In 2008, the medical landscape of Evansville — as well as the face of Downtown — was vastly different than what it is today.
That year, the Deaconess Clinic was founded when Deaconess Health System merged with Downtown Evansville’s Welborn Clinic. Made up of primary care physicians and specialists, the clinic continued in the former Welborn location, providing a Deaconess presence in the area for medical care.
Fast forward 12 years to the beginning of a new era. With the addition of new medical facilities and campuses throughout the city, the Deaconess Clinic Downtown is adding its name to the growth. Early in 2019, the health system held a groundbreaking for a new clinic facility Downtown. The new space was going to bring an upgrade to all aspects of the clinic.
“This modern building has been designed with patient needs — and great patient care — in mind,” Deaconess Clinic Vice President, Chief Physician Administrative Officer Dr. Allen White said at the groundbreaking ceremony in February 2019. “It’s an exciting time to be part of what’s happening in Downtown Evansville, particularly here in the developing medical district.”
The decision to build a clinic space came from a simple problem that arose for the Deaconess Clinic administration — whether to continue their lease at the former Welborn Clinic or seek a new location.
“When we started looking at locations, we were really focused on remaining close to the area the former Welborn Clinic is in right now,” says Julie Dingman, chief operating officer at the clinic. “And the availability of the (former Ford dealership) lot that we built on here is just perfect for us.”
Weighing their options, Dingman says the new building made the most sense for the clinic. Welborn’s former location was not only too large of a facility, it also was outdated. Planning a new space allowed the Deaconess administrators, staff, and physicians an opportunity to bring in needed upgrades to exam rooms, equipment, technology, and more.
“Working in a new, modern facility like we have here now, it’s really refreshing,” says Deaconess Clinic primary physician Dr. William Smith. “It’s big, open, and bright — what you would expect from a modern medical facility. Having patients come to a modern office, it kind of cheers them up in a way, which is helpful.”
The new building, situated at Fifth and Walnut streets, features 100,000 square feet of clinic and office space. Services offered include primary and specialty care, lab and radiology services, and a Deaconess Clinic EXPRESS location to open in October. The space also has been constructed to allow for an expansion, should the clinic need more space.
“I think it is critically important as an administrative member of Deaconess that we are always focused on putting our patients first and thinking about what we need to do to ensure we are accessible, available, and providing the highest quality of patient care we can,” says Dingman. “Having the ability to build new facilities, to upgrade, to expand our footprint gives us that connection to the community that we serve.”
More than 8,500 square feet of the facility also is being utilized by the Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville for clinical research. The dedicated research space is getting partial funding from the Regional Cities Initiative ($9 million), which has been responsible for many new projects in the Downtown area.
“I believe some of the research projects that will come out of the space at the clinic will deal with how we actually see patients in the future — that integration of technology with patient care,” says Smith. “The most exciting thing, I think, is that point of care.”
The first floor of Deaconess Clinic Downtown also will be home to the Vision Care Center. Once a part of the Welborn Clinic, the Vision Care Center separated from Welborn and created a new company during the merger with Deaconess. However, they still maintained office space in the former clinic.
“They had a very strong desire to move into the new building when they found out our plans,” says Dingman. “They’ve been a great partner, and we’ve liked having them located in our facility. It was a good opportunity for both of us.”
Another positive that comes from an upgraded facility that is tailored to the clinic’s needs is the change in how physicians, specialists, nurses, and staff collaborate. For Smith, the arrangement of departments and offices in the former clinic made it difficult to talk with colleagues about patients’ problems.
“Before, we were kind of isolated in our own little areas. Here, we have a more open system,” he adds. “We are much closer together. We have internal medicine doctors to speak with, behavioral health around the corner, where before we would have not had direct access to other colleagues to collaborate about patients.”
Even the lunchroom has been designed to promote that connection, utilizing a whiteboard and open spaces to allow for small meetings and conferences.
“The staff feel like they have the space and equipment that will allow them to continue to take great care of their patients,” says Dingman. “They are thankful; they are proud.”
The Deaconess Clinic Downtown also will continue to serve a capacity in helping to train medical students at the nearby Stone Family Center for Health Sciences campus. That proximity is extremely important, says Dingman, as Deaconess partners with local universities to provide as high a level of hands-on training and experience with the health system’s providers as possible.
“It’s also important to many of our nurse practitioners and physicians,” she adds. “They feel they have a responsibility to give back to those who are moving through their own training.”
“Deaconess is very innovative,” says Smith. “They are always bringing new technology to us, new ways of doing things. I look forward to seeing some of that applied here to the new Downtown clinic.”
“We really try to put ourselves where we can be convenient to people in the community that we serve,” says Dingman of the new facility. “We hope this facility provides convenient access to health care for the people who live and work in the Downtown area.”