Medical Center acquires new Northport branch

Emily Williams

The University Medical Center, a primary care practice connected to the College of Community Health Sciences, has hired a new physician and is accepting new patients at its Warrior Family Medicine branch, acquired by the University this year.

Dr. Jennifer Clem practiced at a Navajo Indian reservation in Arizona for four years before moving back to Alabama and joining the Warrior Family Medicine practice. She specializes in women’s health and pediatrics.

“I’ve had a good experience so far,” Clem said. “I’ve been slowly seeing more and more patients, which has been nice, being the new doctor in town. I’m looking forward to building my practice. I like to see a wide variety of patients all ages, men and women, kids and adults.”

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The Warrior Family Medicine branch is run by Dr. Joseph Fritz, who has been practicing in Tuscaloosa since 1978.

Clem said the small size of Warrior Family Medicine allows for increased access between physicians and patients.

“One thing that we really are interested in is being available and that our patients have access to us. So we have what’s called a patient portal system, so that patients can use a secure email account to communicate with their physicians,” Clem said. “Since so many people are online, that’s really a nice benefit, so they’re not calling in talking to the nurse, sending a message to the provider and then there are things there that can be interrupted. So if you’re sending in an email message that goes directly to the physician, that’s nice to be able to communicate that way. So we’re really going to try to improve that service and I think that will be a benefit.”

Leslie Zganjar, director of communications for the College of Community Health Sciences, said the University Medical Center offers a variety of specialized services, such as a pediatric clinic, an internal medicine clinic, an OB/GYN clinic, a sports medicine clinic and a psychiatry clinic.

“What it offers to the community is increased access to care and particularly increased access to primary care, which in health care is becoming more and more important as people live longer and as they need care for chronic diseases,” Zganjar said. “I think there is always a need for this kind of health care. With the Affordable Health Care Act, there will be an even greater need and with how medicine is moving toward the future, there’s much more of an emphasis on preventive care and chronic disease management, and that’s what primary care physicians and family care medicine provide.”

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The on-campus branch of the UMC provides a residency program for recent medical school graduates, as well as a select few third-year medical students at UAB. This provides additional training, as well as a chance to practice in a functioning doctor’s office. Fritz said he would like to expand this program to the Warrior Family Medicine clinic.

“Right now we are not too involved in teaching,” Fritz said. “We would like to have young doctors who are still in training be able to come into our facility and see somewhat different patients than they see at University Medical Center.”

In the future, Fritz said he would like to continue expanding his practice by identifying the areas with the greatest need.

“There are definitely parts of Tuscaloosa and parts of West Alabama that are under-served, where people have difficulty getting a primary care physician,” Fritz said. “So if this model works, then perhaps this is something that can bring service to other people.”

The University Medical Center – Warrior Family Medicine is located at 971 Fairfax Park in Northport.

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