Intelligent. Altruistic. Modest.
These are just a few words used to describe Dr. To describe Hamzah Ali, a 2022 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and recipient of this year’s John F. Beard Award for Compassionate Care.
Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD presented Ali with the Beard Award during the May 12 MCG Hooding Ceremony. Ali attended Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, MCG’s four-year campus in Athens.
“Hamzah stands out in the top 1-2% of service-oriented, selfless, and compassionate students I’ve ever met,” says Dr. Shelley Nuss, Medical Partnership campus dean.
A University of Georgia undergraduate interested in health equity and the social determinants of health, Ali, who is from Columbus, Georgia, worked with Dr. Suzanne Lester, Medical Partnership’s director of family medicine, to assess the feasibility and then set up a multidisciplinary free mobile clinic to provide healthcare to the underserved.
Since opening in 2018, the clinic has provided more than $132,000 in free medical care to more than 600 underserved people in Athens. It has also provided more than 3,400 free COVID-19 tests for vulnerable community members who are traffic restricted, homeless and uninsured.
The clinic has also offered future generations of doctors a meaningful perspective.
“When he helped design the clinic, he did not realize that the impact would be much greater than helping people who need it,” says Dr. Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, Professor of Medicine at the Medical Partnership. “He also helped provide his colleagues and the medical students who came after him with first-hand knowledge of how social determinants affect the health of individuals in our own community.”
“What sets him apart among his medical students is his dedication to patient care, his phenomenal work ethic, and his humility about his role in the process,” adds Dr. Mary Bond, Director of Clinical Skills and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University, Athens Campus.
Ali also co-founded Shifa Clinic in Athens, another non-profit clinic near the University of Georgia Health Sciences campus, which aims to provide free healthcare services to those who are underinsured and within 200% of the population living below the poverty line. In addition, the clinic provides resources for hunger prevention, temporary housing and disaster relief.
He has volunteered more than 500 hours at the Mercy Health Center Clinic, which provides free medical, dental, pharmaceutical and health education to low-income, uninsured people in the counties around Athens, and helped coordinate and oversee many community events, including Red Cross Blood drives, healthy Halloween trunk-or-treats, free physical education for middle school kids in Athens, and Boy Scout health badge training.
“Health care in the United States is facing multiple crises: a pandemic, burnout, moral injury, and attrition, to name a few,” says Dr. Robert McClowry, Campus Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion at the Medical Partnership. “Students like Hamzah who demonstrate compassion, kindness, and altruism for their patients, the patients’ families, and their communities will sustain improvements and improve healthcare.”
Ali will begin residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas at Dell Medical School in Austin this summer.
The $40,000 Beard Award is presented annually by William Porter “Billy” Payne and his wife Martha to an MCG or other health sciences student at the AU who exemplifies caring and compassion in healthcare. Payne, the immediate past chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, created the award in 1998 in memory of his father-in-law, who died of cancer in 1997. The award honors Augusta University President Emeritus Francis J. Tedesco and Beard’s physician, Dr. Mark F. Williams, a 1988 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia who treated Beard while he was hospitalized at Augusta University Medical Center.