In November, as the WMed community and invited guests got an up-close look at WMed Health Family Medicine-Crosstown Parkway, the open house event represented the culmination of a two-year effort to make the newly renovated space a reality.
The event also, said Kristi VanDerKolk, MD, was a new beginning for the practice, its physicians, and the resident physicians who train there as part of the medical school’s Family Medicine residency program in Kalamazoo.
“The open house really marked the end of all of the work that has gone into this, but it also represented the beginning of re-establishing an identity and allowing our residency program to grow and interact with our patients and the community in new ways,” said Dr. VanDerKolk, who serves as program director for the Family Medicine residency in Kalamazoo.
The journey to the open house event in November began more than two years ago in September 2021 when the decision was made that the Family Medicine-Kalamazoo residency program would move from its longtime clinical and administrative home at the Family Health Center in Kalamazoo to a new space by the end of June 2022.
In that nine-month span of time, WMed leaders began the search for a new location for providers at the Family Medicine clinic to call home. They toured several potential spots and eventually chose the 10,800 square-foot facility at 555 W. Crosstown Parkway.
“The owner was really pleased to know that medical education would be happening in the building, that students and residents would come through, that patients would be cared for there,” said Lauren Piper, DO, the medical school’s associate dean for Clinical Affairs, who played a key role in leading the move from the FHC to WMed Health-Family Medicine Crosstown Parkway.
By July 2022, faculty and residents from the Department of Family and Community Medicine were seeing patients at the new location. At the time, the space boasted only six exam rooms. A seventh exam room served as a preceptor space and administrative offices for faculty were housed at the medical school’s Oakland Drive Campus while renovations to add more exam rooms and office space at Crosstown Parkway began.
The renovation occurred in several phases, with the expansion to a total of 20 new exam rooms, a dedicated space for precepting, and two labs being completed in March 2023. Then, just a few weeks before the open house event, which took place on November 28, 2023, the new administrative offices and space for faculty and residents were completed.
“Looking back, it’s amazing how fast it all happened,” Dr. Piper said. “It was a remarkably short period of time for everything we were able to accomplish, from finding the space and moving to, now, a total renovation, all while continuing to provide care for our patients and successfully recruiting two new classes of resident physicians.”
Dr. VanDerKolk said the fully renovated space, which features lots of natural light, is beautiful and the amount of room it offers allows for up to 10 physicians to see patients at any given time. Additionally, she said she’s excited about the chance to grow and expand the clinic’s many services, including dermatologic procedures and biopsies, gynecologic procedures, joint injections, osteopathic manipulative medicine, musculoskeletal procedures, trans care, Hepatitis C treatment, and medically managed weight loss, among other services.
“There’s a lot of excitement around the practice as a whole,” Dr. VanDerKolk said. “We represent one of very few places in the community where you can establish care with a new primary care physician and not have to wait three to six months to see a provider. And we represent a place where the community can take advantage of services that have historically been difficult to access. Dermatological care is a perfect example of that.”
Daniel Stulberg, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, said the newly renovated space at Crosstown Parkway, which sits between South Westnedge Avenue and Howard Street, offers a convenient location that is easy for new and longtime patients to access.
“We strive to do everything we can for every patient who comes to see us,” Dr. Stulberg said. “We’re able to augment our regular primary care services with the expertise of our faculty who have spent time developing their skills in various specialty areas like osteopathic manipulative treatment, gender-affirming care, medically managed weight loss, and skin care procedures.”
The Family Medicine practice includes more than 30 providers between faculty and resident physicians. Andrew Luciano, MD, who serves as the clinic medical director at Crosstown Parkway, said the new space allows for him and other physicians to see more than 80 patients per day.
“It’s been an amazing journey, largely spearheaded by Dr. Piper who deserves a huge amount of credit for the amount of legwork she did,” Dr. Luciano said. “She had a passion for growing access for our patients and finding the space for our residency program given its size. Seeing walls come down and go up, and seeing the space transform into a warm and inviting spot has been a really great experience.”
Moving forward, Dr. Piper said clinic leaders at Crosstown Parkway will be focused on growing the number of patients who come to the practice for treatment. There are also plans to expand prenatal care services. Additionally, Dr. Piper said the clinic will continue to be a resource for underserved patient populations, including patients who are uninsured or have Medicaid.
“This is a great place for patients to get care,” she said. “We’re close enough to downtown that many of our patients we used to see at the FHC can see us here. We’re also not far from Portage so we can better serve patients from that community, as well.
“For me, this entire journey has been really personally gratifying,” Dr. Piper added. “It was a lot of teamwork and it’s just amazing. I was really pleased to follow it all the way through.”