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Tupelo pediatric clinic offers subspecialty care near home

Published on Thursday, January 22, 2015

By: Ruth Cummins .

The community collaboration that has made possible a new specialty pediatric clinic in North Mississippi will allow the region’s children to stay close to home for higher levels of care.

The clinic at Tupelo’s Journal Business Park, which formally opens Friday, is staffed by three pediatric specialists through a partnership between the University of Mississippi Medical Center and North Mississippi Medical Center. Children will be able to receive care in subspecialties including cardiology and endocrinology – and even more subspecialty pediatricians are being recruited to practice there.


“It’s so much more than a clinic,” Dr. Rick Barr, the Suzan B. Thames professor and chair of pediatrics, told more than 100 people gathered Wednesday for the clinic’s ribbon-cutting. “Our focus is to touch the lives of every child in Mississippi, and to make sure kids get the best care, at the best time, at the best location. 

“We don’t want them to leave Mississippi to get care. They can get it right here.”

Children’s of Mississippi, part of UMMC, encompasses all pediatric services available at UMMC and its Batson Children’s Hospital and at clinical sites throughout Mississippi, including the new clinic in Tupelo. 

The clinic’s physicians are Dr. Jessica Sparks Lilley, a pediatric endocrinologist and faculty member at UMMC’s School of Medicine; and Dr. Salwa Gendi, a pediatric, fetal and congenital cardiologist also on the UMMC faculty. Drs. Lilley and Gendi have relocated their clinic practice from NMMC’s East Tower to the new clinic on Service Drive.

In addition to the subspecialty clinic offerings, Dr. Jana Sperka, a pediatric hospitalist with Children’s of Mississippi, this month began providing care for children at North Mississippi Medical Center’s pediatrics unit. That unit moved in September from the main hospital to NMMC’s Women’s Hospital.

Julie Sparks, nurse coordinator at Children's of Mississippi's new Tupelo clinic, gives a tour of the facility to Chauncey Godwin (center), chair of the Tupelo Community Development Foundation; and Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton.
Julie Sparks, nurse coordinator at Children's of Mississippi's new Tupelo clinic, gives a tour of the facility to Chauncey Godwin (center), chair of the Tupelo Community Development Foundation; and Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton.

“We are the state’s children’s hospital, and that carries responsibility to the whole state. It’s not just about Jackson,” Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi, told the crowd. “Our goal is to make a difference for children and families in North Mississippi through our medical care.

“This is just a start. We have lots of good work ahead of us.”

UMMC’s added presence in Tupelo provides more room to grow pediatric services. A second full-time pediatric hospitalist will join the staff this summer. NMMC pediatricians will continue to care for babies in the nursery, and neonatologists will continue care for fragile newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 


“We have similar visions,” Shane Spees, CEO of North Mississippi Health Services, said of the hospital’s relationship with UMMC and Children’s of Mississippi. “Just as theirs is to improve the health of children, ours is to take care of all the people in our region.”

Unfortunately, Spees said, families of a number of children in the Tupelo area have left the state and sought treatment in Memphis or other larger markets. “We see this as an opportunity to keep these children here for health care,” Spees said. “We think we can keep two-thirds of those children here.”

The new clinic also will offer the services of UMMC cardiologists who will treat older teens who are no longer kids, but require continued care for childhood congenital heart diseases as they become young adults. They’ll staff the new clinic the first Tuesday of every month, said Camille Richards, a family nurse practitioner and director of UMMC’s adult congenital and structural heart programs.


Over the past year, Lilley said, she and other pediatricians have cared for hundreds of children at NMMC’s hospital tower. 

“For them to have to travel for treatment … That’s a shame,” she said. “To have the state’s only children’s hospital be paired together (with NMMC) is a unique opportunity. We have a convenient location for families, and we hope to expand our offerings.”