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50th Anniversary of Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville!

This summer has been a time for reflection as we look back on the unbelievable challenges we have all faced together and take stock in our growth and all that we are thankful for. It is especially true for Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville, as we mark an incredible 50 years in practice. It started with a vision for providing the highest quality care to children and families in our community, and a dedication to doing whatever it takes to provide it. That vision has continued to grow along with our gratitude for your trust in letting us be part of the struggles and joys along with your family. In honor of where it all started, Dr. Armengol took the time to document some of the moments in the past 50 years that have brought us to the practice that we are proud of today.

The vision was born when fresh out of pediatric residency training, Drs. Ray Ford and Vito Perriello looked to Virginia to establish a general pediatric practice.  After investigating an option in Roanoke, they settled on Charlottesville where they met Dr. Charlie Gleason, a pediatrician in private practice.  The three combined forces with other local pediatricians, Drs. Paige Booker, Jeff Boozer, and James Wood to form Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville in July, 1971.

Initially, they opened two offices – one on W. Main Street for well patients and one on East Jefferson Street for sick patients; this arrangement proved impractical.  Within two years of establishing the practice they built the current downtown office, dubbed the Jefferson Medical Building, at the location of the old St Anne’s School, a condemned structure on 10th and East Jefferson Streets.  Dr. Ford credits Dr. Gleason with several innovations, including sick and well waiting rooms, and a single doctors’ work area (the Vito Perriello Library) to foster collegiality.  Additionally, Dr. Gleason insisted on taking Medicaid patients and opening an Adolescent Center, both unheard of for a pediatric practice at the time. The founding pediatricians also had several other priorities that they considered important and that would set them apart from other pediatric offices, including patient accessibility 7 days a week, evening office hours, and multiple ancillary services within the same office such as audiology, allergy testing,and  psychological counseling.  PA also encouraged pediatricians to foster individual areas of expertise.

As the practice aged, other pediatricians joined, including Dr. Jack Benjamin in 1975 and Mike Dickens (1978), and Drs. David Hawkes and Dave Reynolds in the 1980s, all of whom have since retired.  Other male pediatricians followed, including Drs Paul Wisman (1995) and Carlos Armengol (1998) in the 1990s, and Dr Rob Trundle in 2004.  In 2016, PA poached the seasoned pediatrician, Jay Gillenwater, from UVa, and added him to the growing North office.

Female pediatricians began working at the office in the early 1980s (Proud, Lischwe, Swain, Kennedy, Armstrong, Werner, and Allen), but according to Dr Ford, most left to follow their spouses careers.  Notably, Dr Lil Williams joined in the 1980s and worked primarily as the adolescent doctor; Drs. Kathy Mika (1995), Lori Balaban (1994), Sheila Davis (1994), and Teresa Hashisaki (1994) followed in the 1990s, Drs. Karyn Wolfe (2005) and Paige Perriello (2008) came in the 2000s; Drs Gemila Bouber (2010), Sarah Knight (2011), Alaina Brown (2012), Amanda Jones (2015), and Amy Malek (2018) joined in the 2010s; and most recently PA added Dr Morgan Newsome, our first doctor of osteopathy, in 2020.  Other pediatricians who worked for part of their careers at PA include Mike Ficenec, Lisa Chekan, Whitney Alexander, Marian Szwedo, Nikki Hartvigsen, Sarah Wenzinger.  As more women entered medicine, the makeup of the pediatricians at Pediatric Associates evolved from 6 men originally to its makeup of 13 women and 4 men today.

The number of Pediatric Associates offices has grown over the years.  With the addition of Dr Hawkes, PA opened the West Office in Ivy in 1988, where Drs Trundle, Wolfe, and Newsome currently work.  Once Dr. Mika joined PA in 1995, she and Dr Reynolds established the PA North Office, a physician- owned and operated building, and currently home to her and Dr Gillenwater.  After a failed attempt at a part-time office in Fluvanna County in the 1990s, in 2018, PA partnered with the Building Management Company and successfully built and opened an office in Zions Crossroads where Drs Brown and Malek currently see patients.

The Adolescent Center, originally located in a building across the street from the current downtown office, relocated to the JMB in the 1990s into the Gleason Suite, in honor of its founder and first doctor.  Upon Dr Gleason’s retirement Dr Charles Machen briefly staffed the AC.  Later and for many years until her retirement in 2013, Dr Lil Williams delivered state of the art care to the area’s teens.  She also established the Anna Allison Fund, in honor of her sister who died in the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, to help supply asthmatic patients with medical supplies.  Our current adolescent nurse practitioner, Kelly Vincel, who joined PA in 2003, carries on this tradition in the AC with a focus on adolescent and young adult mental health.

