With more than 150 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants providing care to patients in more than 22 locations in the San Antonio area, University Medicine Associates is one of the largest provider groups around — and arguably among the least well-known.
But that lack of brand awareness could be changing. University Medicine Associates, or UMA, is growing — with new locations in the works on the city’s East Side and along the fast-growing Northwest corridor. And while UMA began as a primary care group, it is adding specialists quickly. It’s now, for example, one of the largest endocrinology group practices in the region.
Previously known as Community Medicine Associates, it recently adopted the UMA name to better align itself with University Health System, which created the group practice in 1999 to supplement the care provided by the Health System’s academic partners at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Today, UMA stands on its own as a major presence in the medical community.
“We think University Medicine Associates is one of the best-kept secrets in town,” says Monika Kapur, MD, a family medicine physician and President and CEO of UMA. “We provide highly integrated, patient-centered care in neighborhoods throughout Bexar County. Our family health centers and clinics are designed to be convenient, both in terms of location and — especially in our larger centers — the on-site availability of all types of services, from imaging and labs to specialty care.”
The group handled more than 427,000 patient visits in 2015, and is on track to record nearly 450,000 visits this year.
While some people have the mistaken impression that UMA exists only to serve the uninsured, in fact 73 percent of UMA patients have health coverage. In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, the group works with many of the major insurers such as Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, Community First Health Plans, Humana, Superior, United Healthcare Compass and WellMed.
University Health System’s Robert B. Green Campus offers primary, specialty and urgent care for children and adults.
Taking Aim at Diabetes
Those who need the services of an endocrinologist will be pleasantly surprised. UMA has eight endocrinologists on staff — most of whom are based at University Health System’s world-renowned Texas Diabetes Institute. Some also see patients at the Health System’s other facilities.
Katherine LaCivita, MD, Medical Director of the adult Diabetes/Endocrinology Clinic at the Texas Diabetes Institute
“When UMA started, it was mainly primary care,” says Katherine LaCivita, MD, Medical Director of the adult Diabetes/Endocrinology Clinic at the Texas Diabetes Institute. “During 2010, UMA began expanding its services to include specialty care because they realized the importance of providing access to services that were in high demand by our patients. Endocrinology was one of the first specialty groups that they added because of the prevalence of diabetes in San Antonio.”
The Texas Diabetes Institute, or TDI, was designed to provide one-stop comprehensive care for those living with diabetes. Located on the city’s West Side at 701 S. Zarzamora St., TDI offers in-house wound care, podiatry, ophthalmology and other specialty care — including a dialysis center — along with a pharmacy, laboratory and imaging.
Healthy eating classes take place in the demonstration kitchen and classroom at the Texas Diabetes Institute.
Diabetes education is a priority at TDI, given the need for diabetics to be self-reliant in order to stay healthy. Education is provided in a space that includes a large teaching kitchen that regularly hosts healthy cooking classes open to all. A well-equipped fitness center is also available to patients and area residents for a minimal fee, as is a community garden and walking trail.
TDI, through UMA and University Health System, has a large family medicine and internal medicine referral base, but Dr. LaCivita says the endocrinology group actually gets a large number of referrals from outside University Health System — not only for patients with diabetes, but other endocrine disorders such as osteoporosis, adrenal, pituitary and thyroid problems.
“More than 50 percent of our referrals come from San Antonio community doctors,” Dr. LaCivita says. “We also receive referrals from Austin. We get them from Laredo, Eagle Pass and Del Rio.”
The endocrinologists also see patients at University Family Health Center — North at 302 W. Rector St., near North Star Mall, and at University Family Health Center — Northwest at 7726 Louis Pasteur Drive. Beginning in January, endocrine services will be provided at a new location, UMA at Dominion Crossing at 21727 IH-10 West.
