The brain child and dream of its medical director Wes Thompson, PA-C, and in partnership with Dr. Richard Wynn, Ballantyne Family Medicine (BFM) opened its doors to patients at one location in December 2015 and another in April 2016 to provide comprehensive healthcare services for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Simply put by Thompson, “Our vision is to provide a ‘safe place’ for our patients to receive comprehensive care that ensures long-term treatment success for patients and the community through clinical expertise, access to clinical research, and partnership with the community.”
The practice has two offices — its flagship facility located at 6010 E. W.T. Harris Blvd. and a satellite in South Charlotte at 16147 Lancaster Hwy.
Thompson shared that he had always envisioned having his own practice since graduating from college, but the reality could not even begin to be brought to fruition until North Carolina changed its laws in 2004 with regard to a physician assistant owning a practice. However, the following year saw his husband Trey being diagnosed with leukemia and dealing with treatment, etc., financially wiped resources away. The dream had to be furloughed till another day.
Now, in 2016, things finally aligned themselves for the dream to become a reality. Wynn had left a position with Cotswold Family Practice in 2015. Then a three-year-old South Charlotte practice was available and it was procured and clientele began being developed, as well as purchasing an empty medical clinic in North Charlotte. He and Thompson, who had known each other for a number of years, found that their philosophies were similar and they both were passionate about providing excellent patient care. They had already been colleagues, mutually deferring cases to each other based upon each other’s expertise. Combined, they bring 50 years of experience to the table. Wynn’s specialization was in diabetic and LGBT care within a primary care model. Thompson’s expertise in HIV/AIDS and LGBT care, helped round out the offering. Most of all, they were already professional colleagues and friends, so the transition of their relationship into partners was seamless and simply “gelled.”
To bring the dream into focus, Thompson had to reach out to the community and collaborate. “Once I put the word out, the community has been wonderfully supportive in helping me to bring it to reality. I have been honored and humbled by this resounding support.”
Since the Ballantyne name was already insurance credentialed, it was kept for now. Thompson shared that a name change was coming soon.
When asked how BFM differs from other practices, Thompson said, “That’s a difficult question as there are so many wonderful practices providing excellent care in the Metro area. I think being an independent clinic not associated with a corporation allows us a certain agility to change as our patients need us to change. We do provide a significant number of services under one roof that does distinguish us from many other practices.”
BFM provides comprehensive primary care; HIV/AIDS comprehensive care including Ryan White and AIDS Drugs Assistance Program (ADAP); PrEP care (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis); specialized diabetic care; LGBT care including WPATH (World Professional Association of Transgender Health) Standards of Care for transitioning patients; an onsite pharmacy with clinical pharmacists providing medication adherence counseling and free delivery of medications; onsite radiology/X-Ray; onsite laboratory; onsite space for community case managers to use as needed; psychological services; annual Medicare Wellness; and continuing patient education on multiple subjects. It also provides these services in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and American Sign Language.
Its patients come from diverse backgrounds including various race, ethnic, and national origins, males, females, and transitioning people, as well as a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds, Thompson added. “BFM is also very multi-cultural; we reflect both our patients and our community!”
But BFM does not stop there with its determination to serve the community. “Our clinic motto is a ‘Community Collaboration in Care.’ We are collaborating with all ASOs (AIDS Service Organizations) and CBOs (Community-Based Organizations) and have an ‘open space’ policy that we will provide any agency that wants to use our space to meet with a mutual client, anytime we are open,” Thompson shared. As these collaborations blossom and the practice grows, it hopes to open up more locations to better serve the community and patients.
Although not actively engaged in specific clinical research currently, Thompson has previously served as a co-investigator in more than 60 clinical trials for new medications to treat HIV. He looks forward to the possibility of working with pharmaceutical companies to explore new therapies in treating HIV/AIDS.
BFM receives funding through the Ryan White grant and the PrEP initiatives, and Thompson is actively applying for more grants to shore up the needs of the practice’s patients. They are already receiving referrals from private practices, ASOs and CBOs, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the Mecklenburg Health Department.
In an earlier interview, Thompson shared that Charlotte was one of the top 25 largest cities in the U.S. And, until the clinic opened it did not have a one-stop-shop that catered to the whole person’s healthcare. BFM’s expectations are to provide to the community, along with partnerships with agencies in areas with which Thompson and Wynn are already familiar, a place where resources can be tailored to meet a patient’s needs.
Thompson said it wants to perform what it does well and that is medical care. “There are plenty of community partners that provide the other services, and I don’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel,’ so my goal is create a space, a ‘One-Stop-Shop,’ where those other providers are welcome to use and supply those services. I want HIV care to be a seamless play for the patient with no concerns about what is going on behind the curtain.”
The biggest thing that they want to achieve is to empower their patients by resurrecting a patient’s self-worth. “You empower them to care about themselves again.” Being able to support a patient’s housing and food “security,” are also important to the practice.
But, all of this can not be achieved without a supportive, caring and experienced staff. Some of them are: April Hill, practice manager; Kristi Dougan, AGNP; Rita Riddick, FNP; Candy Livingston, LPN and nurse manager; and Cindy Thompson, front desk manager. BFM does not have a mental health and substance abuse counselor presently, but are in the process of bringing a therapist onsite to handle those needs.
BFM welcomes volunteers to assist with HIV/AIDS programs, in addition to students from all disciplines in the medical and ancillary services.
The W.T. Harris facility has a second floor that has not been finished out. Expansion and services can easily be added there. Some ideas that BFM has are a place for physical therapy, a healthy cooking kitchen, OB/GYN services, dental care, as well as providing a place for educational classes.
As a final word, Thompson said, “I am excited for what a community collaboration in care can achieve if we truly all work together. I want to hear ideas, so don’t hesitate to let me hear from you.” He added, “I wish to leave a legacy of improved healthcare for patients living with HIV, as well as unconditionally affirming care for the LGBT and HIV communities. I have often said I do not just want to be accepted. I want to be affirmed. There is a difference.” By adhering to the clinic’s slogan, “a community collaboration in care,” exercising patience and persevering against challenges that come along, BFM should make a lasting impression for years to come. It’s part of the dream.
Being involved in professional organizations is something that Wynn and Thompson have made sure to do. Wynn belongs to the Academy of Family Practice, American Pain Society, American Society of Obesity and Society of Diabetic Educators. Thompson, PA-C belongs to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, North Carolina Association of Physician Assistants, Metrolina Association of Physician Assistants, American Academy of HIV Medicine, World Professional Association of Transgender Health, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, Charlotte Transgender Health Care Group, North Carolina Medical Society, Mecklenburg Medical Society and Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Ballantyne Family Medicine is exploring involvement with organizations such as Independent Physicians of the Carolinas and Community Physicians of the Carolinas, both of which exist to support independent practices who wish to remain independent and avoid becoming part of hospital-based corporations.
New patients are being accepted.
To learn more about the clinic, visit ballantynefamilymedicine.com.