Trio of local doctors buck specialization trend

By Deborah Allard
http://www.heraldnews.com

Fall River — Millview Medical Associates, a new primary care practice of St. Anne’s Hospital, has opened in the Melcor Building, 191 Bedford St.

Three young doctors make up the practice — a rarity in today’s health care climate. Just 2 percent of graduating medical students go into primary care medicine, according to a report recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Millview Medical Associates was established by Dr. Christopher Joncas, a Fall River native who formerly practiced at Borden Medical Associates since 1997. He is a 1993 graduate of the University of Massachu-setts Medical School and was chief resident from 1996 to 1997.

“I was very interested in starting my own group,� Joncas said.

Joncas sought a “challenge,� he said, and had the desire to move in new directions and use new technologies with the help of two other primary care physicians.

He said St. Anne’s was very supportive in helping begin the practice.

“It’s very difficult to go out on your own,� Joncas said. “There are few individual practices.�

Causes for the shrinking pool of primary care physicians are plentiful. Among the top reasons are low health insurance and Medicare reimbursements paid to physicians and lower salaries in New England than in other states, said Paul Quinn, vice president of physician development and support services for St. Anne’s. Also, the average medical school student today graduates with $140,000 in student debt, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The AMA study surveyed 1,200 fourth-year medical students and found that 98 percent are opting out of primary care medicine and into more lucrative specialities. It’s creating a shortage of first-stop doctors that used to be the backbone of American medicine, the study said.

“Everybody is trying their darndest to bring in good physicians,� Quinn said. “You’re going to go where the income pot is greatest.�

Quinn said many older doctors in Fall River and New Bedford who will be retiring in years to come, and possibly not enough new physicians to replace them. Though the telephone book is filled with physicians, Quinn said there is a low percentage of doctors accepting new patients.

“There is a crisis in primary care right now,� Joncas said. “Unfortunately, doctors in training do not see the good this field has to offer, but rather focus on the bad.�

For Joncas, primary care medicine was a perfect fit.

“What I wanted to be was a doctor to the whole person, not just the brain or the heart or the kidneys,� Joncas said. “I have never once regretted that decision. So here I am in Fall River, the town where I was born and raised in, practicing medicine. Another decision I have never regretted.�

Joncas added two physicians to the primary care practice, Dr. Marconi Abreau and Dr. Michael Campbell, along with nurse practitioner Teresa Ferreira.

The physicians all have something in common. They are all the first doctors in their families and have all been chief residents.

“We complement each other well,� Abreau said.

Abreau formerly practiced as an attending physician in a walk-in clinic and as an emergency room physician in Salvador, Brazil, his native country. He is a 2002 graduate of Universidade Federal Da Bahia in Brazil and completed his residency at the University of Connecticut. He specializes in diabetes care and is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Campbell, a doctor of osteopathy, has served in the military for the past seven years. A captain in the U.S. Army, he is a 2001 graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He most recently practiced at Martin Army Hospital in Fort Benning, Ga.

Anne Ferreira, a spokeswoman for St. Anne’s Hospital, said the hospital has a couple of other primary care practices in the area, including St. Anne’s Hospital Medical Associates and Tiverton Medical Associates with two locations.

“It’s been the hospital’s plan to provide premier care to those who need it,� Ferreira said. “There’s always room to grow.�
She said the three doctors each bring a wealth of interesting experiences to the new practice.

Joncas, who is very involved in the city, is also the medical director of Catholic Memorial Home and Bristol Community College Medical Assistants Program. He serves on the St. Anne’s Hospital Joint Planning Committee and Patient Care Committee.

“Our main goal is we’re committed to providing the highest quality of care we can,� Joncas said.

His first initiative at the new practice is to create a completely paperless office. Patient files are all electronically stored and accessed via computer. Physicians have laptops to access data quickly.

“We can respond immediately,� Joncas said. “Even prescribing is done electronically.�

Joncas demonstrated the system using a fictional patient. The program stores data about last appointments, medications, illnesses, allergies, due dates for lab and other testing, and more.

“I think this whole thing is the wave of the future,� Joncas said. “I think it will improve care and cut down on medical errors.�

It also makes for a more pleasing environment, he said. “No one is running around looking for files. We can do tracking much easier.�

The new practice will offer on-site digital X-ray services, lab services, free valet parking, and a staff fluent in English and Portuguese.

Nurse practitioner Ferreira also will be seeing patients. She has worked in a variety of nursing positions in the city and with Joncas for the past year. The office employs six other people.

Millview Medical Associates, located on the fifth floor of the Melcor Building, is a brand-new space with 12 exam rooms.
New patients are being accepted. Hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The doctors are on-call after hours for emergencies. For an appointment, call 508-235-5445.

E-mail Deborah Allard at dallard@heraldnews.com.

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