Top Doctors 2017

Our annual Top Doctors list features winning physicians in 72 medical and surgical specialties throughout 417-land.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

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5 Ways to Avoid Urgent Care

Through convenient care clinics and telemedicine services, our local hospitals are making it easier than ever to get the care you need, when you need it—leaving urgent care for truly urgent illness and saving you from sky-high co-pays.

We’ve all been there. You’re stuffed up, allergies are dragging you down or you’re feeling the tickle of strep throat. These ailments don’t necessitate the urgency—or cost—of urgent care, but you need to see a doctor, and soon. Luckily, many hospitals offer services that can be accessed from the comfort of your home. Don’t wait on your health—417-land’s hospitals offer convenient care clinics and telemedicine that bring the doctor to you.

Direct Connect, 417-269-8633
CoxHealth’s Direct Connect brings health care to the tips of your fingers. Using the Vidyo app on your phone or computer, you can access a face-to-face conference within 10 minutes. The first visit is organized via the CoxHealth website. The service covers ailments that, while not needing an ER, need to be attended to quickly. You simply submit your symptoms: allergies, strep throat, stomach flu, etc. The visits have no unexpected costs and usually cost less than $49.

Mercy Virtual Care Center
The Mercy Virtual Care Center is dedicated to telehealth. Whether looking for short-term or long-term care, registered Mercy patients can access personalized health care from their homes. Patients’ MyMercy accounts allow them to use EVisits, Nurse-On-Call and other, more complex services. E-Visits connect patients to their doctors for minor symptoms and illnesses. If the doctor is not available, Nurse-On-Call allows for a health professional to give advice based on your health history. Mercy’s telehealth services include Telestroke and long-distance diagnostic tests for specialized treatment. 

CoxHealth Walk-in Walmart Clinics

2021 E. Independence St., Springfield, 417-885-1445
3315 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-886-2219
2825 N. Kansas Expressway, Springfield, 417-868-7026

Coxhealth’s walk-in clinics promise quick, attentive service that can greatly reduce health costs. Without coverage, minor injuries and illnesses cost less than $100 to cure. Diagnostics and physicals are also performed in the clinics located in Walmarts and Hy-vee. Patients need only an ID and insurance–—no appointment necessary.

Mercy Convenient Care

2120 W. Kearney St., Springfield, 417-869-6191
1717 S. Rangeline Road, Joplin, 417-623-2207

Mercy’s Convenient Care locations are walk-in clinics that offer basic services for about the same price as a traditional doctor visit. Similar to CoxHealth’s walk-in clinics, Mercy’s Convenient Care centers offer basic care for minor injuries, sinus-related illnesses and other discomforts. No appointment is necessary.

Children’s Mercy Hospital Telemedicine

3333 McIntosh Circle Drive, Joplin, 816-234-3700
Children’s Mercy Hospital strives to be ahead in pediatric research and service. Those special services are not lost on smaller Missouri cities. Joplin offers a location to facilitate pediatric appointments with specialists from around the country. Appointments for nutrition, infectious disease, endocrinology and other concerns can be made and held in Joplin’s Pediatric Specialty Care center. Specialists can conference with patients, potentially saving them hours of travel and stress.


Mizzou in 417-land

“Victoria,” a birthing simulator, gives MU students Murphy Mastin and Jakob Allen a chance to practice delivering babies under the watchful eye of Mercy’s Dr. Jay W. Carlson and CoxHealth’s Dr. Tama Franklin.

For a health community as robust as 417-land’s, there’s always been something missing. “We have two very large health care systems who practice very high quality medicine,” says Dr. Andrew Evans. “It’s surprising we [didn’t] have a medical school campus here.” After eight years of planning, that changed in June 2016 with the opening of the University of Missouri School of Medicine Springfield Clinical Campus through a partnership with CoxHealth and Mercy. The campus on National Avenue aims to address the looming physician shortage by attracting new talent to southwest Missouri. 

