, MD; and Robert Busic, DO.