Early on PA recognized the special needs of newborns and children. This began with the founding pediatricians who joined the Medical Staff at the Martha Jefferson Hospital and saw newborns in the hospital nursery and pediatric patients in the emergency room and pediatric floor.  Since 1971, not a day has passed without a pediatrician from PA rounding on babies in the newborn nursery.  Until MJH staffed the emergency room with its own ER physicians, PA’s doctors examined children presenting to the emergency room.  When children fell ill and needed hospitalization, PA pediatricians admitted them to the dedicated pediatric floor, located on the second floor of the Rucker wing in the old MJH building at Locust and High Streets.  The pediatricians rounded on the patients in the morning, mid-day when they ate lunch at the MJH cafeteria, and again after evening office hours.

In 2011, MJH moved to its new campus on Pantops, downsizing the pediatric floor to a small unit adjacent to the emergency room.  Once Sentara bought MJH, they transitioned the pediatric floor to a clinical decision unit for the emergency room and ushered in a new electronic medical record, Epic.  In 2015, with the hospital less accessible to PA’s downtown office and burgeoning responsibilities for newborn nursery coverage, the pediatricians formalized a pediatrician on-call agreement with SMJH for coverage of the nursery, pediatric admissions and emergency room consults.  Unfortunately, at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, SMJH closed the hospital to pediatric admissions, a change that is likely permanent.

Our first neonatal nurse practitioner and lactation consultant Lisa McRae, joined the office in the 1990s and provided excellent care and lactation support to our mothers of newborns.  In addition, she coordinated travel medicine, allergy testing, wart removal, and ear piercing until her retirement in 2016.  Currently, we have two newborn nurse practitioners, Casee Dorsey (2015) and Jenn Fontenot (2017) who provide other ancillary services and assist the pediatricians with newborn care at SMJH and in the downtown office 7 days per week.

Dr. V. Perriello championed the treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and worked alongside longtime colleague Dr. Dan McClure, a local psychologist, to evaluate and manage children with ADHD.  Dr. Perriello worked tirelessly in the field of Sports Medicine, helping to set national standards for sports physical examinations and concussion management until his retirement in 2009.  In 2015, the Virginia High School League established the Vito Perriello Citizenship Award, awarding scholarships to students who demonstrate outstanding traits of citizenship in their high school career.  Dr V. Perriello played a mean saxophone and on special occasions wrote memorable odes about his younger partners.

Dr Ford focused on Tourette’s Syndrome and international medicine during his years at PA.  For many years he consulted throughout central VIrginia on patients with motor tics and Tourette’s and helped tailor medications to their needs.  He began medical mission work in Grison-Garde, Haiti in the 1990s, through the The Haiti Mission Foundation.  Additionally, he established the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation in honor of his father, its primary benefactor.  Drs Dickens, Reynolds, Williams, Brown, Wisman, and Bouber have traveled to the mission and many of them continue the tradition with Dr Ford, who continues this work in his retirement.

Dr Dickens served as the President of the Virginia Pediatric Society and the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for three years in the 90s; on three national committees of the American Academy of Pediatrics including the Committee on Ambulatory Care; and as an AAP representative to the White House in support of the Clinton Health Plan initiative in 1993/1994.  Additionally, MJH awarded him the Arthur Bender Award for Clinical Excellence for his contributions to quality medical care.

Pediatric Associates has maintained a professional and cordial relationship with its colleagues at the University of Virginia.  Until 1995, PA partnered with the University of Virginia Department of Pediatrics to provide clinical services in the UVa Newborn Nursery and Primary Care Center.  PA pediatricians served as mentors to countless pediatric trainees and medical students and staffed the pediatric continuity clinic.  In the 1990s, PA worked with Dr Fred Hayden at UVa in clinical trials on the nasal influenza vaccine.  In the 2000s, Dr J. Owen Hendley, a UVa Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist, and Dr Armengol conducted research on numerous infections in the setting of a private practice.  In 2018, PA joined a clinically integrated network of pediatricians, Fortify Children’s Health, a partnership of UVa Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.

Over the last 50 years the demographics of the Charlottesville community have changed greatly.  Many migrant families came from South and Central America for work and settled in the area to raise their families.  Fortunately, PA pivoted to meet their needs.  The additions of Drs Armengol and Trundle ushered in bilingual services, leading the office to hire bilingual staff to assist in delivering care to these vulnerable families.  Consequently, PA serves a growing Spanish speaking population in Charlottesville and the surrounding community.

