Central New York’s Premier Nephrology Practice Continues to Build on Its Legacy

By Thomas Crocker
Tuesday, December 25, 2018

After celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018, Nephrology Associates of Syracuse PC, enters its fifth decade of providing convenient, comprehensive care for chronic kidney disease (CKD) and related conditions while staying true to its roots as an independent practice that puts patients first.

The team at the Nephrology Associates of Syracuse PC

Since its establishment in Syracuse in 1978, Nephrology Associates has grown into a regional provider that receives a steady stream of referrals for patients with kidney disease and manages the complex care of individuals receiving hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. From their main office at 1304 Buckley Road in Syracuse, members of the Nephrology Associates provider team — which includes six nephrologists who are board-certified in both nephrology and internal medicine, three nurse practitioners, two physician assistants and a registered dietitian — travel to satellite locations in Auburn, Camillus, Fayetteville, Fulton and Oneida on a monthly basis so patients can receive care close to where they live and work.

“We treat acute kidney failure, for which my colleagues and I frequently provide ICU consultations, and we diagnose, manage and treat CKD,” says Philip Ondocin, MD, nephrologist at Nephrology Associates. “We also treat diabetes and hypertension — two of our physicians, myself included, are clinical hypertension specialists — and provide medical management of kidney transplant patients both before and after transplantation.”

Dialysis Management and Transplant Preparation

The team at Nephrology Associates treats all forms of kidney disease, from mild or moderate cases to individuals with renal failure who require dialysis, which is available at the practice’s flagship office in Syracuse and dialysis centers throughout Central New York.

Jackie Spencer, NP, and Joanna Woodruff, NP

“Our goal is to help patients avoid dialysis unless it’s absolutely necessary, and the vast majority never need it,” Dr. Ondocin says. “That’s a product of close monitoring and patient education. When patients require dialysis, it’s usually because of progressive disease, fluid overload that can’t be managed with diuretics, acidemia, high serum potassium or other electrolyte abnormalities.”

A nephrologist provider sees each patient receiving hemodialysis weekly; for peritoneal dialysis patients, monthly appointments are standard. Nephrologists ensure all dialysis patients are current with necessary tests and, as appropriate, help optimize their health prior to kidney transplantation. Patients on dialysis are living longer and better, but their best hope for long-term survival is receiving a donor kidney, according to Dr. Ondocin.

“We work collaboratively with transplant programs in the region to ensure patients receive appropriate care,” says Adebowale Oguntola, MD, nephrologist at Nephrology Associates. “We have a referral network of specialists that helps us with the multidisciplinary approach necessary for this level of patient complexity.”

Collaborating to Care for Complex Patients

It is virtually impossible to treat any chronic condition in a vacuum, and that is especially true of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Individuals with CKD often have comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease, which require collaborative management by disparate clinicians, including nephrologists. Multidisciplinary care is characteristic of Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC.

Early referral by primary care physicians and other providers is key to the success of CKD management and one of the chief reasons why patients are living longer than in the past, according to Adebowale Oguntola, MD, nephrologist at Nephrology Associates.

“When I joined the practice in 2000, most of the time, we’d receive referrals when patients were close to requiring dialysis,” he says. “Now, many physicians know the sooner they refer to us, the better, as many symptoms associated with kidney disease, such as anemia and mineral and bone disorder, are quite subtle. The number of patients in their 90s whom I see in the practice now compared with a decade ago has significantly increased. That no longer surprises me, but it’s been a big shift.”

Managing a patient who may have co-occurring CKD and coronary artery disease or diabetes requires continual physician-to-physician communication about a variety of factors that may affect his or her care, such as adjustments to medication dosages.

“What helps set Nephrology Associates apart is that we communicate frequently with other providers — not just through notes, but also via phone and face to face,” says Philip Ondocin, MD, nephrologist at Nephrology Associates. “Other physicians receive copies of our notes and lab test results, and if an issue requires more attention, I follow up with a phone call to be sure they’re aware of it. It’s so important to the quality of care to ensure everyone is on the same page.”

It also gives patients peace of mind.

“One of the first things I tell patients when they come to see me is they should be assured that everything I tell them will be summarized and a synopsis sent to their family physician,” Dr. Oguntola says. “That puts them at ease, knowing they don’t have to remember a lot of technical things to tell their physician.”

