Emory Clinic Celebrates 50th Anniversary in 2003
ATLANTA -- The year is 1953, and the air is ripe with change. Dwight
Eisenhower is beginning his two terms in the White House. Edmund Hillary
is preparing to conquer Mount Everest. James Watson and Francis Crick
are unravelling the structure of DNA. And in Atlanta, with encouragement
from Coca-Cola chairman and benefactor Robert W. Woodruff, Emory University
launches a new entity known as The Emory Clinic.
For the first time, the faculty
physicians of the Emory University School of Medicine form a partnership,
with a business structure to support them in billing, collections, record-keeping
and other office functions. Their goal is to generate clinical income
that will cure the School of Medicine's annual deficits while helping
the School become a major national teaching facility.
Flash forward half a century.
From modest beginnings, The Emory Clinic has become the largest and
most comprehensive group medical practice in Georgia. The School of
Medicine is nationally ranked.
With 671 Emory faculty physicians
and 2,029 staff members, the Clinic is now hosting nearly 700,000 patient
visits a year. Its physical complex has grown dramatically since the
doors opened to the first Clinic building in 1956. Facilities now include
Clinic A and B, located on Clifton Road across from Emory University
Hospital, along with the 1525 Building, which houses primary care and
Emory's programs in preventive medicine and wellness. Clinic physicians
also practice in a number of health care centers throughout the metropolitan
area including Emory Crawford Long Hospital, Northlake, Perimeter, Smyrna,
South DeKalb, Wesley Woods, and Emory Medical Affiliates at Sugarloaf.
With all the growth, the
Clinic's essential quality has remained constant since the beginning.
Emory Clinic physicians are still working at the leading edge of medical
practice to bring to their patients the latest and best drugs and procedures.
"What we really have to offer
is the high quality of our physicians, who are known not only nationally
but internationally for their skills," says Rein Saral, MD, an oncologist
and bone marrow transplant specialist who has served as director of
the Clinic since 1993. His appointment reflects one of the principal
strengths of the Clinic over the past half-century. The Clinic's first
full-time director, Dr. Elliott Scarborough, also was a cancer specialist
who was recruited to Atlanta by Robert Woodruff from what is now Memorial
Sloan-Kettering in New York.
"Over the past 50 years untold
millions of people have passed through the Emory clinic to receive some
of the very best health care in the country," says Michael M.E. Johns,
MD, executive vice president for health affairs and director of Emory's
Woodruff Health Sciences Center. "Many dedicated and compassionate physicians
and staff members have contributed to the efforts of the Clinic. They
are to be congratulated for what was created half a century ago, and
for what they continue to accomplish for their patients today."
The treatment of cancer has
been a strong suit of the Clinic from the beginning. Dr. Saral notes
that the Clinic also has many other distinguished centers and departments,
attracting patients from Georgia and beyond. They include world-class
specialists in surgery, heart disease, eye diseases and disorders, infectious
diseases, organ transplant, neurology, orthopaedics, psychiatry, kidney
disease, and urology, among others. Emory's Heart Center, long known
for its pioneering research and innovative patient care, is the only
top 10 cardiology department in the state as ranked by U.S. News & World
"The Emory Clinic reflects
the intellectual capital of the Emory University School of Medicine
translated into patient care," says Dr. Saral. "We have the doctors'
doctors here, the ones who train the physicians, and we continually
advance new knowledge in medicine which is applicable to the day to
day care of patients."
Equally important to the
success of the clinic has been its ability to navigate the nation's
changing health care system, notes John Fox, president and CEO of Emory
Healthcare, the University's clinical arm which embraces both the Emory
Clinic and the Emory Hospitals. "In an ever more complex health care
arena, we are fortunate to have a superb operating team led by Clinic
COO Don Brunn and CFO Sarah Dekutowski," he says. "It has become apparent
that the future of academic medical centers such as ours depends on
our ability to offer world-class specialty and subspecialty care while
delivering an unsurpassed patient experience, working in partnership
with payers and physicians in the community. That's a tall order. It
means you have to be on top of your game with both state-of-the-art
medicine and business administration."
Currently, challenges faced
by the Clinic include the rising cost of malpractice insurance for physicians
in Georgia, continuing cutbacks in Medicare reimbursement from the federal
government, and ongoing negotiations with managed care organizations
and other private insurers. "We feel that we are dealing with all these
issues," says Dr. Saral. "We have mechanisms in place to try to address
all of them."
As Dr. Saral looks to the
next half-century, he sees an unchanging focus on delivering an ever
better quality of care. That will mean integrating the new knowledge
coming from basic science laboratories at Emory and elsewhere into day-to-day
medical practice, and it also means an ever growing emphasis on multidisciplinary
care - harnessing the combined insights of different disciplines to
attack complex diseases and disorders. More diseases will be approached
through better understanding of their genetic roots. Not only will this
enable new forms of treatment, it will allow many diseases to be diagnosed
earlier when they can be more easily treated or even prevented, Dr.
Major growth areas at Emory
will include heart and vascular disease; the whole spectrum of cancer
diagnosis and treatment; and the neurosciences, combining neurology,
neurosurgery and psychiatry in new approaches to neurodegenerative diseases
and other disorders of the mind. "We will build on the theme of excellence
in areas for which we have long been known," says Dr. Saral.