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$40,000 presented to newly graduated physician assistant at AU

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$40,000 presented to newly graduated physician assistant at AU


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – The $40,000 John F. Beard Award at Augusta University has been presented to a graduate who’s described as a compassionate caregiver who puts patients first.

The honor went to Kendrick De Castro at AU’s May 9 commencement ceremony.

“Kendrick anticipates patients’ needs and goes above and beyond to make their medical care as comfortable as possible. He shows sincere care and interest, and holds the patient as the priority,” said Melania Velasquez, a physician assistant at Wellstar MCG Health who taught De Castro and worked alongside him during his OB/GYN rotation.

The $40,000 Beard Award, funded by philanthropists William Porter “Billy” Payne and his wife, Martha, is presented annually to a graduating College of Allied Health Sciences, Medical College of Georgia, College of Nursing or Graduate School student who exemplifies caring and compassion in health care.

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“Kendrick’s friendly, genuine bedside manner has earned him the adoration of many patients, and his professional and caring connection to patients has eased patient reservations and also comforted children through traumatic procedures,” said Elizabeth Prince-Coleman, program director and assistant professor in the Physician Assistant Department in the College of Allied Health Sciences. “He goes beyond the expectations of a student in clinical services, offering help with patient transport; ensuring routine care like IV removal does not interfere with quality-of-life needs such as meal time; and writing down medication names for patients – unsolicited – to help them navigate the pharmacy.”

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De Castro, who is from the metro Atlanta area, earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Georgia State University before coming to AU. He is a licensed pharmacy technician and is proficient in English, Spanish and Tagolog, a Filipino language.

“Kendrick works diligently with the student volunteer clinics to serve populations often marginalized in our society and health care system. He works to understand the challenges patients face not only with medical symptoms, but also the barriers to better health from other aspects of their lives,” said Prince-Coleman.

De Castro can often be found volunteering at those clinics, including the Equality Clinic, Faithcare Clinic and Clı́nica Latina.

“Kendrick’s actions and interactions with patients reflect a genuine concern for their physical, social and emotional well-being,” said Tiana Brown, Clinica Latina coordinator. “He has a unique gift for making patients feel heard and valued in the medical decision-making process, and he connects with them on a personal level.”

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Beyond his interactions with patients, De Castro has created a culture of care and compassion among his cohort.

“Kendrick emerged as the light and the compass of our class,” said classmate Ellie Pontiakos. “He would go out of his way to send uplifting messages each day to the group. He provided positivity and comfort in a period of newness and anxiety.”

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Amber A. Garrett, another classmate in the PA program, agreed.

“From the start, Kendrick embodied extraordinary character, marked by authenticity, compassion and kindness. Within the first week of knowing him, our cohort made the unanimous decision to appoint him as our class president, a role he has embraced with unwavering dedication,” Garrett said.

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As class president, De Castro served as the liaison between faculty and his classmates and provided support to his cohort. From his daily messages to his ability to relate to anyone, De Castro has been a pillar of support for his patients and classmates alike.

“His ability to prioritize the needs of others above his own, even in the midst of adversity, speaks volumes about his character and commitment to compassionate service,” said Amanda Breeden, an assistant professor and De Castro’s academic adviser.

“Kendrick will be a great blessing to his future patients, not only in the care and compassion he provides directly to them, but also in the care and compassion I know he will invest in the entire team around him,” said Prince-Coleman, who was recognized with the Beard award in 2015.

The Beard Award was established in 1998 by Payne, the immediate past chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, in memory of his father-in-law, who died of cancer in 1997. The award honors President Emeritus Francis J. Tedesco, MD, and Beard’s physician, Mark F. Williams, MD, a 1988 MCG graduate who treated Beard during his hospitalization.

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This is the second consecutive year that a graduate in the College of Allied Health Sciences has earned this prestigious recognition.



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Augusta, GA

Argument over PS4 leads to Augusta shooting, suspect considered armed and dangerous

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Argument over PS4 leads to Augusta shooting, suspect considered armed and dangerous


The victim, Micah Lawson, told deputies that Jackson pulled a gun on him in the middle of their argument. Lawson says he was acting in self defense when he tried to get the gun and ran away. Authorities say that’s when Jackson shot at least once at Lawson. 



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Augusta, GA

The Augusta Players sign lease on new home

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The Augusta Players sign lease on new home


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – After almost 80 years of essentially being homeless, the once-nomadic Augusta Players signed a lease for a new building on Thursday.

The practice space is right in the heart of Augusta’s growing Theatre District.

The new building is downtown on Ellis Street. It sits on the same block as Le Chat Noir and the Jessye Norman School of the Arts.

It’s right across the street from the back door of the Miller Theater and just a block away from the Imperial Theatre.

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The Augusta Players have purchased a building in the heart of Augusta’s growing Theatre District.(WRDW)

Scott Seidl, Executive Director of The Augusta Players, says the location makes perfect sense.

The building is believed to be an old firehouse, so if those walls could talk, they would tell stories of fighting flames, but now different stories – some of them musicals – are igniting a much different spark.

“It’s a place where you can come and be creative and be a part of the process,” Seidl said.

Plans also include a warehouse for costume and prop storage and a scenic shop where volunteers can build state-of-the-art sets. There is space for a dance studio, offices, and even lounge spaces for rest or work between rehearsals or classes.Seidl says the possibilities are endless.

“We’re looking at being able to teach technical theater in this space as well. So, there’ll be lighting and sound equipment,” he said.

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Augusta, GA

Rare rescue: 6-foot sturgeon released to Savannah River

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Rare rescue: 6-foot sturgeon released to Savannah River


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – There was a rare rescue in south Augusta after a 6-foot sturgeon got stuck in Spirit Creek.

Sturgeons are an ancient group of fish that date back to the age of the dinosaurs and they can live to be 150 years old.

On Friday, the Department of Natural Resources set the sturgeon free.

“I had to drop everything I was doing. I called some contacts from UGA with their sturgeon lab for them to come up and assist us,” said Aaron Gray, a fisheries biologist for DNR.

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The Atlantic Sturgeon finished laying her eggs in the Savannah River, but while she was leaving, she got stuck in Spirit Creek.

“The fish came in when we had some heavy rain in the area, and once the way was receded the sturgeon was stuck over the bridge,” said Gray.

Once Gray got the tip about the sturgeon being stuck, he jumped into gear. Saving her was a seven-man job.

“It took for nets to corral and finally capture the sturgeon. Once we had it in hand, the University of Georgia group got measurement and data from the fish,” said Gray.

It was a delicate process to get her out of the creek and took about an hour. It took another 30 minutes to get her back to the Savannah River.

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“Had to temper the water in the tank for about half an hour to make the river condition,” he said.

Matching the river conditions kept the sturgeon from going into shock and to be safe in her home again.



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