Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane Gastroenterology partners in clinical research

Similar studies conducted in Boise, Salt Lake City

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-—Kevin Blocker
Spokane Gastroenterology’s Dr. Harold Preiksaitis established his own practice in 2016 and moved it to Spokane’s South Perry District a little over a year ago.

Two Spokane-area medical experts have partnered with a clinical research outfit in search of volunteers interested in contributing to medical advancements in gastroenterology.

Advanced Clinical Research has partnered with Spokane Gastroenterology principal Dr. Harold Preiksaitis and physician’s assistant Clinton Hedges to conduct clinic research studies.

ACR has been conducting clinical research in Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho, since 1984. ACR serves as a support to the medical community in pursuit of medical advancements.

The research will focus on people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, Clostridium difficile, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, ACR says in a press release announcing the partnership.

Anyone is welcome to see if they qualify for a current or future research study. No medical insurance or payments are necessary to participate in clinical trials.

All volunteers are compensated for traveling to Preiksaitis’ office on the second floor of Spokane Gastroenterology, located at 907 S. Perry, on the South Hill.

“They actually approached me a couple of years ago, but at the time, I was busy developing this facility,” Preiksaitis says. “Eventually, we got things up and running. In Canada, I was an academic and involved in basic research as well as clinical trial research, and I always enjoyed that aspect of things.”

Preiksaitis has been a practicing gastroenterologist and liver specialist for more than 20 years. He graduated from McGill University, in Montreal, and received his gastroenterology specialty certification from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Hedges has been practicing gastroenterology with a focus on liver diseases for more than 15 years here. He earned his Master of Science in physician assistant studies at the Arizona School of Health Sciences.

“It helps to keep you intellectually sharp to be at the developing end of your specialty,” Preiksaitis says of participating in clinical trials while also operating a practice.

He adds, “It also provides more options for your patients, particularly patients who struggle with the cost of their health care.”

ACR provides the infrastructure for smaller practices who aren’t affiliated with a large health care provider or a university research system like Spokane Gastroenterology, which has two medical assistants, two part-time nurses, two nurse anesthetists, and a receptionist, he says.

The medical office has 2,500 square feet of space dedicated to ambulatory procedures with 1,600 square feet of clinic space. Preiksaitis designed the space to accommodate another two to three endoscopists.

“Whether we get there, we’ll see,” he says.

Preiksaitis performs procedures two days a week, Thursday and Friday, and one Saturday per month. The majority of procedures performed are upper endoscopies for patients with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease, heartburn, and difficulty swallowing food, he says.

Preiksaitis says he has a particular interest and expertise in treating patients with swallowing issues.

“When I started my career as a gastroenterologist, when I was on call, I’d be called in for gastrointestinal bleeding,” he says. “Now, the most common reason I’m called in to the hospital is because someone has a piece of food stuck in their esophagus. That’s been kind of a universal thing among gastroenterologists and we don’t exactly know why.”

Preiksaitis established Spokane Gastroenterology in 2016 and moved it into its current location a little more than a year ago.

Spokane Gastroenterology is classified as an ambulatory surgery center, though Preiksaitis notes that surgery isn’t performed at the site.

“This is more an ambulatory endoscopy facility,” he says. “I would estimate that over 95% of patients with GI problems are treated in an outpatient setting.”

Since opening, Spokane Gastroenterology has forged a partnership with the University of Washington’s Liver Clinic.

Since the summer, two hepatologists from the university’s liver clinic trade off coming to Spokane one Monday per month to meet with patients at Spokane Gastroenterology. Hedges also is a half-time UW employee.

Preiksaitis says Spokane Gastroenterology prides itself on providing services with high expertise in a comfortable environment.

“One of the things we’re trying to achieve is to not make people feel like they’re going to a hospital or a big medical center,” he says. “We wanted to kind of get more of a spa feel, if you can pretend it is.”

Located in the South Perry District, Spokane Gastroenterology is across the street from Grant Elementary School and Grant Park. Spokane Gastroenterology’s office is down the block from the Spokane Buddhist Temple, which is across 10th Street from South Perry Pizza.

“Soothing colors on the inside in a neighborhood where you don’t have to wind through big parkades wondering where you left you car,” Preiksaitis says of his practice’s surrounding.

He adds, “Anytime you’re going to see a doctor it’s stressful, and particularly if you’re going to see a doctor for, let’s face it, for some people, an embarrassing but invasive procedure nonetheless,” he says.

Spokane Gastroenterology offers patients a playlist of music to listen to during their visits.

“Dire Straits and Supertramp … that is our age group, 50-plus,” he says.

Spokane Gastroenterology is certified by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. Before starting his own practice, Preiksaitis was a gastroenterology physician at Kootenai Clinic Gastroenterology, in Coeur d’Alene. 

Earlier, he operated a practice in the former Rockwood Health System prior to its acquisition by MultiCare Health System.

Preiksaitis moved to Spokane from London, Ontario, where he was a medical faculty member at the university there.

“My wife and I sort of had a shared midlife crisis,” he says of their decision to relocate to Spokane 16 years ago.

“I visited Spokane when the World’s Fair was on in 1974,” Preiksaitis says. He and his brother decided to complete a Pacific Northwest road trip through the U.S. and Canadian provinces that year and landed here during their tour.

“Spokane was lovely. It was turned out for the World’s Fair; it seemed like such a cool place,” he says. “I never thought years later that I’d actually end up living here.”

Kevin Blocker
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