Doctor looks at a pediatric patients heart.
Dr. Frank Osei, pediatric cardiologist, looks at Bryceton Potts' heart at the Children's of Mississippi Tupelo clinic in 2016.
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At 5, Tupelo pediatric specialty clinic shows steady growth

Published on Thursday, January 30, 2020

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Five years ago, Children’s of Mississippi, in partnership with North Mississippi Medical Center, opened an outpatient specialty clinic in Tupelo with a few patients and the idea of offering expert care close to home.

Since then, just like the children it serves, the Tupelo specialty clinic is seeing healthy growth.

“The growth we have seen in the past five years has been phenomenal,” said George Hand, director of operations and business development at Children’s of Mississippi in Tupelo. “We started with just one provider seeing only a few patients per day, and now we are seeing more than 4,000 patients a year among multiple pediatric specialties.”

The clinic will celebrate this milestone with a birthday cake-cutting from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 10, and the community is invited to attend.

Children’s of Mississippi’s partnership with North Mississippi Medical Center also includes managing the pediatric intensive care unit at the Tupelo hospital and the services of Dr. Lisa-Gaye Thomas-Messado, an intensivist who specializes in caring for critically ill pediatric patients, and Dr. Melody Byram, a UMMC pediatric hospitalist. 

A group of people cuts the ribbon in front of the Children's of Mississippi Tupelo Clinic.
Children's of Mississippi staff and visitors celebrate the Tupelo specialty clinic's ribbon-cutting in January 2015.
“We have seen a substantial increase in the number of hospital patients who are staying in Tupelo for acute and intensive pediatric care,” said Ellen Friloux, vice president of North Mississippi Medical Center’s Women and Children’s Services. “Some of this growth is driven by the care our patients are receiving locally in the subspecialty clinic.”

Friloux pointed out that NMMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Well Baby Nursery and maternal patients at the NMMC Women’s Hospital benefit by having Children’s of Mississippi pediatric cardiologist Dr. Frank Osei from the Tupelo specialty clinic available to address urgent issues.

“Our patients continue to have access to more pediatric outpatient subspecialty care at the Tupelo clinic,” Friloux said. “I hear great feedback from physicians who are referring to those services.”

Technology allows UMMC cardiologists in Jackson to access results from tests performed at the Tupelo clinic and at Children’s of Mississippi specialty clinics around the state, and doctors there and in Jackson often hold video conferences to discuss patient care.

North Mississippi and west Alabama patients get outpatient care in Tupelo with Osei, who consults with fellow pediatric cardiologists at the Children’s Heart Center at UMMC. If surgery is needed, his patients have access to Children’s of Mississippi hospital care in Jackson.

“Having specialty care close to home is something our patients and their families really appreciate,” said Osei. “Before this clinic opened, families had to travel long distances and, in some cases, go out of state to have access to some pediatric subspecialties. Now they have care here in Tupelo and also benefit from the entire Children’s of Mississippi network, which includes the state’s only children’s hospital.”

Osei also performs fetal echocardiograms at the Tupelo location, with some patients returning to the clinic for their babies’ cardiac care after they’re born.

Five years ago, the clinic opened with a pediatric endocrinologist and a cardiologist. “Over the years, more specialists have been added,” Hand said.

Doctor talks to pediatric patient.
Dr. Sara Silver talks with Amanda Stacy of Caledonia at the Children's of Mississippi Tupelo specialty clinic.
Osei, pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Sara Silver, dietitian Jessica Lauren Newby and nurse practitioner Keli Ballard are full-time providers at the clinic, but the number of providers is bolstered by Children’s of Mississippi experts who commute to Tupelo for their north Mississippi clinic days and through telehealth.

Pediatric experts who see patients in Tupelo for outpatient care include dermatologist Dr. Adam Byrd, neurologists Dr. Brad Ingram and Dr. Ameze Ero, surgeon Dr. Christopher Blewett and nephrologist Dr. Ali Onder.

Telehealth links experts and patients and their families via computer at the Tupelo clinic. These clinics include pediatric orthopaedics with Dr. Patrick Wright; genetics with Dr. Valerie Watiker, Dr. Leah Olewiler and nurse practitioner Missy Tharp; urology with nurse practitioner Katie Wray, mental health with nurse practitioner Joanne Haynes and the Child Safe Center with Dr. Scott Benton.

A telehealth child development clinic with Dr. Melora Wiley is planned to start later this year at the clinic.

The growth offers patients' families more health care options close to home, Hand said.

Preston and Anna Merritt Clark of Tupelo are happy that care was available locally when their son, Tucker, was born last year. He sees Osei for care following surgery with Children’s of Mississippi in Jackson.

“Dr. Osei is amazing,” Anna Merritt said. “He has been so sweet, and the doctors and nurses at the children’s hospital were wonderful to Tucker and to us. Tucker’s care has been phenomenal.”