Holmesburg family practice expands

  • Bigger and better: Dr. Joseph Pongonis recently opened a new 15,000-square-foot addition to his family practice on Frankford Avenue. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • Bigger and better: Dr. Joseph Pongonis recently opened a new 15,000-square-foot addition to his family practice on Frankford Avenue. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • Bigger and better: Dr. Joseph Pongonis recently opened a new 15,000-square-foot addition to his family practice on Frankford Avenue. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

For 32 years, Dr. Joseph Pon­gonis has been keep­ing the fam­il­ies of Holmes­burg phys­ic­ally healthy. Now he’s work­ing on the eco­nom­ic health of the neigh­bor­hood.

Pon­gonis re­cently opened a new 15,000-square-foot ad­di­tion to his fam­ily prac­tice on Frank­ford Av­en­ue, just north of Rhawn Street, and has or­ches­trated the renov­a­tion and re­devel­op­ment of an ad­di­tion­al 32,000 square feet of med­ic­al of­fice space along the av­en­ue. The total in­vest­ment will amount to about $7 mil­lion by year’s end.

The doc­tor’s mis­sion is to cre­ate the North­east’s first “fully in­teg­rated med­ic­al cen­ter” with ur­gent care, primary care, spe­cialty care and phys­ic­al ther­apy all offered on a three-acre tract of formerly com­mer­cial real es­tate. He’s call­ing it The Cen­ter for Med­ic­al Ex­cel­lence.

Pon­gonis has also brought a car­di­olo­gist, a fam­ily dent­ist, a phar­macy and a blood-work lab to the block. Sep­ar­ately, Harry J. Lawall & Son, spe­cial­iz­ing in pros­thet­ics and or­thot­ics, re­cently ren­ov­ated its med­ic­al of­fices on both sides of the street.

“This is turn­ing in­to the med­ic­al mall here on the 8000 block of Frank­ford Av­en­ue,” Pon­gonis said.

The doc­tor has spent his en­tire ca­reer help­ing the people of Holmes­burg. A Rhawn­hurst nat­ive, Pon­gonis, 61, gradu­ated from Fath­er Judge High School and St. Joseph’s Uni­versity. He then gradu­ated from the Phil­adelphia Col­lege of Os­teo­path­ic Medi­cine and set up his prac­tice in fa­mil­i­ar ter­rit­ory, the former Schwartz Fur­niture Store at 8019 Frank­ford Ave.

He’s been the phys­i­cian to gen­er­a­tions of loc­al fam­il­ies.

“I am treat­ing the grand­par­ents, par­ents, the chil­dren and the chil­dren’s chil­dren now,” he said. “One thing about fam­ily medi­cine is you get those re­la­tion­ships with fam­il­ies that are really grat­i­fy­ing to the phys­i­cian.”

Pon­gonis has long ex­er­cised a keen in­terest in the polit­ics of medi­cine, too. He has served as chair­man of the Phil­adelphia Med­ic­al So­ci­ety and on the board of the Pennsylvania Med­ic­al So­ci­ety. He’s tried to re­main on the fore­front of the ef­fort to make med­ic­al care more af­ford­able to pa­tients.

“There’s been a lot of talk of mech­an­isms to im­prove pa­tient care while re­du­cing costs,” he said. “The mod­el al­ways has been an em­phas­is on hos­pit­als and spe­cialty care and that has proven to be very costly.”

The new Frank­ford Av­en­ue med­ic­al cen­ter will em­ploy the in­teg­rated care mod­el with a full range of ser­vices es­sen­tially un­der one roof. Pa­tients with non-life threat­en­ing in­jur­ies can opt for ur­gent care rather than a trip to a hos­pit­al emer­gency room and pay per­haps one-third the costs without sac­ri­fi­cing qual­ity.

Though not op­er­a­tion­al yet, Pon­gonis’ ur­gent care fa­cil­ity will be open about 100 hours per week.

The new primary care cen­ter will in­clude about 10 doc­tors and be known as EPIC Phys­i­cians Group, with “EPIC” rep­res­ent­ing “ex­cel­lence in primary care.” Pre­vi­ously, Pon­gonis prac­ticed with three oth­er fam­ily doc­tors.

About 15 spe­cial­ists will com­prise the cen­ter’s new spe­cialty care unit on the second floor of the newly con­struc­ted of­fice build­ing. The space is next door to Wells Fargo bank and is on the site of a former re­alty of­fice op­er­ated by Fran­cis P. Rueter. Pon­gonis had the old build­ing de­mol­ished.

Pro­gress Phys­ic­al Ther­apy oc­cu­pies much of the first floor un­der the dir­ec­tion of an­oth­er Judge gradu­ate, John Mo­hol­len. The cen­ter has a large fit­ness area, a hand ther­apy de­part­ment and an End­less Pool for aquat­ic ther­apy.

The en­tire med­ic­al com­plex will keep about 250 people em­ployed. The doc­tor’s own neph­ew, Son­nie Pon­gonis, over­saw con­struc­tion through his com­pany, Pon­gonis Prop­erty Man­age­ment and Con­struc­tion.

“Most of the people we hire are dir­ectly from the neigh­bor­hood,” Dr. Pon­gonis said.

Some in­teri­or spaces of the new build­ing aren’t quite fin­ished yet. The build-out is ex­pec­ted to wrap up by the new year. A grand open­ing health fair will likely hap­pen next spring.

But the doc­tor and his col­leagues have already been re­ceiv­ing pos­it­ive feed­back from the com­munity. The loc­al civic as­so­ci­ation has been sup­port­ive, Pon­gonis said, while neigh­bor­ing mer­chants have been get­ting more vis­it­ors.

“The loc­al busi­nesses have already thanked me for the in­crease in volume from our activ­it­ies,” Pon­gonis said. “They’ve said it’s an im­prove­ment to the block and the en­tire Holmes­burg area.” ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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