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Medical group moves into new S.C. building

Five doctors who practice as Pulmonary Associates of Charleston have moved into a bright new office building they've built across from Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston.

The two-story, 20,000-square-foot building is just off MacCorkle Avenue, directly behind Long John Silver's. It is the dream of Dr. Tom Takubo.

Takubo recalled that he and two buddies, Dr. Kevin Eggleston and Dr. Rob Keith, "went to Tennessee to sub-specialize. We wanted to come back to West Virginia. We came back in August 2007 with not much more than stethoscopes around our necks.

"In 2009 Alex Wade graduated from West Virginia University and joined us, and in 2011 Ed Gray, who had been in practice here for 15 or 20 years, merged with us."

In addition to specializing in pulmonary illnesses, the doctors serve as intensive care unit specialists at Thomas Memorial and Charleston Area Medical Center. Their practice "has grown faster than expected," Takubo said.

The five had been practicing in tight quarters at Thomas Memorial, where their offices occupied about 3,000 square feet of space on one floor and less than 1,000 square feet on another floor.

Now they're working out of the second floor of their new building, with plenty of room to grow.

"We've put a lot of elbow grease into this building right from the design phase," Takubo said. "We visited a lot of other offices and put a lot of forethought into this."

Pray Construction of Scott Depot was the general contractor.

"We would give Pray the vision and they'd say, "What about this? What about that?' They've been really, really good to work with," Takubo said.

The second-floor office is designed so patients will move clockwise through the building. When patients get off the elevator, they step into a large waiting room with a check-in station on the right. After checking in, patients are seen by the staff and doctors, who work out of a pod design. At the conclusion of their visit, patients check out on the opposite side of the check-in station.

"We're completely computerized," Takubo said. "In fact, we will have electronic kiosks so patients can check in electronically. It cuts down on errors. And at the end of their visit, I tell them that my note will beat them out the door to their doctor's office."

Takubo is most excited about the potential for saving lives.

"We deal with a lot of lung cancer," he said. "It kills more people than the next four cancers combined - breast, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancer."

And, he said, there is a lot of room for improvement. "Sixty years ago, the lung cancer survival rate was 8 percent. In 2010, the survival rate was 15 percent. It didn't even double in 60 years.

"A 2010 study found that screening CAT scans can improve lung cancer survival by 20 percent," he said, referring to images of body structure known as computerized axial tomography, often called CAT or CT scans.

"Now we have a low-dose CT machine," he said.

The machine - which cost about $800,000 - is the domain of Tracey Robinette, a radiologic technologist and computed tomography technologist.

"We have a Philips Brilliance CT 16-slice loaded with dose-reducing software," she said. "With this machine we're able to reduce the radiation dose by 80 percent" compared to a traditional CT scan machine.

Furthermore, it's fast. "There's not a scan in our system that takes more than five minutes to do," she said.

Takubo said, "In the past, one CAT scan was the equivalent to 60 to 250 chest X-rays." That meant a scan could sometimes do more damage than good.

"Now, with a low-dose machine, one CAT scan is the equivalent of 80 or so chest X-rays - almost like the exposure you would get with a full day in the sun."

Takubo and his associates want to screen high-risk individuals, who are defined as people 55 and older who have smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years or three packs a day for 10 years.

"A CAT scan screen can reduce their risk by 20 percent," he said.

"We're working with Thomas Memorial and Charleston Area Medical Center to put screening protocols in there, too," he said.

Pulmonary Associates of Charleston also offers:

 

  • Electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy, which Takubo described as "like using a GPS (global positioning system) to go into the lung" and reach desired locations.
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  • Endobronchial ultrasound, which uses ultrasound and a bronchoscope to visualize airway walls and adjacent structures.
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  • "We were the first in the area to do bronchial thermoplasty," Takubo said. The procedure can reduce asthma by 80 percent.
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    In summary, "We are doing a lot of good things for lungs here," he said.

    One surprise in the new building: A large sleep laboratory.

    "One of my colleagues called it 'the Marriott of sleep labs,'" Takubo said. Each station is equipped with a comfortable bed and a private bathroom.

    Pulmonary Associates of Charleston moved on Dec. 21 although Wednesday was the official opening date at the new location. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. Jan. 25.

    The practice has about 35 employees. Chris Long is the operations manager. Tammy Flowers is the office manager.

    The new building is a stone's throw from the four-story, 40,000-square-foot Riverview Medical Plaza, which opened in December 2011.

    Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

     


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