By Kevin McKenzie, Commercial Appeal
Twenty years ago Dr. Rick Donlon and Dr. David Pepperman helped found one faith-based health care organization to serve low-income Memphians and on Wednesday, they unveiled a second one.
The pair have started an evangelical primary care organization called Resurrection Health after departing from Christ Community Health Services, which Donlon, Pepperman and two other young doctors founded in 1995.
“This is just an extension of what we’ve been doing for 20 years; it’s why we moved to Memphis,” Donlon said.
On Wednesday, Pepperman and Donlon fielded interviews at Resurrection Health’s first permanent health center, a former Regional One Health clinic with 16 exam rooms at 4095 American Way, a Parkway Village shopping center anchored by a Kroger.
They didn’t mince words about their departure from Christ Community, where Donlon had served less than a year as chief executive and both resigned in May. Within weeks, a group of about 20 doctors and other health care providers also gave notices. Those positions have been refilled at Christ Community, officials there said.
“I was removed, rather than stepped down,” Donlon said of being Christ Community’s chief executive until late February of last year, and said he didn’t believe finances were at issue.
Pepperman said for nearly two decades,
physicians made the decisions on what the clinic did.
“And then toward the end, the leadership changed and it was more of the board kind of directing what was going on and they changed the CEO leadership as well,” Pepperman said. “So we just felt like, and I think it was mutual, that it was time to go our separate ways.”
Resurrection Health is targeting an area of Southeast Memphis that Donlon calls a “primary care desert.” Donlon is the chief executive officer and practicing physician for Resurrection Health. Pepperman is chief medical officer and laboratory director.
The new organization, serving adults and children, offered temporary clinics in December and on Dec. 10 began staffing the emergency room at Delta Medical Center, a one-year contract. A general surgery center is at 3960 Knight Arnold.
Resurrection Health also has a contract with a TennCare provider, Amerigroup, to provide primary care services on a “per capita” basis for about 17,000 people, Donlon said. That, the emergency room contract, patients with health coverage and a sliding-fee scale are sources of revenue for the health care startup.
A residency program started at Christ Community to shape young doctors interested in caring for the underserved will move to Resurrection Health in July, bringing 22 doctors-in-training and several doctors overseeing them, Donlon said.
Resurrection Health’s first clinic, with a second one planned, includes about 10 doctors and other providers, while the emergency room staffing requires another half dozen or so, Donlon said. The organization employs about 40 and may seek state and federal support, like Christ Community and the Memphis Health Center, he said.
“Looking at the data, if Christ Community tripled, if we quadrupled, if the Church Health Center quintupled, we still couldn’t meet all the need,” Donlon said.
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