The newest member of the DMU Board of Trustees brings to the University decades of business experience and acumen.
By any measure, Bernard Swift Jr., D.O.’76, M.P.H., took a big risk in 1982 when he launched a practice using a then-relatively new model of medical care. The economy was in a severe and deepening recession. He had no formal business training other than a couple of undergraduate classes. However, perhaps he’d inherited certain genes from his entrepreneurial father. Or maybe it helped that he was “young, fearless” and a physician, a profession that attracts individuals who “tend to be very independent.”
The most likely factor, however, was that his business, at its core, has always been patient-centered. Texas MedClinic began with one urgent care clinic in San Antonio and has since grown to 20 urgent care locations across south central Texas that employ 95 physicians and nurse practitioners and 450 staff who treat approximately five million patients.
“Back in those days, physicians operated out of offices connected to hospitals. That was created for the convenience of physicians but was inconvenient for patients,” says Swift, a Diplomat of the American Board of Preventive Medicine in Occupational Medicine who joined the DMU Board of Trustees this year. “We offered medical care in a retail center rather than a medical center.”
That initially raised eyebrows. “When I put up a big neon sign in a shopping center, I had inquiries about what I was doing. My parents came down when we opened, and my mother was beside herself seeing that type of advertising – physicians just didn’t do that,” he says. “It eventually loosened the rules governing what physicians could do in advertising.”
Urgent care clinics serve patients with illness or injury when their regular doctors aren’t available and they can’t wait for an appointment, but they don’t require a trip to an emergency room. The concept took time to be broadly understood and accepted, Swift says.
“It was a deviation from the standard way of practice, so there was uncertainty among physicians,” he adds. “‘Doc in a box’ was used as a derogatory term, as if we were doctors who couldn’t get jobs elsewhere, but I knew that wasn’t true. We just kept plodding along.”
The company’s first clinic was staffed by Swift; his wife, Kathy, a pharmacist; and a handful of other employees. He handled the business side and saw all the patients. “I was young and energetic and have an understanding wife,” he says. He now focuses primarily on business operations.
Texas MedClinic provided key services from the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company had ample supplies of personal protective equipment and tests early on so was able to “protect our staff and see patients,” he says.
That underscores the important role urgent care plays in health care. Texas MedClinic’s success is further supported by the continued patient focus at its clinics, all of which are physician-owned.
“That’s extremely important for us, knowing decisions are made with patients in mind first,” Swift says. “We met a need for convenient, accessible care for patients where they wanted it.”