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Premier Radiology traces roots to 1938 and one radiologist

Tupelo — Throughout the years, the Northeast Mississippi region has flourished as a healthcare center, thanks in large part to the emergence and continued expansion of various physician groups.

As patients’ needs for services have continued to grow, so has physicians’ breadth of services. In an effort to better reflect its scope of expertise, one long-standing medical group — Radiology of North Mississippi — changed its name to Premier Radiology earlier this year.

Tracing its roots to 1938 with one radiologist, the group officially incorporated in 1969.
As an independent physician group that provides services for area physicians, Premier Radiology consists of 19 physicians with board certification through the American College of Radiology. Five specialties of radiology are represented as follows: radiation oncology with Dr. Elbert Duncan and Dr. Ray Reed; diagnostic radiology with Dr. John Blakey, Dr. Daniel Brasfield, Dr. Doug Clark, Dr. Kevin Cole, Dr. Marshall Edmondson, Dr. Kirk Haney, Dr. Phyllis Mason and Dr. James Trapp; interventional radiology with Dr. Richard Arriola and Dr. Mark Johnson; neuroradiology with Dr. Bob Becker, Dr. Jim Boyd and Dr. Sam Waits; and musculoskeletal with Dr. Vernon Barrow, Dr. Chris Bergmann, Dr. Eric Emig and Dr. Eddie Giaroli.

While the group’s billing and corporate office is located in Tupelo, Premier Radiology physicians serve patients in a host of medical facilities throughout the region in communities such as Tupelo, Eupora, West Point, Amory, Pontotoc and Corinth.

Since its inception, patients and physicians have counted on the group for diagnostic, interventional and therapeutic radiology services. Specialized training among the group’s team of radiologists includes fellowships or advanced training in neuroradiology, musculoskeletal radiology, interventional and vascular radiology and radiation oncology.

According to Jim Schaefer, Premier Radiology executive director, the new name better reflects the group’s depth of expertise.

A commitment to patients underscores the group’s philosophy and after an intensive study of patient needs, Premier Radiology found that many cited convenience and easy access as prime considerations when seeking radiology services. Smaller, free-standing facilities with ample parking were associated with convenience and access. Subsequently, the group began developing plans for the construction of two standalone radiology centers.

Premier Imaging on Crossover in Tupelo will house what Premier Radiology officials said they believe is the first open MRI in the Tupelo area. According to Schaefer, this imaging equipment will offer people in the area an option from the regular MRI, which places patients inside a small tube.

“The open MRI will allow people to remain in the open and thus can accommodate patients that may be too large for the closed magnet, suffer from claustrophobia or pediatric or elderly patients that may need reassurance from a loved one during their test,” Schaefer said. This center is scheduled to open in January 2005, according to a Premier Radiology spokesperson.

Premier Imaging at Barnes Crossing will be a full-service imaging center with CT, MRI, ultrasound, mammography and plain radiography, among other services. This center, located near the Mall at Barnes Crossing, is slated to open in the spring of 2005.

Increasingly, healthcare is becoming more and more customer-driven. Given that trend, Premier Radiology is also seeking ways to empower consumers with knowledge about their radiology procedures. One way the group will facilitate this is by providing computerized information in each of the waiting areas of the new facilities.

Schaefer said that the information centers will be located in a pod in the waiting area in a kiosk-type setting, which will create some privacy as the patient learns about general parameters of the exam. The patient can click on the computer and view information about the procedure — what it is, what it is used for and what he or she will experience.

“We believe that this will help take some of the anxiety out of the process,” said Dr. Jim Boyd.

While radiology is associated with the use of x-rays, it has grown and developed from a largely diagnostic field to one that has a wide range of therapeutic applications affecting every specialty of medicine.

Boyd said that radiology is a field of medicine that has seen a sharp curve in its utilization over the past 20 years and that patients can now obtain state-of-the-art radiology services that can assist their referring physician in pinpointing the most appropriate treatment plan. This could ultimately result in less invasive procedures which reduce patient recovery periods and cost.

While dramatic advancements in the diagnostic and therapeutic applications of radiology have expanded the field, a few of the notable Premier Radiology services include:

Virtual colonoscopy or CT colonoscopy, which enables the radiologist to view the inside of the colon without inserting a colonoscope into the bowel; uterine artery embolization, which is used to remove fibroid tumors of the uterus; positron emission tomography (PET) with integrated CT, which is a diagnostic tool that uses radioactive tracers to pinpoint cells with metabolic changes such as cancer cells.
PET is used to diagnose and stage patients with cancer, as well as patients with certain brain and heart disease; and CT angiography, which is an examination that uses x-rays to visualize blood flow in arterial vessels throughout the body, from arteries serving the brain to those bringing blood to the lungs, kidneys and arms and legs.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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