The Eye Clinic at Texas Diabetes Institute
And the program has also begun branching into telemedicine, providing diabetic eye exams and endocrinology consults remotely to patients at University Family Health Center — Southeast at 1055 Ada St. The fact that the specialists have access to University Health System’s comprehensive medical record — including notes from every provider at every University Health System facility who has seen the patient — makes remote consultations easier and more thorough, Dr. LaCivita says.
And UMA patients, if they wish, can take advantage of the many clinical trials offered by the diabetes research group at TDI. Ralph DeFronzo, MD, Chief of the Diabetes Division at the UT Health Science Center and Deputy Director of TDI, is among the world’s leading experts on the pathophysiology and treatment of diabetes, and has been the principle investigator of landmark studies that led to the approval of frontline diabetes drugs such as metformin and exenatide.
Patrick Pierre, MD, a family medicine physician at University Family Health Center — Southeast
Joseph Schuerger has had his share of medical challenges in recent years — including diabetes, emphysema, blindness and a heart attack. But when he describes the medical team that’s cared for him, beginning with his primary care physician, Katherine Whiteley, MD, he sounds like someone who’s had a stroke of good fortune.
“She’s probably the best doctor I’ve ever had,” says Schuerger, referring to Dr. Whiteley. “If I have a problem and call over there to get a message to the nurse in my doctor’s office, they get right back to me. It’s like I’m a name, not a number.”
Schuerger, 61, who is disabled and covered by Medicare, found a UMA doctor after moving from Las Vegas to San Antonio in 2009. He sees Dr. Whiteley at University Family Health Center — Southwest at 2121 S.W. 36th St.
University Family Health Center — Southwest
When he is referred to a specialist, or hospitalized as he was for open heart surgery in 2012, Schuerger says he finds they always have the information they need through the common electronic medical record.
“It’s integrated care,” Dr. Kapur says. “You’re part of a big health system. If you go to the hospital, they have access to your medical records. If you go to one of our specialists or a UT specialist, your primary care provider has access to your specialist’s report through our electronic medical record. That’s a big benefit.”
Dr. Kapur says UMA offers a lot of value to patients, starting with the availability of highly qualified physicians in convenient locations throughout Bexar County.
With 46 family and internal medicine physicians and 17 general pediatricians supported by advanced practice providers, primary care makes up the largest segment of UMA providers.
The new Dr. Robert L.M. Hilliard Center, now under construction on Interstate 35 east of downtown
Options for primary care are growing, with construction begun on the new Dr. Robert L.M. Hilliard Center at 601 Runnels Ave. near Interstate 35 and Walters Street, and a new clinic planned in the Dominion area off IH 10.
University Health System’s school-based health center in the Southwest Independent School District is growing into a full-fledged primary care center because of demand from adult staff at the school, in addition to the pediatric services it offers to students and their siblings.
The Robert B. Green Campus downtown at 903 W. Martin St., which saw construction of a new six-story clinical building in 2012, is the largest of University Health System’s outpatient centers. It offers a wide range of primary care, urgent care and specialty services, a comprehensive imaging center, pharmacy, rehabilitation center, and outpatient endoscopy and surgery.
If a hospital stay is needed, University Hospital’s new million-square-foot Sky Tower, which opened in 2014, has made it among the most beautiful and technologically advanced hospitals in the region. University Hospital has been named best hospital in the San Antonio metro area, and sixth-best in Texas, year after year by U.S. News & World Report.
The list of UMA specialists is growing and now includes endocrinology, pediatric specialties, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, psychiatry, rheumatology, wound care, skin care, and sleep medicine. UMA specialists are supplemented by those at UT Health San Antonio, the physician practice of the UT Health Science Center.
“For patients, there’s a big benefit to being part of a large health system,” Dr. Kapur says. “We’re in their community — their neighborhood. We have great providers, great facilities and a commitment to offering the best evidence-based care in a family-friendly environment.”
For more information about University Medicine Associates, visit UniversityMedicineAssociates.com or call 210-358-3401.