Photo: Regional Clinic medical providers pose for a photo in their office on Goodyear Avenue in East Gadsden. Pictured, from left: Dr. Ramesh Chellamuthu, MD, MBA, Nephrology; Justin Ford, DNP, CRNP; Josh McCamy, CRNP; Wil Mullins, CRNP; Cody Gray, CRNP; Bart Clapp, DNP, CRNP; Dr. Faris Al-Faris, MD, Critical Care/Nephrology. (Emma Kirkemier/Messenger)
By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor
Regional Clinic has gained recognition for its numerous clinical specialties, but behind each facet of patient care are the clinic’s five nurse practitioners, working alongside seven doctors to provide expansive healthcare.
Regional Clinic employs specialists in nephrology, critical care, general surgery, infectious disease and gynecology. In addition to the clinic’s Gadsden location, doctors and nurse practitioners alike see patients at satellite offices in Centre, Boaz, Guntersville, Fort Payne and Pell City.
“I love to come to work,” said Justin Ford, DNP, CRNP. “We all have a very close relationship where we can go and talk with each other, on demand with each specialist. I love working with these guys.”
While practitioner Bart Clapp, DNP, CRNP, partners with Dr. Faris Al-Faris, MD, to expressly treat critical care patients, the other four work mostly in nephrology.
“As we grow, hopefully we can assist in critical care,” Ford said. “There’s some potential for growth there. Our mainstay is nephrology, but we help out with critical care, infectious disease and everything.”
Those four NPs have worked together for many years and have formed a close bond in that time. Josh McCamy, CRNP; Wil Mullins, CRNP; Cody Gray, CRNP and Ford all met while working at Gadsden Regional Medical Center.
“While we were in nurse practitioner school, we all rounded with either Dr. Chellamuthu or one of us,” Ford said. “Josh and Wil and I rounded with Dr. Chellamuthu, and then Cody rounded with us in his schooling.”
Although they are all from the Gadsden/Etowah County area, none of the nurses knew each other prior to working at Gadsden Regional’s Intensive Care Unit together.
“Josh and I graduated from nurse practitioner school together, but we all were kind of in school at the same time,” Mullins said. “I think we all knew each other’s path and our goal and vision for the future.”
Chellamuthu got to know each of the nurses and shared his passion for nephrology, as well as his ideas for what would become Regional Clinic.
“It really started back when I was working as a bedside nurse, either 2014 or 2015, before Dr. Chellamuthu even started the practice,” McCamy said. “He approached me and kind of gave me his vision and what his plan was for the future and starting a practice. That was the long-term plan, and just to see it kind of unfold and how we’ve grown and the plans going above what he expected initially, it’s amazing.”
According to Mullins, the “camaraderie” formed between all the providers at Regional Clinic contributes to its functionality and success.
“Whenever I came out of the ICU, I was impressed by Chellamuthu,” Mullins said. “I did clinicals during school, and I saw the vision. I saw the teamwork, the vision of the practice, and he told me, ‘When an opportunity comes available, I’ll come calling.’”
‘Come calling’ he did, and Mullins was added to the clinic’s existing staff in 2018, following Ford and McCamy. Mullins considers his fellow practitioners his “work family.”
Gray was recruited to join Regional Clinic in 2020.
“I graduated from Jacksonville State in 2010 and worked as an ICU nurse for 10 years,” Gray said. “That’s where I met Dr. Chellamuthu. I think that was around seven years ago, when I met Dr. Chellamuthu, and ever since, we’ve been in close contact. I graduated from nurse practitioner school in 2020, and I’ve been working here ever since.”
Ford acknowledged the “quick growth” the clinic has experienced in the last few years, not least of all in its nurse practitioner enrollment.
Several providers pointed out the clinic’s efficiency as a key to its success.
“We enjoy what we do,” said McCamy. “We love it, but it’s (also) about the amount of work we do. We’re able to get it done because of the systems he (Chellamuthu) has developed to have that efficiency.”
The average patient spends 30 minutes or less in the clinic, including time spent in the front lobby.
