The new clinic in Phoenicia currently has only one doctor, neurologist Paul Mullin of Medical Associates of the Hudson Valley (MAHV), but the practice is looking to take on additional practitioners in family medicine, internal medicine, and mental health. Mullin, whose office opened on May 20 at 9 Ava Maria Drive, as part of the Kingston-based group, is already booked with patients, virtually back-to-back, for two weeks.
“There are so few neurologists in Kingston,” explained front desk manager Adrianna Schenck, who was training receptionist Amie Goodrich, a Shandaken resident. “They’re all booked out for six months. When you have a neurological issue, you want to get it seen as soon as possible. People don’t mind driving out here if they can get an appointment in two weeks.”
Mullin recently left a two-year post at the Kingston office of CareMount, a medical conglomerate based in Westchester. His contract prevented him from practicing within 15 miles of Kingston for the next three years. MAHV, which has 21 internists and specialists, with additional branches in Poughkeepsie and Woodstock, was lacking a neurologist, so they opened the Phoenicia office for Mullin’s practice.
“We’re tremendously pleased to have him,” said Dr. Craig Moss, founder of MAHV. “He’s a down-to-earth, nice guy, and he prefers our culture over a large company.” Mullin, who specializes in seizure disorders and cognitive/memory issues, went to medical school at Georgetown University, had fellowship training at Johns Hopkins, and ran Weill Cornell’s epilepsy center. He has conducted clinical trials of new seizure medications, and he continues to lecture one day a week.
“I love neurology,” said Mullin. “There are so many challenges in diagnosis and treatment.” When a patient is having seizures, he said, it’s important to determine the cause, which could include head trauma, side effects of medication, or drug or alcohol withdrawal. Even if epilepsy is diagnosed, patients may benefit from the recent advances in treatment. “There used to be three or four drugs for controlling seizures,” Mullin said, “and now there are 18 or 20. It used to be phenobarbitol made people drowsy, so they couldn’t drive. Now there are so many options, people with epilepsy can have a normal life. We have to figure out the best therapy,” which might include surgery or vagus nerve stimulation.
He also works with patients who have dementia, including cognitive and memory loss. In some cases, the symptoms are reversible, and again it’s important to discover the cause, whether the issues stem from Lyme disease, small strokes, or Parkinson’s disease. “There are new treatments for Alzheimer’s,” noted Mullin. “You have to enjoy dealing with the family, since patients can’t generally get to the doctor on their own. I find out what are the family’s needs, what components of care can I assist them with.”
Mullin was drawn to MAHV because he had observed the quality of their physicians, and he liked the idea of working with a smaller practice. Originally from Margaretville, he jumped at the chance to work in Phoenicia, where he spent many Sundays as a youth, attending St. Francis de Sales Church with his parents and then having breakfast at Brio’s.
With his local roots, said Mullin, “It’s important to me, taking care of a rural population, to be sensitive to people’s needs. Everyone shouldn’t have to travel to New York City or Albany to get specialty care.”
Although offering more personal service than the corporate groups, MAHV has enough staff to provide the quality control demanded by insurance companies, said Moss. Internist Debra Karnasiewicz has a masters in public health, with training in health information technology. “Insurers pay for performance,” Moss explained. “You have to document what you’ve done, what the doctor provided. When we started, in 1984, we had handwritten charts. That’s partly why there are fewer private practices now, because you need a staff with expertise to compile all the data, do the analytics, and show what’s been done. We’re fortunate to have someone with a passion for a it.”
Over the past nine years, MAHV has had multiple invitations to join one of the corporate health care groups, but Moss keeps turning them down. One of the values of his practice is education. Last year MAHV gave 11 education grants to staff members, and this May, Moss earned his masters in business administration from Marist College. “We give money to our staff to go to gyms,” he said. “The staff decides what to fundraise for. These are the values of my dad,” who was a physician in Saugerties. “Some doctors prefer a more corporate form. Neither choice is right or wrong.”
MAHV is affiliated with Kingston Hospital, but the emphasis is on prevention, to keep people healthy and maximize outpatient care. At the moment, they are actively recruiting practitioners for the Phoenicia office.