Bright Spots: MedCenter South celebrates 20 years of community care

A lot can happen in 20 years. Back in 2002, George W. Bush was president, “Spider-Man” starring Tobey Maguire and directed by Sam Raimi was released in theaters, and gas was $1.35 a gallon. That same year, three emergency room doctors teamed up to fill a need for outpatient care on the south side of Tuscaloosa.

MedCenter South in Tuscaloosa opened its doors on Oscar Baxter Drive, just off Interstate 359 near Lowe’s, helmed by physicians Dr. Perry Lovely, Dr. Robert Posey and Dr. Chris McGee.

Two decades later, MedCenter South is one of six locations in the MedCenter family providing care to the West Alabama community.

“We provide a niche in between where we can provide you with quality care when you can’t get in to see your regular doctor and you don’t want to sit in the emergency room for hours,” McGee said. “That’s our purpose, and we have hit that niche pretty well.”

Over the past two years, the entire health care community has been in unchartered waters amid the COVID- 19 pandemic.

“It has been challenging because the rules about COVID and the guidelines to follow have jumped around a lot,” Lovely said. “It’s been difficult sometimes to keep up and trying to meet the expectations of the patients. The difficulty of larger volume and wait times has been a challenge and we have tried to do things to meet that challenge.”

But it’s not the first time MedCenter has stepped up to serve their community in a time of need.

“We set up a tent in Alberta after the tornado came through in 2011,” McGee said. “We took golf carts and water to patients. We went and worked with local pharmacies and took people their medicine so they didn’t have to leave their homes out there.”

Even before that, they opened their doors to Hurricane Katrina evacuees who fled to Tuscaloosa to escape the devastation.

“We would see them for no cost if they needed refills on their medications or if they were sick,” McGee said. “I think being part of the community, we have done that as well.”

Many of MedCenter’s staff members have been on board since the beginning.

“I trust them with my own life,”  said Clinical Director Meredith Allgood. “It’s easy to come to a job like that where you know that good things are going to be done every day.”

But they’re not a doc-in-the-box, Clinical Director Desiree Patton is quick to say.

“I can’t stand it,” she said. “I don’t like it. We are much more than that.”

In two decades, MedCenter South has cared for 169,000 patients.

The physicians agree the times have flown by, and they’re hopeful they’ll be celebrating 40 years soon enough.

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