It's a growing model of care where physicians just want to return health care back to the way it was where patients have a close relationship with their physician. Dr. Shayla Toombs
A Chattanooga physician has opened a family medicine clinic on East M.L. King Boulevard, bolstering the revitalization of the once-struggling corridor.
Dr. Shayla Toombs- Withers said on Friday that she likes that her Essence of Health Wellness Clinic is centrally located in the city.
"I wanted all patients to access me," she said at the 752 E. M.L. King offices which she's leasing. "It's on a bus line. It's easily accessible by car. I liked the accessibility of this location."
Also, said the 38-year-old physician, the offices are located in a growing part of the city and close to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"I wanted to be able to provide care to college students," she said at the grand opening of the practice.
Amy Donahue, director of marketing and communications for the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co., said people need services where they live.
She said East M.L. King is seeing more variety in terms of restaurant and retail offerings, and the family medical clinic is another type of activity.
"People need access to services," Donahue said.
Toombs-Withers, who is originally from Atlanta, said she moved to Chattanooga with her husband in 2015 from Omaha, Nebraska. For the past three and a half years, she'd been a family medicine physician in the UT/Erlanger Primary Care Group.
She said she left that group in March to venture out on her own to the East M.L. King location, where she has been practicing since June. The clinic offers acute sick visits, chronic disease management, women's health, physicals, and obesity management.
The physician said she uses a direct primary care model that "essentially cuts out the middle man — the insurance company."
"It creates a relationship where the patient can have a personal relationship with the physician without any barriers to care that sometimes insurance companies create," Toombs-Withers said.
Patients pay a membership fee, she said. The center charges adult members between $70 and $90 per month based on age and $20 monthly for children under age 20. She said she has agreements with laboratories, imaging centers and pharmaceutical distributors for deep discounts for medical testing, diagnostic imaging, and prescription drugs.
"The membership fee they pay to me includes all my primary care that I do for them," the physician said. "Their visits are unlimited without any extra co-pays, that includes any procedures I do in-house."
Patients get to spend from 30 minutes to an hour so they aren't rushed in and out, Toombs-Withers said.
"They actually get time to sit with me. They get to know me," she said. "I get to know them. It creates a better working relationship and helps me to take better care of them."
The physician said she still helps patients file insurance with lab tests or imaging, but they can't do so for her services.
"It's a growing model of care where physicians just want to return health care back to the way it was where patients have a close relationship with their physician," she said.
Toombs-Withers said she offers a holistic model of care. It's aimed to help people lead better lives by improving their health whereby optimal wellness is achieved when medical science is combined with a plant-based diet, exercise and "mindfulness," the physician said. She said she follows a plant-based lifestyle and believes that's the best tool to aid in weight loss and to improve chronic medical conditions.
"A lot of what I do is teach about nutrition," the physician said, helping a patient, for example, to lessen their diabetes medications by changing their diet. She also talks about proper exercise, she said.
"I do prescribe medications when needed, but we also work on lifestyle changes," Toombs-Withers said.
For decades, efforts to revive the East M.L. King area had seen mixed results.
However, with downtown's core seeing a rebirth, coupled with an expansion in UTC's housing footprint and the impact of the city's Innovation District, a renaissance appears to be taking hold.
Chattanooga businessman Chris Curtis is the developer of Douglas Heights, the $41 million, seven-story student housing complex on Douglas Street just off M.L. King that opened in 2016.
Also, he and Bobby Joe Adamson have started construction on the Gateway Building at East M.L. King and Douglas Street.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.