After 14 years of practicing medicine, Dr. Josh Thompson is back at home.
Thompson, the son of retired Scott County property assessor Steve Thompson and a graduate of Oneida High School, opened his own practice in Oneida on July 19. And as the brand-new Thompson Medical Clinic turns one month old this week, Thompson says he’s enjoying the new experience of out-patient medicine.
“I am enjoying the change,” said Thompson, who had worked as a hospitalist for the entirety of his medical career prior to opening his new clinic.
In addition to Scott County, Thompson’s hospitalist work has been at Tennova North, University of Tennessee Medical Center, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Lake Cumberland Medical Center.
For the past four years, Thompson has been serving as a hospitalist at Fort Sanders in Knoxville. The daily grind of the long commute helped him make the decision to start his own practice, in the process switching from the in-patient care he was accustomed to providing to the out-patient side of things.
“It’s lower-key, but still, people are in need,” Thompson said of the difference between in-patient and out-patient care. “Obviously the patients are not quite as ill. It’s more preventative medicine.”
In hospital settings, Thompson provided acute care to patients who were seriously ill. While acute care is one of the roles of primary care, seeing patients in a clinical setting is much more about preventative medicine.
“I’m making sure everybody’s medications are working properly, making sure they’re getting the vaccinations they need, making sure they’re getting their cancer screenings,” he said. “You don’t worry about those things in the hospital; it’s all acute illness.”
One of the things Thompson is looking forward to the most is getting to know his patients better than he did in a hospital setting.
“Even though it’s a fast-paced environment, I’ll be able to see people when they’re more their normal selves,” he said. “It’s a much better way to develop a relationship with the patients, and I’m looking forward to that part. I’ll get to see my patients every so often here, whereas in hospital medicine, if you’re fortunate, you’ll see me once and then you never have to see me at work again.”
Taking the plunge by opening his own clinic was a risk, Thompson admits, but it’s one he chose to take, in part, because he saw a need in his hometown.
In fact, the lack of access to primary care is an ongoing storyline throughout rural America. It’s no different in Scott County, where several medical clinics have closed in the not-too-distant past without new clinics opening to take their place.
“If there was ever a time for me to make the change, and the need to support a new clinic, I thought it was now,” he said. “It’s a big change for me, going from in-patient to out-patient, but I wanted to stay local, and this was really what I felt would be the best opportunity for me to do that.”
Thompson, who graduated medical school at the University of Tennessee and completed his internal medicine residency at the famed Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., begins his private practice with a 10-room clinic that will give him room to grow.
“It’s a facility that our patients and our community can be proud of,” Thompson said as he walked through the new clinic, which features a lab, X-ray room and both sick and well waiting rooms, in addition to 10 exam rooms.
The lab and X-ray are two areas where Thompson will look to set himself apart as a provider. X-ray services, which aren’t commonly found at primary care clinics in rural areas, are already in use at Thompson Medical Clinic. He’s also working on the installation of equipment that will allow him to run his own lab work on-site, shortening the turn-around time for patients.
“The majority of our labs are going to be done in-house,” he said, adding that the goal will be to have results before the patient leaves the office. “It’ll help my patients, but it’ll also help my staff. We can make decisions while you’re here in the office instead of over the phone. I think that’ll benefit everyone involved.”
For now, Thompson is the sole provider at the new clinic. His eventual goal is to add a second, mid-level provider.
Being a doctor is something Thompson always wanted to do, though he didn’t always have the confidence that it was doable. But when he was signing up for a major as a college freshman at UT-Chattanooga after high school, he made a decision and stuck by it.
“I literally walked up in a line at freshman orientation and they said, ‘What is your major?’ And I said, ‘Biology pre-med,’” he said. “I decided I was going for it. I had a couple of backup plans, don’t get me wrong, but I decided, ‘This is what you want to do, you might as well do it.’”
There were multiple reasons why Thompson wanted to get into medicine. One was the obvious: to help people. Another was to tackle something that was challenging and succeed at it.
“There was nothing else at the age of 18 that really interested me besides this,” he said. “Everything seemed to work out and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Now 44, Thompson is settling into his private practice in his hometown, enjoying the change of pace and waiting to welcome new patients. Asked what people should know about his new clinic, he says that he’s from Scott County and he’s not a greenhorn.
“I finished residency in 2007,” he said of his time at the Mayo Clinic. “I’m not a new doc. The big thing is we’re open, we’re accepting new patients and we definitely have room to grow right now.”
Prospective patients can call the clinic — (423) 569-7750 — or visit thompsonmedicalclinic.com to request an appointment. Walk-ins are also welcome.