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University Oncology Hematology Associates, an oncology practice affiliated with Erlanger hospitals since its start in the 1980s, is joining the Nashville-based Tennessee Oncology, the biggest oncology practice in the state and the third biggest in the country.

UOHA will continue to serve patients at its clinics on the Erlanger campuses at 979 E. 3rd Street and at 1635 Gunbarrel Road with its six medical oncologists and three advanced practice providers.

University Oncology and Hematology has had a professional services agreement with Erlanger for its staff. Although that will change under the new ownership, Erlanger's vice president of oncology services, Tanner Goodrich, said Erlanger will continue to work with UOHA through the duration of its contract, as well as having ongoing discussions with Tennessee Oncology on plans going forward "with no disruptions to patient care."

With the merger, Tennessee Oncology will have more than 100 physicians and 55 advanced practice providers across the state and North Georgia, including 20 such professionals in the Chattanooga market. The purchase of UOHA is the seventh such merger with other oncology practices since the firm began in Nashville in the early 1990s.

The practice is affiliated with OneOncology's network of more than 400 physicians practicing at more than 160 sites, which collectively service of about 215,000 patients annually.

"We chose to join Tennessee Oncology and the physicians in the OneOncology network so we could chart our own future and expand our patients' access to additional resources, especially clinical trials," said Matt Graham, MD, managing partner for UOHA. "Having the ability to utilize a physician-led and tailored technology and analytics platform, clinical trial research network, and access to engaged specialist and sub-specialist colleagues will enhance our ability to provide care along the entire cancer care continuum."

Jeff Patton, MD, the acting chief executive for OneOncology and president of Physician Services, said the merger of the practices "provides economies of scale and economies of intelligence.

"One of the things that has distinguished us is our commitment to innovation and clinical research, which we have continued through our partnership with the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center (owned by HCA)," he said.

Dr. Patton said with the additional oncologists in Chattanooga now a part of the Tennessee Oncology practice, "we'll likely place one of our drug development units in Chattanooga." The practice already has such units in Nashville and Franklin where phase 1 medicines can be tested under some of the earliest trials of new treatments.

"There are patients for whom there are not any additional approved therapies that they would benefit from, but they still have a fighting chance and can try something new that is innovative and that could be a real asset for Chattanooga," Patton said.

The practice will use OneOncology to help expand services along the continuum of cancer care from screening and diagnosis to clinical trials and therapies to survivorship or end-of-life care.

"These were all important factors in our decision, and we know will prove to be high value to the patients we serve," Dr. Graham said.

Working with pharmaceutical companies, Tennessee Oncology distributes and administers approximately $51 million of drugs free to patients annually through manufacturer patient assistance programs. Last year, the practice also assisted patients in obtaining $20 million in foundation and manufacturer co-pay assistance.

"The addition of UOHA in Chattanooga demonstrates the value of the OneOncology partnership," said Ted Arrowsmith, MD, managing partner for Tennessee Oncology Chattanooga. "OneOncology provides a way forward for oncologists who understand what it takes to operate a healthy practice and offer patients cancer care services in today's changing care and reimbursement landscape."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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