For the last several years, the national shortage of pulmonologists has left Oklahoma patients with two choices: schedule appointments months in advance, or seek treatment out of state.
“The pulmonologist shortage has left patients angry and scared that physicians won’t be there when they need them most,” said Pam Bankston, clinic manager at Mercy Pulmonary Medicine.
The 11-member medical team at Mercy Pulmonary Medicine sees patients with a variety of respiratory conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, sleep apnea, pneumonia and asthma – diseases which affect more than half a million Oklahomans, according to the American Lung Association.
“There’s a shortage because many pulmonologists are working as intensivists now,” said Cullen Thomas, MD, president of Mercy Clinic in Oklahoma. “They see patients in the clinic all day and then take calls and see patients in the ICU at night. This leads to burnout for the physicians and it prevents them from taking on new patients.”
Having the capacity to accept new patients is one of Mercy Pulmonary Medicine’s goals and a major reason why the group works as a team to provide care. The workload is distributed among the group’s 10 physicians, which increases quality of life for doctors while improving survival rates for patients.
Mercy Clinic’s new pulmonology group is unique, itself, considering the specialty’s shortage. The group combines five existing Mercy pulmonologists with six new providers in a brand-new setting. These physicians include:
“The existing doctors gave up their individual practices to become part of the team,” said Dr. Thomas. “Because of this, the team is stronger and better able to care for patients.”
Mercy Pulmonary Medicine is located at 13313 N. Meridian, Suite D, in Oklahoma City. Patients are accepted by physician referral. For more information, call (405) 755-4290.