Kidney Care at Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC Remains Focused on Patients

By Cari Wade Gervin
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Specialty: 

Despite a less than ideal 2020, Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC is looking ahead to the future.


The Team at Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC

As Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC began its 42nd year in business in January 2020, the future seemed as bright as it had ever been. A massive renovation was in the works. There were plans to add telemedicine to the practice to help improve ongoing outreach to rural patients.

And then came March — and the coronavirus pandemic.

“No one could have ever imagined what this pandemic would be like,” says Matthew Chaffin, MD, a nephrologist and the compliance officer for Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC. “It significantly altered how we took care of people.”

But after months of logistical challenges, Nephrology Associates of Syracuse has adjusted to the new normal. The team continues to provide management and treatment of advanced kidney disease, while leveraging telemedicine and remote mobile care teams to bridge the gap between cautious patients and in-office care.

“I think this was a good stress test,” says Adebowale Oguntola, MD, President of Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC and Medical Director of DaVita Kidney Care Central New York Dialysis Center. “The pandemic highlighted one of our key strengths — teamwork.”

“It’s satisfying to take care of complex problems and help patients feel better and to know we are making a difference in their life.”
— Matthew Chaffin, MD, nephrologist and compliance officer, Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC

Left to right: Jacquelyn Spencer, NP; Marcia Van Buren, NP; Tracy O’Neill, PA; Joanna Woodruff, NP; and Alyssa Miles, PA

Personalized Care for Kidney Disease

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, Nephrology Associates of Syracuse continues to be on the forefront of kidney disease management and treatment. The practice specializes in the treatment of chronic kidney disease, providing care for patients with diabetes-related kidney issues, high blood pressure and anemia, as well as those on dialysis and those who have had a kidney transplant.

“When you combine passion with training and excellence in what you do, it’s very powerful,” Dr. Oguntola says. “It’s contagious. People see that, and they feel that, and they have a sense of wanting to be part of something greater.”

At Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC, physicians personally see their patients on a regular basis. Nephrologists such as Dr. Chaffin may develop years-long relationships with patients.

“The reason why I became a nephrologist was because you could see one patient and follow them for years,” Dr. Chaffin says. “I know many of my patients so well that when I open the door and I walk in and I look at their face, I can tell if something’s going on,” Dr. Chaffin says. “I like that personal interaction with the patients. At the same time, it’s quite satisfying to treat complex problems and help patients feel better and to know that we are making a difference in their lives.”

Collaborative Approaches to Complexity

At Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC, most patients have multiple comorbidities, which can make care complicated at times. The nephrologists must stay aware of each patient’s status and treatment plan in terms of heart function, blood sugar and many other medical indicators.

“We remain in contact with multiple care providers about each patient,” Dr. Chaffin says. “And some cases are complicated enough that we see a patient frequently — sometimes once a month.”

This collaborative and personalized approach to care is what makes Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC different, as providers constantly work closely with both patients and other healthcare organizations to create integrated care for each patient. The six board-certified physicians on staff share similar philosophies and often consult with one another, too.

“We care deeply about our patients,” Dr. Oguntola says. “We enjoy collaboratively working together to provide excellent care. And when we collaborate with other specialties, people respect us because of the excellence we strive for.”

“Nephrologists are very independent-minded people,” Dr. Chaffin adds. “To have a large group of nephrologists who all can work together and believe the same philosophy is unusual. It’s one of the reasons I came to Syracuse.”

“When you combine passion with training and excellence in what you do, it’s very powerful. It’s contagious. People see that, and they feel that.”
— Adebowale Oguntola, MD, President of Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC and medical director of DaVita Kidney Care Central New York Dialysis Center


Matthew Chaffin, MD, Compliance Officer


Adebowale Oguntola, MD, President


Phillip Ondocin, MD


Anne Zaccheo, MBA, FACMPE, Practice Director at Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC and President at New York Medical Group Management Association

Continuing Care During COVID-19

After the onset of the pandemic, the practice modified workflows and adopted protocols to ensure safety and health precautions for both patients and staff.

“Every member of the group rolled up their sleeves,” Dr. Oguntola says. “We were able to restructure the workflow with the appropriate screenings and CDC guidance. The staff were unbelievably amazing and continued to work under hard conditions with a good attitude.”

Despite the safety protocols, many patients stayed away.

“Very few people were willing to come to the office for about two months, appropriately afraid of catching COVID-19,” Dr. Chaffin says. “That set the practice back. When patients started to return, however, we were overwhelmed trying to catch up on two months’ worth of patients who hadn’t been seen.”

Toward the end of 2020, the team continues to see patients who have delayed care since March, sometimes to deleterious effects.

Implementing telemedicine started as a challenge due to the nature of nephrology care. The technology allowed for safe, remote visits but could not meet nephrology patients’ need for detailed physical exams and lab work. Additionally, some patients had difficulty adapting to the medium.

“Many of our patients are over age 65, so the practice helped patients acclimate to the technology in order to complete telemedicine appointments,” says Anne Zaccheo, MBA, FACMPE, Practice Director of Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC. “Through creative thinking and patience, the practice identified appointment alternatives and offered multiple telemedicine options to allow for audio and visual communication in an attempt to meet each patient’s care needs.”

Zaccheo is also the President of the New York Medical Group Management Association (NY MGMA), “an active association of professional medical group practice leaders from all across New York […] whose members are dedicated to the advancement of group practice management through educational programs and the exchange of information and knowledge among and between colleagues.” Zaccheo shares that the practice benefitted from the sharing of local best practices and collaborative problem solving related to COVID-19 and other practice challenges among other healthcare practice leaders in NYMGMA.

As the pandemic spread, the practice began offering private blood draws for transplant patients who were nervous to go to the office, a practice that they still continue. Nephrology Associates of Syracuse also continues to operate satellite locations in Camillus, Fayetteville, Fulton and Vernon to provide access to nephrological care for patients without a mode of transportation. A mobile team consisting of a physician, advanced practice provider, medical assistant and phlebotomist travels together to ensure ongoing care is available to patients.

“Providing access to rural areas and to patients who are unable to travel to the main office is an important value and priority for the practice,” Zaccheo says.

Renovations — and Innovations — Continue

The renovations at Nephrology Associates of Syracuse will better support the new workflows and provide an enhanced patient experience. There will be a new clinical laboratory, a new blood draw room, two new patient bathrooms, a renovated waiting room, a new reception area, two new bariatric exam rooms, a new medical assistant area and a new break room for employees.

“Our goal is to enhance the patient experience and improve collaboration among team members,” Zaccheo says. “The changes will enable our team to further optimize clinical workflows and enhance communication, as well as upgrade the office and work environment for patients, staff and providers.”


Learn more about Nephrology Associates of Syracuse, PC at nephrologysyracuse.com.