According to a 2016 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the shortage is expected to range between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians by 2025. Locally, there is already a need for physicians with 130 open positions at CoxHealth and Mercy as of February. “So having people become familiar with Springfield during their medical training, the idea is hopefully they’ll be more likely to return to Springfield and southwest Missouri to practice,” says Evans, who serves as the campus’s associate dean and chief academic officer. 

Imagery of Mizzou’s Columbia campus and its mascot, the tiger, watch over the school’s CoxHealth lounge, which includes plenty of seating, studying spots and workspaces, all in the school’s signature black and gold.

So far, the nine third-year students in the inaugural class have a positive impression of the community, Evans says. “One of the things they appreciate about being in Springfield is that they feel like they get to talk with practicing physicians one-on-one and have a better picture about what the specialties are really like,” he adds. Although there’s no guarantee that students return after completing their residencies, MU’s medical school retains more graduates within Missouri than any other program in the state. “If we retain the same percentage of these students to the state of Missouri as the rest of the school has, the economic impact of this class expansion is about $390 million a year to the state’s revenue,” Evans says. 

By 2020, there will be 32 third- and fourth-year students in Springfield. Students work with staff at Mercy and Cox to complete training in core areas like family medicine and psychiatry as well as specialties. Evans says this ultimately becomes an advantage for patients in the region. “Having a medical student work with a physician means that physician also has to keep up with the latest developments,” he says. 
Although still in its infancy, the campus is sure to continue to positively impact the region. “As the program grows, I believe we will become more visible in the community,” Evans says.


What’s New

Lucky for us, our 417-land hospitals are always changing to keep up with the fast-paced health care industry. Read on for a glimpse of the latest and greatest innovations and changes happening at the area’s biggest health care providers. 


Mercy and UnitedHealthcare Expand Network Relationship in 417-Land

Up until now, finding a doctor started with one basic question for most of us: what hospital accepts my insurance? On January 1, 2017, options expanded for many 417-landers asking that question—individuals enrolled in most UnitedHealthcare plans were given the choice of more than 675 Mercy doctors and facilities across the region to choose from for in-network health care services. The change was effective for Medicare Advantage plans as well as UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored plans that accessed the Choice POS network plans. Covered patients were also given additional options at Mercy hospitals in Springfield, Joplin, Carthage, Lebanon, Cassville, Aurora and Mountain View, as well as access to Mercy Kids children’s hospital in Springfield, Mercy Orthopedic Hospital in Springfield, Mercy online services and more. 


CoxHealth Expands DirectConnect

We’ve all been there—you need to go to the doctor, but you feel so sick that you can’t even imagine leaving your house. That’s when CoxHealth’s DirectConnect comes in handy—the service offers secure, convenient care with telemedicine and is available from computers, smartphones or other mobile devices. But what if you’re spending a weekend at the lake, or you’re on a shopping trip in St. Louis? Well, in late 2016, the hospital expanded DirectConnect to service anyone in the state of Missouri, which means you can still be seen via video-enabled devices as long as you’re physically located within the state’s lines. Don’t worry if you’re suffering from the sniffles—you can still take that weekend getaway!

Mercy Hospital Springfield Becomes the Third Hospital in the State to Offer LVAD Implantation

In March, Mercy Hospital Springfield announced it has now performed nine successful procedures in which Mercy doctors implanted a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) in patients. An LVAD is a partially implanted device that works like a jet engine for the heart, replacing some of the work of the left ventricle as it circulates the blood throughout the body. Mercy Hospital Springfield is the third hospital in Missouri to offer
the service—Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City are the other two. “It’s one of the most innovative procedures next to a heart transplant,” says Sonya Kullmann, Senior Media Relations Specialist of Mercy Springfield Communities. Also new on the heart front at Mercy, construction on Mercy Heart Hospital Springfield began in August 2016. Located inside the existing main hospital, the heart hospital is planned to bring all cardiovascular care into one location. The remodeling project encompasses approximately 135,000 square feet and will cost about $110 million. Construction is expected to be finished by fall of 2020. 


