South Sound Radiology (SSR) is excited to announce its January, 2018 merger with Radia Inc., PS. (Radia), one of the largest and most progressive radiology groups in the nation, centered right here in the Northwest. Together, we are one of the largest 100% radiologist owned and operated group in the nation. SSR has always been community focused and will continue to be the hometown radiology practice with the philosophy of “our family caring for your family,” that they have had for decades in the South Sound region.
When Dr. William Mikkelson came to Olympia in 1963, times were different. “He used to go out to Mason General Hospital on his workdays and things were slow enough that during his lunch period he could go fishing,” says Dr. Tremont Parrino, a current radiologist in the practice. “He’s a brilliant man who knows how to do everything from fishing to mushroom hunting to growing yeast cultures for bread. Apparently, he brought that same approach to his work.”
These days, spare moments are few and far between at the practice, which has grown substantially since it opened. Mikkelson and many of his colleagues have since retired and new doctors have joined. Imaging assistant and transcriptionist Janine Hansen has been with SSR for over 27 years and remembers when there were just six radiologists. Today, there are 30 local radiologists and nearly 200 within Radia “We’re so big now, but some things haven’t changed,” she says. “We’ve always taken that extra step for patients and the staff are really like a family.”
Company culture is one of the reasons SSR has such high employee retention. Technologist and MRI supervisor Eric Williams started with the practice 29 years ago. “There’s true teamwork and camaraderie when it comes to doing the right thing for patient care,” says Williams. “Even with the changes that have gone on, the same mindset has stayed. Other places I worked before I came here were strictly business-minded. I recognize that this place is a rarity.”
One of those changes occurred in late 2013, when Stephanie Dirckx became the Executive Director. While radiology companies are not well-known as a rule, it quickly became apparent to her that the community was aware of SSR. “A lady at church held me by both hands and wanted to know about all my qualifications. I think she wanted to be sure that I wasn’t going to ruin a good thing,” says Dirckx.
Part of the reason for SSR’s name recognition is that while it provides services for Capital Medical Center, Providence St. Peter Hospital, Providence Centralia Hospital, Mason General Hospital, Summit Pacific Medical Center, Morton General Hospital and other medical groups, it has its own imaging center. Also, says Parrino, the practice is known for its commitment to community. “We sponsor and participate in a lot of local events. There’s always been a sense that our duty goes far beyond just taking care of patients into working with the community.”
Another factor is the nature of their work, which brings them into regular contact with patients. “We do interventional procedures where we have people who are dedicated to very high-level interventions, whether it’s cancer therapies or creating venous access or stopping bleeding,” says Parrino. “At the imaging center, we do a lot of breast and thyroid biopsies and procedures for mitigating pain.”
Parrino enjoys talking with patients during procedures, in part as a distraction for them, but also out of genuine interest. “A lot of times patients won’t even realize that I’ve finished the procedure. I’ll try to talk about what’s important to them whether it’s family stories or something else,” he shares. Over the years, he’s learned about local people who have amazing stories to share about the things they’ve done throughout their lives. “If you just conduct the procedure and you never talk to people, you never learn anything. If you take the time to talk to them, your life becomes much richer.”
And now, the SSR family is much bigger. For the past several years, the leadership team has been observing the healthcare market and focusing on strategic planning. “We looked at if and how we wanted to affiliate with a larger group,” says Dirckx. After a diligent search for a partner that was closely aligned with its culture and values, SSR made the decision to join Radia.
“Early in the discussions between South Sound Radiology and Radia it was apparent that both groups shared the core values of delivering high quality, patient centered care, and strong commitment to the community and the referring providers we serve,” shares Lisa West, Chief Operating Officer at Radia. “We are really looking forward to working with this amazing team and excited about what we will be able to do together.”
Dirckx agrees with West that SSR and Radia are a solid pairing. “One thing that was really important to us was to maintain the private practice model in an organization that values the importance of relationships with the hospitals, the referring physicians, the patients and the community. We wanted an organization that is patient-focused, physician-led and professionally managed and, with Radia, we found it.”
SSR will retain its name and location, but offer expanded service support for patients and the medical community. “One of the reasons we’re joining Radia is because they offer the same sub-specialties that we do, but there are far more of them, so we can cover those areas of expertise 24/7,” says Parrino.
The company also brings cutting edge technology which will benefit patients over the long term, Dirckx explains. “Radia is big enough to be able to explore and implement innovative technologies. We’ve always been known in the community for bringing in new imaging technologies, and this relationship will only strengthen and expand our ability to do that. Radia also has a sophisticated IT infrastructure that will make visits more efficient for patients and offer value-added services to our hospitals.”
While SSR will gain structural support and technology, Radia will also benefit from the merger, according to Dr. Lloyd Stambaugh. “We’re excited to partner with South Sound Radiology and we’re honored to join with such a respected group of physicians to care for local patients.”