In the 1980s, PA partnered with Dr Hendley at UVa on seminal research on the treatment of acute conjunctivitis (pink eye) in children and on the Haemophilus influenza vaccine, ending the scourge of H. influenza meningitis in children .  Further research has included work on the nasal influenza vaccine, acute pharyngitis (strep throat), acute otitis media (ear infections), the meningococcal vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine, and, most recently, the coronavirus vaccine.  Beginning in 2007 Claudia “Poody” Wisman opened Pediatric Research of Charlottesville, an organization that coordinates the research projects of various pharmaceutical companies at PA.  In 2012, the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society recognized the work of PA on ear infections with the Burtis Breese Award for excellence in clinical research.

Advocacy has been an integral part of PA since its inception.  Numerous PA physicians have served on committees and not for profit boards both locally and nationally:  the National Federation of High School Sports (V. Perriello – Hall of Fame inductee); the Virginia High School League (V. Perrirello), Albemarle County Public Schools (Hawkes, Mika, Balaban, Bouber), Monticello Area Community Action Agency (Armengol, Gillenwater), the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Dickens, Mika, Wisman, Trundle, P. Perriello), the Martha Jefferson Physicians Hospital Organization (Mika, Reynolds, Trundle, Armengol), Fortify Children’s Health (Armengol, Wisman), Reach Out and Read (Brown, Bouber),  Camp Holiday Trails (Armengol, Trundle, Knight),  and many others.  Through the leadership of Drs Jones and Perriello, the Charlottesville Trauma Informed Community Network selected PA as one of the initial Trauma Informed Leadership Teams, and they continue to implement trauma informed practices at PA as well as researching social determinants of health through an ASHEW grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Technology has had a profound effect on PA.  The nurses scheduled on paper until 1999, when PA moved to computer scheduling and billing through Medical Manager, a practice management software.  Another 13 years passed before the physicians moved to charting in an electronic medical record (eClinicalWorks) in response to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.    More recently, PA has marshalled the effectiveness of social media to provide accurate and valuable information to our families and patients.  Drs Wolfe and Knight maintain our Facebook page and website/email blog, respectively.  They upload content often to keep our patients well-informed about important seasonal messaging, clinical information, and changes at the offices.  In addition, social media has proved invaluable for communicating information about the coronavirus pandemic,  vaccine administration efforts, and our free food pantry.

Over the years PA has offered numerous services to our patients, including an in-house psychologist initially in partnership with UVa and then with Dr Lon Shackelford; and audiologist (Betty Cooper and Marian Fredner) with a dedicated sound booth, otoacoustic emission testing and tympanometry.  Unfortunately, filling their shoes after their respective retirements has proved challenging.  PA began providing allergy testing with Martiza Saavedra, NP, and then in 1995, with Dr Paul Wisman when he joined PA after additional training in the specialty of allergy medicine. With his guidance PA continues to provide allergy testing and allergy shots.  PA also offers laboratory and phlebotomy services.  Most importantly, the practice continues to provide office hours seven days per week until 9:00 PM each evening, a service that has proved invaluable to our patients and families.

Of course, no pediatrician office can survive without a dedicated support staff.  Over the years numerous employees have helped lead the practice in delivering quality care.  A comprehensive list is not possible, but a few of these members include nurses(Betsy Lang, Alice Sorum, Carole Craig, Bessie Marks, Becky Jones, Michelle Gilbert, and Shawna Hunter), medical technologists (Debbie Reynolds, Peggy Bressler), and many assistants, and receptionists.  Additionally, between 1998 and 2008, we were part of the Kelson practice management firm.  Though the relationship with Kelson ended abruptly, PA benefited greatly from the guidance of its regional manager, Bruce Minear.  Thereafter, our current executive administrator, Crain Saunders, has led PA through all manner of challenges, including the current coronavirus pandemic.

In 2018, Great Eastern Management Company, the general partner of the Jefferson Medical Building, announced that it intended to demolish the building to construct a new apartment complex.  The current re-location plan will move PA’s Main office to a new site across the street in what is currently the overflow parking lot for the downtown office.  PA looks forward to building a new office that will support its goals of excellent pediatric care for the next half century.

Throughout the changes that PA has seen and those we look toward in the future, the foundation of dedication to providing quality care serves to guide us. All that we are and all that we have been are humbled by the incredible gift that we are given to be part of watching your children and families grow. Especially after a challenging year, we are honored to be part of this 50 year legacy and celebrate each new day alongside you.

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