Mercy Breast Center Joplin Offers Advanced Screening Options

In January 2017, Mercy Breast Center Joplin announced the addition of GE Healthcare’s Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS) to its comprehensive breast cancer screening program. “The automated breast ultrasound system isn’t available anywhere else in the region,” says Todd Nighswonger, media relations specialist of Mercy Joplin. By offering patients with dense breast tissue ABUS in addition to mammography, Mercy is improving detection for small cancers that cannot be seen on a mammogram alone.

Freeman Unveils Upgrades to State-of-the-Art Hybrid Operating Room

December 2016 was a big month for Freeman Health System. That’s when it hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil upgrades to its state-of-the-art hybrid cardiovascular operating room (CVOR) at Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute. A major highlight of this new operating center is the Infinix Elite from Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc., a customizable cardiovascular X-ray imaging system that boasts best-in-class technology. “Information is power when it comes to diagnosis, and the Infinix Elite’s combination of comfort, safety and efficiency allows us to provide the right care solutions to our patients,” says Dr. Raymond Vetsch, Freeman Cardiothoracic Surgeon. “The resolution is higher and more precise, which will enable us to perform procedures usually found at cardiac centers in university hospital settings, such as structural heart repair.”


Citizens Memorial Healthcare Announces Hospital Expansion

In its latest annual report to the community, Citizens Memorial Healthcare announced that its board of directors approved plans for CMH to hire architectural firm HMN of Kansas City to begin designing expansion plans for the hospital. The expansion is much needed, as some departments have not been expanded since the hospital opened in 1982. Plans include adding square footage that would be developed into a three-floor patient tower located on the hospital’s south side. Private patient rooms, a new intensive care unit, a new obstetrics and surgical suite, a new pharmacy, a new lab, new surgical suites, a new emergency room and a new cath lab are all a part of the expansion plans, as well as the relocation of the CMH Heart Institute Clinic. The project is expected to begin in fall 2017 and will take approximately 15 months to complete.


Ozarks Medical Center Unveils Expanded and Remodeled Cancer Treatment Center

In January 2017, the Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) Cancer Treatment Center hosted a ribbon cutting and grand opening. The much-needed refurbishing project included an expansion and remodel of the hospital’s existing chemotherapy suite as well as the addition of a healing garden and new state-of-the-art equipment. The project had a price tag of $1.3 million, and a significant portion of those funds was raised by community members. “I think what is so amazing about this story is that our community donated over $900,000 to make this happen,” says Ward Franz, executive director of the OMC Foundation. “The fundraising campaign began in January 2015, and we held the ribbon cutting on the completed project two years later.” 


Ozarks Community Hospital Becomes a Tri-State Health System

As of January 1, 2017, the Ozarks Community Hospital (OCH)  Health System has owned and operated Jay Family Medicine Clinic under a new name: OCH Jay Family Medicine Clinic. The clinic is in Jay, Oklahoma. “Our health system has been considering an Oklahoma expansion for several years now,” says Bernadette Losh, Chief Clinics Officer. “When the opportunity to work with Dr. Tidwell became available, we were beyond thrilled. Not only does it fit our growth model and match our mission to serve the underserved, the addition of this clinic now means OCH is a tri-state health system.” In addition to opening the Oklahoma family medicine clinic, OCH acquired four additional rural health clinics in McDonald County, Missouri. The simultaneous addition of these five clinics in 2017 marks one of the biggest clinic expansions the health system has ever embarked on at once.


Behind Closed Doors

Unless you have a couple of credentials following your name, knowing what it feels like behind the doors of an operating room is a bit of a mystery. Curious about the experience, we sent staff writer Savannah Waszczuk into surgery with Dr. Shachar Tauber, an ophthalmologist at Mercy Springfield.

Minus the removal of one pesky wisdom tooth, I’ve never had any operations or surgeries to speak of. I feel fortunate that most of my hospital visits have been to greet new babies or to do interviews for this job. But it also makes me a bit curious. After all, if a single wisdom tooth removal even counts as a surgery, all I remember about it is laughing a lot and wishing I had more of that gas. This vague recollection made me realize that most people out there have no idea what it feels like to be in an operating room.

