Ozarks Healthcare celebrates Medical Group on National Doctor’s Day 2021
National Doctor’s Day is celebrated annually on March 30 to recognize the care and comfort physicians provide every day. After fighting on a new medical frontier known as the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year, Ozarks Healthcare is recognizing its medical group’s significant contributions and continued growth for the health of its community this Doctor’s Day.
“Within our own health system, Ozarks Healthcare’s physicians have worked tirelessly to continue providing compassionate care while sacrificing more of their own health and time than ever to care for our community during challenging times,” Tom Keller, Ozarks Healthcare President and CEO, said. “We are proud to celebrate our physicians and the teamwork they use to focus on our community’s health, allowing our patients to stay close to home while receiving the care they need.”
Consisting of 56 physicians and representing nine countries, Ozarks Healthcare’s medical group has grown significantly since its founding. Dr. Edward Henegar, family medicine provider at Ozarks Healthcare in Gainesville, Missouri, and a founder of Ozarks Healthcare’s medical group, said the group was established with the specific goal of unifying providers for the spectrum of patients’ care.
“We wanted to create a group that would function as a group rather than several individuals,” Dr. Henegar said. “We unified the medical group into a group practice and modified it into what it is now.”
Dr. Henegar started his career as a physican at Ozarks Healthcare in 1974, when the organization consisted of only its main campus, West Plains Memorial Hospital. The establishment of the medical group and the growth of its specialties made a huge impact on the course of Dr. Henegar’s career, leading him to his own current specialty of family medicine.
“There were no specialists back then,” Dr. Henegar said of the medical group in its earliest days. “We were doing all of the services that were available at the time - delivering babies, caring for ear, nose, and throat conditions, practicing cardiology, and working in the Emergency Department. I don’t need to do those things now. I still have those skills, but my scope of practice is much narrower than it was 40 years ago. The specialization and increase in technology have changed. Now we have specialized areas we didn’t have in 1974. The organization is so much more diverse, that it’s providing more direct patient care to the communities surrounding Ozarks Healthcare.”
Dr. Clara Applegate, neurologist at Ozarks Healthcare Neurology since 1991, is another physician who has experienced the medical group’s growth and its impact on her field first-hand.
“When I came, there was a cardiologist, and internist, and a pulmonologist,” Dr. Applegate said. “We had a unique call rotation where I covered for cardiology and pulmonology, and they could cover for neurology. We were willing to step outside our boundaries and call on each other. Gradually, we have expanded our services so well, it would be absurd to think about covering cardiology at this point. The excellence in each discipline is impressive.”
After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Applegate decided to join Ozarks Healthcare after a float along the North Fork of the White River and a friendly conversation with a local. In addition to practicing neurology, Dr. Applegate led the creation of Ozarks Healthcare’s multidisciplinary stroke team, which includes nurses, physicians, therapists, and more. Even as Ozarks Healthcare’s medical group has grown, the quality medical expertise and willingness to serve others are still what make Dr. Applegate proud to be a part of the group.
“Being able to reach out to my colleagues who are so trustworthy in their specialties makes me proud,” Dr. Applegate said. “I feel comfortable with my colleagues’ ability to manage everyone in the community, including myself. People really care here.”
Joining Ozarks Healthcare’s Cancer Treatment Center as an oncologist in the mid-1990s, Dr. Charles Morgan is another member of Ozarks Healthcare’s medical group who seconds the coordination of compassionate care being one of the group’s most defining characteristics. It’s one of the defining factors that drew him to Ozarks Healthcare, and one that he continues to relay to prospective doctors looking for employment.
“I started coming here as part of an outreach program from Springfield, Missouri,” Dr. Morgan said. “Eventually, I joined on full time. One of the things I’ve always been proud of the organization is the medical group’s charity policy. They do their best to make sure all our patients get treated the best. I’ve always felt good about telling prospective doctors interviewing here what a good place this is to practice.”
From Doctor’s Day 2020 to this Doctor’s Day, Ozarks Healthcare’s medical group has grown by 13 providers, including Dr. David Jones, Ozarks Healthcare Cancer Treatment Center, and Dr. Kristyn Menendez, Ozarks Healthcare Women’s Health. Both agree the dynamic relationship and proximity between providers within the medical group are what make it unique in 2021.
“We all communicate and interact frequently,” Dr. Jones, who specializes in radiation oncology, said. “Especially from a cancer perspective, I think that’s important in a small community where you’re providing complicated care. The collegial interaction we have within the group isn’t always typical. We actually collaborate instead of one specialty telling another what to do.”
“Everyone works together really well here,” Dr. Menendez said. “There’s a relationship that is happy, upbeat, and positive. The medical group is like a big family. That’s what I think of it as.”
With its major expansion project set to be completed in fall of this year, Ozarks Healthcare will bring its medical group even closer together by connecting its main hospital building to almost all of the organization’s’ specialty clinics and ancillary services under one roof. The future is looking more efficient for the group, but most importantly, for their patients, Dr. Henegar said.
“The more integrated the medical group becomes, the faster we’ll be able to send a patient through a diagnosis and treatment plan,” Dr. Henegar said. “That’s the direction we’re going. Not everyone has all these services wrapped in one as a package.”
While there is much to look forward to in the future after a year filled with long hours and some heartache due to COVID-19, the most treasured benefit of being a part of Ozarks Healthcare’s medical group remains the same for long-time physicians and newcomers.
“It’s that continuous flow of human interaction that builds a database and a relationship with a group of people that are a family,” Dr. Henegar said. “You develop ties with these people you can’t develop without taking care of a wide spectrum of illnesses. It’s very rewarding. I am the luckiest guy in the world professionally.”
Ozarks Healthcare is a system of care encompassing eight primary care and 17 specialty clinics, along with complete rehabilitation, behavioral healthcare, and home health services. While the 114-bed acute care hospital cares for more than 5,400 admissions, the entire health system has more than 364,000 patient visits annually in South Central Missouri and Northern Arkansas. For more information about Ozarks Healthcare, visit www.OzarksHealthcare.com.
Dr. Clara Applegate, Ozarks Healthcare Neurology (left), and Dr. Edward Henegar, Ozarks Healthcare Gainesville (right)
Dr. Charles Morgan, Ozarks Healthcare Cancer Treatment Center (left), and Dr. David Jones, Ozarks Healthcare Cancer Treatment Center (right)
Dr. Kristyn Menendez, Ozarks Healthcare Women’s Health