“It’s very common to hear the girls at the front say, ‘Don’t sit down; we’re going to send you right back,’” Mullins said.
The nurse practitioners split their time between the Gadsden location, satellite offices and local hospitals.
“One week out of the month you’re in the hospital,” McCamy said. “The next week you may be at the clinic, and then six days out of the month I’m doing dialysis rounds. By the time one finishes, I’m ready to move on to the next one. It’s a good rotation of different things and not just the same thing every single day.”
“The environment’s really diverse,” Mullins added. “You can be in the hospital for a week, (then) have a little more relaxed office hours at your own pace, dialysis visits, getting out of the office, too.”
The diversity of their work is one of its appeals. That being said, several practitioners are more specialized. Clapp, for example, is almost exclusively stationed in the Gadsden Regional ICU for his critical care work.
“Anytime things can change, and we can be called away in an instant,” Clapp said. “We get interrupted and have to go handle things that are emergent. Dr. Al-Faris and I as a team, it’s just Gadsden Regional. He covers Riverview as well with the other nephrologists.”
That fast-paced environment keeps them on their toes.
Gray, too, said he “prefer(s) hospital settings, especially the ICUs.” Both nurses like being able to help people in hospitals who are severely ill and seeing immediate results that benefit the patients.
Gray is responsible for running the clinic’s new outpatient iron infusion program.
As practitioners, the staff can run their own clinical days as well as assisting with hospital rounds.
“Sometimes I’ll have a clinic where I’m seeing patients by myself, and then there’s days where we get to assist Dr. Chellamuthu in his clinic,” McCamy said. “Of course, the hospital is always seen by a physician, just because the hospital bylaws require that. So we’ll round together in the hospital, and the physician is the one seeing the patient as well as us. Dialysis I see independently. Outpatient dialysis patients we see independently as well.”
Chellamuthu clarified that the distinction between a nurse and a nurse practitioner is “just the scope of the practice.”
“As a nurse practitioner, your scope increases, and you can do a lot of things that the physicians do,” he said.
Marketing director Teresa Taylor asserted that the Regional Clinic’s “highly educated and highly knowledgeable” nurse practitioners contribute greatly to the efficiency and the quality of care the clinic provides.
“We’re closer-knit than a bigger hospital company,” said McCamy. “It’s almost a family here together.”
“It’s just such a unique place where it’s like just one family,” Ford said. “There are no higher levels of anything. If I have an issue, I can just call Dr. Chellamuthu or talk to him immediately. It’s just such a great environment to work in, so that’s my favorite part, is my coworkers.”
Regional Clinic’s staff has remained closely connected, even as it continues to grow and add specialties. Chellamuthu shared that the clinic plans to expand into the property adjacent to its current location in order to accommodate its patients and providers.
“And it’s funny, [Chellamuthu] didn’t really go looking for something like that,” McCamy said. “It just kind of came. He kept himself and his mind open to growth and opportunities and never restricted or limited himself, and then some things just kind of fell into his lap.”
“It’s been a quick growth, but for us, Dr. Chellamuthu’s a good visionary as far as giving us some ideas as to, ‘This could be a possibility,’” Ford said. “What’s cool is that everything he’s into or is working towards, it happens.”
Regional Clinic will welcome a new nephrologist later this year, bringing their total to five nephrology specialists and eight physicians.
“One of the other new things that we’re actually starting, hopefully at the end of this month, is we’re doing in-house ultrasounds,” he said. “We have a sonographer that’s going to be working with us, so we’ll be doing the renal ultrasounds for our nephrology patients and also pelvic and abdominal ultrasounds for Dr. Frederick’s gynecology patients.”
Mullins said the clinic has experienced “exponential growth” with a momentum its clinicians expect to continue.
“I foresee other specialists coming in,” Ford said. “The goal is to be kind of like one roof, all specialties. There are several other specialties that we could easily pull in for different organ systems. Nephrology is just the kidneys, but it’s kind of bloomed out to all these other things.”