I called Sonya Kullmann, Senior Media Relations Specialist at Mercy, to see if I could join a doctor during an operation. Turns out they won’t let just anyone join in—I had to dig up my immunization records and show my latest flu shot scar, and they had to get permission from a couple of patients who were willing to let me watch. But then I was finally given the green light to join ophthalmologist Dr. Shachar Tauber in the OR. 

After changing into scrubs and tying on a surgical mask, I headed to my first observation: Jacque Thummel’s cataract removal surgery. Thummel was having her left eye operated on during my visit, having the cataract taken out and getting a premium lens placed. I was one of eight people in the OR at first, and I sat in awe as the nurses cleaned and prepped Thummel’s eye while they chatted with her as if she were an old gal pal. I’m sure the last thing they wanted was her thinking about how her eye would be sliced open in a few minutes. This was obvious—the room felt at ease thanks to the friendly conversation. 

When Dr. Tauber joined us and they dimmed the lights, I felt like I was about to witness a scene from ER, that old medical drama that used to haunt my dreams as a kid. I mean, we were working on an eyeball, right? I was sure there was going to be gushing blood and veins popping out everywhere. But there was nothing of the sort. After the lights went low, the mood did turn a bit more serious, but it was still relaxed in there. I watched everything that was happening projected on the CALLISTO eye machine’s full-screen display, as well as an even bigger high-definition monitor on the opposite wall. Dr. Tauber operated smoothly and confidently, explaining to Thummel what was happening at each step. She didn’t budge, despite the lid speculum holding her eye open and the laser cutting into it. It was all over in about 30 minutes, if that. Smooth sailing. The lights flicked back on, and it was back to happy chatter. As Thummel was propped up and about to be wheeled away, I asked her how it was. “Not bad at all,” she said. “Very relaxing, actually. Whatever they’re giving you—that’s good stuff.” 

Next up was patient James Holder’s Descemet’s Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK). In lay terms, it’s a cornea transplant. After I walked in his operating room—which was again full of buzz and friendly conversation—Dr. Tauber showed me the file of the cornea we’d be working with. It told us where the cornea came from—a woman in her 50s who had died from a seizure the week before. I was amazed the body part came with all these details. It had its own little stat sheet, like we were buying a used car or something. Then Dr. Tauber showed me the cornea itself. Yes, the actual body part, which was sitting out in a teeny bottle on a little surgical table. It was fascinating to see, but also a bit terrifying for a klutz like myself—I was buzzing around the room taking pictures, and I kept picturing myself tripping over my own feet, accidentally catching that table on my fall and sending what was meant to be Mr. Holder’s new cornea flying across the room. But I guess that’s one of the many reasons I’m not a surgeon. 

Much less of a klutz and much more of a medical expert, Dr. Tauber performed a stumble-free surgery No. 2 with just as much confidence and ease as the first. He had music that was requested by the patient playing in the room. I remember “Love T.K.O.” playing, among other easy-listening tunes. What better to get you in the mood for eye surgery than the mellow, bluesy voice of Teddy Pendergrass? The mood again was serious, yet it seemed everyone felt comfortable. That music helped. It was all so much less stressful than I expected. After the operations, I found myself hoping that I have a team like Dr. Tauber and his staff if I ever need a surgery one day. They ran that operating room like a well-oiled machine, and a welcoming one at that. Comfortable chatting? Check. A few laughs? Check. An entire cornea taken out and a new one put in within 30 minutes? Check. I complimented Dr. Tauber, and he said out loud what I was silently thinking all along—everyone in that room was an important part of what happened. “What you need to do is capture the spirit of these people,” he said. “That’s who makes it happen. I just push buttons.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included information about a proposed merger between CoxHealth and Citizens Memorial Hospital, but that merger has since been canceled.​

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