All-Encompassing Care

Nephrology Associates offers a variety of services and programs to complement its providers’ clinical expertise, including:

  • An award-winning, on-site laboratory. Located in the flagship office in Syracuse, Nephrology Associates’ laboratory, under the direction of nephrologist Simardeep Mangat, MD, recently received the Laboratory Excellence Award from COLA, a leading laboratory accreditation organization.

“Having an in-house laboratory makes our jobs easier by giving us quick access to the information we need to make medical decisions,” Dr. Oguntola says. “For the laboratory to be recognized by a national regulatory body such as COLA, which conducted a rigorous on-site survey as part of the evaluation process for the Laboratory Excellence Award, is something we’re quite proud of.”

  • An anemia and iron clinic. Anemia and diminished iron levels are common problems for individuals with CKD. Nephrology Associates offers in-office subcutaneous injections of the drug Aranesp and intravenous infusions of the drug Venofer in Syracuse to help patients avoid the need for blood transfusions.
  • A vaccination program. CKD can weaken the immune system, leaving patients vulnerable to infections, including hepatitis B. Nephrology Associates offers vaccinations for hepatitis B, flu and other viruses.
  • Medical nutritional counseling. Available with a physician’s referral, a registered dietitian can meet with patients to discuss how to read food labels and offer tips for managing sodium, protein and potassium intake — important components of living with CKD.
  • Education for patients and families. “Kidney disease, especially CKD, can be a burden psychologically, physically and financially, so we offer educational programs facilitated by our physician extenders,” Dr. Oguntola says. “When patients and families have questions, these programs provide an opportunity for them to get answers, as well as learn about what kidney disease entails, what lifestyle adjustments to prepare for, insurance issues, the transplantation process and more.”

Patients with stage 4 CKD and their families can enroll in a series of six educational workshops offered by a nurse practitioner and physician assistants. The program covers all aspects of CKD, including complications and treatment options.

A Valuable Addition

After a two-year associate affiliation with Nephrology Associates of Syracuse PC, nephrologist Antoine Azar, MD, recently became a partner, joining a physician team that also includes nephrologists Adebowale Oguntola, MD, Philip Ondocin, MD, Matthew Chaffin, MD, Simardeep Mangat, MD, and Bala Murthy, MD.

Dr. Azar was a hospitalist at Crouse Health for several years prior to joining Nephrology Associates. His experience with hospital medicine gave him valuable insight into the care of patients hospitalized for kidney disease that serves him well in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

“My colleagues and I were able to work with and observe Dr. Azar for several years, as we have privileges at Crouse Health,” Dr. Oguntola says. “We were able to see how he interacted with our colleagues and patients. Medicine is not just about knowledge — one has to be able to collaborate with people. Dr. Azar possesses that ability, and we felt he would be a good fit for Nephrology Associates. We’re pleased he has joined us as a partner.”

Forging an Independent Future

As Nephrology Associates looks toward the future and the milestone of a half-century of serving patients in Central New York, it plans to remain true to its past and present in an important respect: retaining its status as an independent, private practice. That, Dr. Ondocin says, is key to its ability to offer the best possible care to patients.

“We value our independence,” he says. “If we were owned by another entity, it might sway how many patients we could see or how long they could stay in the hospital. Staying independent helps us maintain our quality and allows us to treat patients as we see fit. As a result, we’re able to deliver consistently excellent care.”

For Dr. Oguntola, the challenge and opportunity of the future is for Nephrology Associates to enhance its services while maintaining a culture where everyone — from physicians to midlevel providers to administrators — is free to grow and apply his or her talents to improve patient care.

(l-r)- Alyssa Miles, PA, Tracy O’Neill, PA, Marcia Ryder, NP, and Matthew Kertesz, RD

“The success of our medical practice is built on the efforts of our clinical and administrative staff in collaboration with our physicians. Dr. Oguntola believes the practice is up to the task,” says Anne Zaccheo, MBA, FACMPE, Practice Administrator, echoing the sentiments of Dr. Oguntola.

“When you’re engaged in work that you’re passionate about and feel empowered to do it, that’s the foundation for great care,” Dr. Oguntola says. “We will continue to operate in a way that helps us stand out as excellent clinicians who enjoy serving our community.”

For more information about Nephrology Associates, visit nephrologysyracuse.com or call 315-478-3311.