Rheumatology Clinic Move Opens Door to Broader Care at South Campus

Aug 20, 2014

UAMC – South Campus has seen expanded treatment options for rheumatology, geriatric and orthopaedic patients thanks to the recent move of the Rheumatology Physician Offices & Infusion Services to South Campus from Wilmot Road and expansion there of Geriatric Services – the only UAMC program nationally ranked in the latest U.S. News ‘Best Hospitals’ list.

A multidisciplinary team approach to care also allows other outpatient clinical specialties such as physical therapy, diabetes and pain management to take advantage of the expanded offerings, too, said Joellen de la Vara, administrator for South Campus clinics.

This includes those at the Abrams Public Health Center, Sports Medicine or South Campus Physician Offices, all working closely with South Campus hospital and behavioral health services.

The goal, said Kent Kwoh, MD, UAMC and UA Rheumatology Division chief and Arizona Arthritis Center director, is to offer comprehensive coordinated specialty and interdisciplinary care for patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases, particularly complex patients suffering coexisting medical conditions or diseases. 

“The opportunity in moving to South Campus is to coordinate care of complex patients, such as older patients in need of geriatric services and services for their arthritis,” he said. This includes patients with osteoarthritis seen by both Orthopaedics and Rheumatology, those with interstitial lung disease (ILD) seen by pulmonology and rheumatology, and those needing physical and occupational therapy. 

Mindy Fain, MD, UAMC and UA chief for Geriatrics, General Internal Medicine & Palliative Medicine, and Arizona Center on Aging (ACOA) co-director, praised potential collaboration with Dr. Kwoh’s team.

“Arthritis is one of the top four complaints for older adults, which makes the opportunity to establish this a thing that clearly meets our patients’ needs,” she said. “We have a rapidly aging population and, so, this ability to include the South Campus as a site of our services is very exciting to us.”

She envisions an alliance with Rheumatology along the lines of a Geriatric-Orthopaedics fracture service at University Campus that's an inpatient practice led by Ana Sanguineti, MD.

“We're working closely with our colleagues in Rheumatology and Orthopaedics to build an osteoporosis clinic at South Campus that will work to promote healthy bones for older adults to prevent fractures in the first place. It will also provide seamless care for someone who does happen to suffer a fracture. We hope to have something up and running certainly by the first of the year,” Dr. Fain said.

South Campus also is where Drs. Fain and Jane Mohler, MSN, MPH, PhD, ACOA associate director, spearheaded a rethinking of critical care for older adults by creating a virtual “senior ER,” an effort led by Michelle Rhoads, MD, a Reynolds Scholar in Aging and ED physician trained in hospice and palliative care, and Art Sanders, MD, director of Geriatric Emergency Research Collaboration. That includes things as simple as having small “pocket talkers” (amplifiers with ear buds) available so older patients can hear better in a crowded, hectic ER. It also involves special triage and other measures to ensure older patients receive the special care they need and can return home as soon as possible.

“What we learn from that we'll transfer to University Campus,” Fain said.

Dr. Kwoh also looks to share expertise across campuses, particularly with study and treatment of conditions like lupus, Valley Fever, scleroderma and inflammatory muscle diseases such as myositis or polymyositis complicated by ILD – all areas where UAMC and UA hold research and clinical strengths. Along those lines, he noted UA international experts such as Jeffrey Lisse, MD, on osteoporosis, and John Galgiani, MD, and Neil Ampel, MD, on infectious diseases.

He is excited about new talent coming to our physician pool to augment Rheumatology’s capabilities. Among those are:

• Dominick Sudano, MD, who completed his fellowship here and started July 1. His interest in management of coccidiomycosis, or Valley Fever, includes a focus on patients treated with disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic response modifiers that target specific molecules to block functions related to connective tissue and autoimmune diseases.

• Judy Stein, DNP, ANP, BC, CCRP, an adult nurse practitioner from Duke University Medical Center, whose focus is on cardiovascular risk in women with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and obesity and diabetes prevention among vulnerable populations. She started this month.

• Ernest Vina, MD, a University of Pittsburgh recruit with a special interest in health disparities, particularly related to rheumatoid arthritis and lupus whose sufferers are at high risk of cardiovascular disease. He starts in October.

They’ll all enjoy the new, larger clinic space at South Campus.

“It’s a beautiful facility newly renovated per our specifications,” Dr. Kwoh said. “It’s offers a great opportunity to provide state-of-the-art care with a wonderful infusion clinic. Everything is very patient and staff-centered to provide the right environment – a
healthy, healing environment.  With an aging population in the U.S., Arizona and Tucson, it’s very important to coordinate Geriatric Services with a number of specialties, especially Rheumatology, to manage increased growth of diseases such as osteoarthritis. We’re facing an epidemic of osteoarthritis.”

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