Integrity Oncology Adapts to Rapidly Changing Industry

MICHAEL WADDELL | Special to The Daily News

Integrity Oncology PLLC continues to evolve within an ever-changing health care landscape.

Last month the practice, which operates four area locations, moved its West Memphis office to a new 2,500-square-foot, freestanding location, and it anticipates a future move of its East Memphis office into the new Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.’s $65 million comprehensive cancer treatment center that will be built by 2015.

Integrity provides treatment in oncology, hematology, immunotheraphy and rheumatology for thousands of patients each year. The practice’s overall patient load is made up of 70 percent for oncology treatments, 20 percent for hematology treatments and 5 percent for the others.

Dr. Albert Earle Weeks, M.D., left, and Dr. Suhail Objai, M.D., are partners in Integrity Oncology Clinic with Dr. Margaret Gore. M.D., (not pictured).

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

“The Integrity Oncology Foundation brings together physicians with great knowledge, advanced technology and a compassionate culture to design individual treatments for our patients,” said Dr. A. Earle Weeks. “We offer integrated cancer care from diagnosis and treatment to follow-up care for patients in Memphis and the Mid-South.”

Three longtime colleagues – Weeks, Dr. Margaret Gore and Dr. Suhail M. Obaji – formed Integrity Oncology in the fall of 2009 after working together locally since 2002.

Integrity aligned with Baptist Memorial Medical Group in September 2011, following a local and national trend of private practices being acquired by major hospital groups.

“We thought that to allow us to better serve our patients, we needed to align with a hospital system,” said Integrity Oncology CEO Rola Obaji, who cited the health care reform as one catalyst for the alignment. “Lately it’s been difficult to practice oncology because of reimbursement issues and regulations. Being part of a hospital system allows our physicians to concentrate on better treatment for each patient.”

By 2020, it is anticipated that more than 90 percent of private physician practices will have been bought up by hospital systems. Nearly all of the oncology groups in Memphis have already aligned with either Baptist Memorial Medical Group or Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

“Part of the reason we chose the Baptist system is the fact that they are building a new cancer treatment center in East Memphis,” Obaji said. “We will probably move our East Memphis/Briarcrest office to the new cancer center but keep our other locations.

“We are really proud and honored to be a part of the Baptist system,” Obaji said. “It’s really been amazing so far. Taking care of the patients is the number one priority.”

Integrity’s mission is to provide comfortable care for its patients at convenient locations across the Mid-South, with offices in East Memphis, Collierville, Union City and West Memphis.

“We have multiple locations because our philosophy is to bring the treatments to our patients’ communities,” Obaji said. “Receiving treatment is a hardship for any family, and they shouldn’t have to drive long distances.”

The new West Memphis office will be open five days a week as opposed to only two days a week at the former location.

“We needed more space in West Memphis, and we needed to have a state-of-the-art location with upgraded, all-new equipment because we believe our patients and the community deserves the best,” said Obaji, who also noted the clinic’s new location has much more accessible parking compared to the smaller office.

Integrity’s business office is in Collierville inside a 100-year-old house built on 3.5 acres on Poplar Avenue between Houston Levee and Bailey Station roads. Weeks and Obaji bought the home in 2003, then renovated the main residence in 2004 and added a 10,000-square-foot ultra-modern flagship health care clinic and research facility onto the back of the home. The property was designed to give Integrity patients and staff a less sterile, more relaxing feel.

The clinic’s chemotherapy treatment area is designed with an abundance of windows to let in as much natural light as possible, and it looks out to a courtyard area that is planted with seasonal colors. Another highlight of the room is a bookshelf filled with a variety of woodcut figures of Disney and Looney Tunes characters that were made by a patient who brings in a new custom figure each time he visits.

“Getting treatment is a hard time for patients and their families, and we try our best to make it as pleasant as possible,” Obaji said.

To accommodate a steadily increasing patient load, Integrity recently added one nurse practitioner to its overall staff of 58, and the clinic hopes to add another nurse practitioner and a fourth physician in the near future.