Family Medicine Continuity Clinic to Open

June 27, 2018

A patient in the Emergency Department is diagnosed with a chronic illness. He is told he needs a solid care-plan to get healthy and stay healthy, but he doesn’t have a family doctor.

A mom, new to town, needs care for her children. She knows their immunization shots are due, and there is probably an overdue physical for one.

Penn Highlands Healthcare is offering a solution to those who need a primary care physician and don’t have one. It’s called the Family Medicine Continuity Clinic, and it opens July 9.

Located in Suite 315 of the Medical Arts Building, 145 Hospital Ave., patients of the clinic will be seen by Penn Highlands Healthcare’s family medicine residents. 

Penn Highlands Healthcare is a Community Teaching Hospital and oversees an Osteopathic Family Medicine Residency approved by the American Osteopathic Association.

Doctors who have graduated perform three years or more of on-the-job-training known as residency under the supervision of attending physicians. This must be done before obtaining a license to practice medicine on one’s own.

“The creation of the clinic is a win-win situation,” Lisa Witherite-Rieg, D.O., director of Residency Training at Penn Highlands Healthcare, said.

Many people do not have a primary care physician – a family medicine doctor, an internal medicine doctor or a pediatrician. “There is a need for primary care in our area as well as throughout the United States, and we see it when people come to our QCare walk-in clinics and Emergency Departments,” Witherite-Rieg said. Patient who could have prevented an issue aren’t getting care early enough, and patients who need follow up care return without it. 

“The clinic will make it easy for a patient to make an appointment and receive care. Without continued care, people can become sicker and we want to prevent that,” Witherite-Rieg said.

The other part this helps is that fulfills residency requirements. The family medicine residents are to care for patients on an ongoing basis in an outpatient clinic - three days per week for second-year residents and four days per week for third-year residents. Though residents are on the hospital floors and in established practices, this experience gives them more hands-on hours and fills a need. 

Witherite-Rieg will be one of the supervisors of the clinic along with other board-certified family medicine physicians, including Chris Varacallo, DO; Karrie Kiskaddon, MD; Franklin Bizousky, DO; and Gregory Sachs, DO.  Sachs will also be sharing the suite with his practice as he is moving from PH DuBois East.

“The Family Medicine Continuity Clinic will care provide primary care for all ages, routine physical exams, preventive care, management of chronic medical problems, minor illnesses, hospital and ER follow-up care. Anything you would see your family doctor for!” Witherite-Rieg said. “Minor procedures, such as skin lesion removal and biopsy, joint injections, as well as osteopathic spinal manipulation will be available at the office.”

And if the patient wants to continue with the clinic as its primary care provider, he or she can. If the patient wants to move on to another primary care office, that’s OK, too. Someday, some of the residents in the program will have their own practices in the area.

How do you pay? Because the residents are employed by Penn Highlands and the precepting physicians are also credentialed by Penn Highlands, the Family Medicine Continuity Clinic accepts patients of all insurances and patients without insurance.

Patients are seen by appointment Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Call 814-375-6644.