MD Clinics renewing commitment to Natchitoches with new office suite and partnership

From left are Kaden Cook, Joseph Keith Hernandez, Butte Tribe Chief Roger Collum and Ricky Desadier remodeling the interior of the former Sears building to be MD Clinics’ new location. Nathan Wilson

Nathan Wilson
MD Clinics renewing commitment to Natchitoches with new office and expanded partnerships.

Medical oncology specialists MD Clinics is renovating the Hickory Village Shopping Center to expand their capability to treat residents of Natchitoches and surrounding parishes.

Based in Shreveport, MD Clinics opened a Natchitoches branch decades ago as a way of reaching rural residents suffering from cancer. Dr. Manish Dhawan emphasizes the importance of ensuring the accessibility of high quality care for Natchitoches and surrounding parishes. “The physician, as a specialist, has to come closer to patients, bringing the care locally,” he says.

“Natchitoches was our first satellite office,” explains Renee DeMoss, the company’s Practice Administrator. “We’ve been coming to Natchitoches within months of me coming to work for them. That was in ’04, so 18 years.” She remembers the lack of options patients faced when the company began serving Natchitoches. “There was such a large volume of patients here that couldn’t get treated because they couldn’t get to Shreveport, they couldn’t get to Alexandria (and) they had no transportation. They just would not get treated and they would call hospice in when they got a cancer diagnosis.”

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MD Clinics’ new location represents a substantial investment in Natchitoches. Along with office and treatment areas, they are constructing an oncology compounding laboratory to prepare patients’ treatment infusions. The company currently uses a lab provided by the Northwestern Louisiana Cancer Center, but their new building offers an opportunity to upgrade their lab equipment. “About 20% of the drugs given in a chemo regimen require a mixing hood. There’s several different styles of mixing hood, but the one we’re putting in here is probably the best.” DeMoss explains. She remembers when Natchitoches didn’t have any preparation facilities available. “When we first started coming to Natchitoches we mixed it in Shreveport and we brought it in with refrigerated coolers,”

DeMoss believes the new location will also appeal to residents needing to attend frequent appointments. “It’s closer to I-49, so you don’t have the little bottleneck trying to get across Cane River,” she says. “Where the location’s at is a little bit easier than where we’ve been for all those years.”

DeMoss also insists patients shouldn’t avoid seeking care because they can’t afford it, since the company works with non-profits, charitable foundations and pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide treatment. “We’re not a non-profit so we can’t raise money,” she says. “We have to access programs that are already doing that like Healthwell, Patient Advocate, Cancer Care (and) Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When we can’t get them help through those foundations, then we go to the manufacturers, and if they don’t have a copay program, then we apply for free drugs.”

Dr. Dhawan believes committing to Natchitoches will be rewarded by better patient care and outcomes. “Better coordination of care is achieved by me being on the ground,” he says. “We know all the providers in this town. It’s easy to call them up and discuss.” With better care, he expects better results. “If a physician is local, he is in such a better position to hand hold and guide the patient,” he says. “If a team is not close by a patient, then it becomes very difficult because one drop-off and the patient falls off the radar.”

Dr. Dhawan is optimistic about the clinic’s future based on its track record for patient outcomes. “We in our practice are best measured not by any marketing or advertisement efforts, but by word of mouth, and that is best judged by talking to patients who we have cared for,” he says. “The model that serves the community best (is) if physicians come into the town and serve the communities.”

As the clinic grows, DeMoss foresees gradually adding staff. “We will add another nurse practitioner, and then of course we’ll have to have another medical assistant and maybe even another receptionist when we get there,” she says. “I’m sure within about a year of moving in we’ll probably be busting at the scenes again like we have at every other location. It grows pretty fast,”

DeMoss also points to interest from other healthcare companies in joining them at the new location, which will provide space for additional medical offices. “Whatever we do will be in the medical area,” she says. “We’ve talked to a few folks that do radiation.”

One company that is planning to join MD Clinics in the renovated facilities is Quest Diagnostics. Quest will take advantage of the larger space available by opening a comprehensive diagnostic laboratory where they will be able to analyze samples locally instead of shipping them to Shreveport and other laboratories for testing.

As an independent testing company, Quest’s new facilities would provide lab services for medical offices throughout Natchitoches, but Dr. Dhawan is pleased that they’ve chosen to share the space with MD Clinics. “Quest is a huge company with international presence, excellent quality control (and) ability to provide all kinds of testing,” says Dr. Dhawan. “In our line of work, bloodwork and complex hematological testing is so essential.”

The new location for MD Clinics is projected to open in October at the site of the former Sears store.