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Opinion: Health services a necessity for downtown

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My first memories of visiting my pediatrician were on Commercial Street. My mother was born in Cox North. My grandparents visited their doctor at the Professional Building on Kimbrough Street.

Turn the page 30 years ahead and Dr. Knabb’s offices are the home of The Kitchen’s administrative office and clinic, virtually all CoxHealth babies arrive at the south Springfield campus on Primrose Street, and Missouri State University academic doctors and students walk the halls of the Professional Building.

Beginning in the 1970s, the magnetic pull of the Medical Mile attracted physicians and patients to National Avenue, Battlefield Road and Sunshine Street, and medical services in center city became scarce.

The 1,200 new loft residents in the past decade and the 25,000 downtown employees were left with little choice than to venture south to access their primary care doctor, dentist or optometrist.

That may be changing, however, as medical entrepreneurship is resurfacing downtown.

Downtown vision
Dr. Kory Scullawl is opening an optometry practice this month in Craig Wagoner’s latest project, dubbed Oliver’s Garage, in the former parking garage on Olive Street across from Heer’s. It will be a joint venture with Steve Rice’s and Lynn Herndon’s Vision Clinic on South National Avenue.

Scullawl grew up in Catoosa, Okla., a suburb of Tulsa, and attended optometry school in Tahlequah, Okla. After working in Oklahoma City for three years, he was drawn to southwest Missouri as a result of his family’s trips to the Table Rock area.

“From my first visit downtown, I fell in love with the area and what was being done to revitalize business activity. It really is a gem,” he said.

Scullawl met his wife Bethany at a downtown event in 2007 and they married in 2010. She is from Fenton, graduated from MSU and currently works downtown at Marlin Co.

“The more time we spent downtown, the more we talked of opening a practice here,” Kory Scullawl said. “There are so many people working near downtown, it just seemed an office in this area would be convenient for people. We are very excited about being downtown and hope to offer an experience that is less ‘sterile doctor’s office’ and more unique and chic, much like downtown itself.”

Collaborative care
Jordan Valley Community Health Center  has used a collaborative approach to bring together a number of agencies, individuals, and clinicians with a vision to create a health safety net for the southwest Missouri region. It has transformed the corner of Benton and Chestnut Expressway by creating a campus in the former Springfield Community Center and L.E. Cox buildings.

The federally qualified health center has expanded in the past decade to offer a wide variety of services, including primary medical care, immunizations, gynecology, prenatal care, outpatient procedures, health education, dental services, X-rays, pharmacy, optometry, behavioral health services, and the Springfield-Greene County Women, Infants & Children program.

The Jordan Valley center exists to serve traditionally underserved populations but will care for insured members of the community as well.

Growth opportunities
Even with Jordan Valley Community Health Center and the new Vision Clinic location, the case could be made for one of the city’s major health systems to locate an urgent care storefront downtown to serve the hundreds of loft dwellers and thousands of students. Health services could be a good complement to the Bistro Market, strengthening the area’s residential amenities.

A dental office also could be the first in the area to establish itself downtown. With three dozen restaurants and society’s fascination with the perfect smile, a good dentist is always needed.

Health service entrepreneurs who act now to cultivate relationships ahead of their peers will gain a valuable foothold in downtown and distinguish their services in the community.

Rusty Worley, executive director of Urban Districts Alliance, can be reached at rusty@itsalldowntown.com.[[In-content Ad]]

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