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Specialists Expand Reach to Serve Surrounding Communities

  • Category: Pulse
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  • Written By: Dwain Hebda
Specialists Expand Reach to Serve Surrounding Communities

When Dr. Daniel Decker arrived in Mountain Home 10 years ago, the practice of urology here was on the threshold of a major technological change. A decade later, Decker’s practice has exploded to the point Baxter Regional has brought in some reinforcements and with it, a future of unlimited possibilities within this underserved medical specialty.

“When I first started here, one of the first initiatives for us was a robotic program,” Decker said. “That started in 2011 using the da Vinci (surgical robot), which was pretty novel in this area. Now, we’ve done hundreds of kidney and prostate surgeries robotically over the last decade. We’ve also done a really good job here adopting the latest laser treatments for enlarged BPH as well.

“With my new medical partners, we’re moving on to hyper ablations, urolifts, the latest in lasers. It’s really been exciting as we go from me by myself to now six providers — three doctors and three nurse practitioners — in our practice.”

Decker, who attended Wake Forest University Medical School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, served his internship in general surgery and his residency in urology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“I met my wife (in Texas), and afterward I wanted to go to North Carolina, but she didn’t want to get too far from Texas,” he said. “I at least wanted to be somewhere that reminded me of North Carolina, and this did that. That’s sort of how we ended up here.”

Decker has never regretted the decision, either personally or professionally. Urologists are some of the most in-demand medical specialists out there, and while he could live anywhere, he’s stayed put for the quality of life and the support of the health system. Now, he’s looking forward to expanding care even farther.

“Our future is getting into these secondary markets where we know there is a lot of need in the surrounding communities,” he said. “The three of us are going in three different directions to set up ancillary clinics to provide a wider net of care locally. That’s where we have the ability to increase our brand and increase our worth by setting these secondary market clinics.”

Joining Decker in this effort is Dr. Daniel Zapata, a native of Colombia, who’s been on board with Baxter Regional for 18 months.

“What inspired me to go into medicine was the interactions with the patients and the ability to improve their quality of life,” Zapata said. “Also, urology is a very wide specialty in that we treat pretty much everything. It’s also surgical, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do. You can do minimal procedures in the office and do diagnostic procedures things. You don’t get all that in very many specialties.”

Zapata, who comes from a long line of physicians, completed both his medical internship and residency in Memphis. He said the quality of urological care being provided in Mountain Home rivals that of much larger cities.

“We offer almost every procedure that is offered at the private practices in Memphis,” he said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to continue to build on our practice, including expanding Baxter Regional Urology Clinic into satellite markets. That’s a very good way for us to reach a bigger population that is not currently getting up-to-date urological care, such as robotic surgeries and minimally invasive surgeries.”

Zapata also praised the working relationship among his practice partners, saying they have found their stride quickly.

“I do strongly believe that the three of us complement each other very well,” he said. “Not only our mindset and our partnership, but also as it translates into patient care. The way that we practice is very aligned. We tend to think the same way, and even when we don’t, we’ve got a good rapport to talk through a particular case.”

Rounding out the trio is Dr. Austin Barber, a native of Georgia, who has been part of the team for nine months. He echoed his colleagues, saying he came to Mountain Home thanks to the breadth of practice he could establish here.

“Baxter Regional allows us to be able to do more comprehensive urology care for the community and to manage, from a urological standpoint, the majority of urologic issues here locally,” he said. “We don’t have to transfer them to a larger facility or larger town. We practice at full capacity, and we can do everything we need to do because we have the latest technologies available.”

Barber said expanding the Mountain Home practice into clinics in surrounding communities advances that mission even further.

“Our main practice and clinics benefit the community because patients don’t have to travel to get standard urologic care,” he said. “That’s rare for a lot of rural communities to have an opportunity to have such quality specialists offering services that close to home.”

After completing his undergraduate work at the University of Georgia, Barber was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force in 2008. He completed medical school in Georgia, then came to UAMS in Little Rock for his residency. Following that, he served four years in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.

He said he couldn’t imagine a better place to continue his medical career than Mountain Home.

“I was practicing by myself in the Air Force for an extended period, and that was not a whole lot of fun,” he said. “I was looking for good partners, younger partners, who weren’t going to retire on me in two or three years. That was one criterion.

“Also, I like small towns. The hospital had capabilities for everything I needed to do from a urology standpoint, and the community gave us what we were looking for to raise our family. We love the outdoors, everyone’s been super nice and we couldn’t be happier we’re here.”