In Part 1 of our blog series on Direct Imaging founder and neurosurgeon Dave Atteberry, we discussed the childhood journey that steered him into the healthcare industry. In this second part of the series, we’ll uncover what drew Dave to Yakima and the wild ride that led to the current incarnation of Direct Imaging X-ray and radiology services.
Moving to Yakima, WA and Establishing a Diagnostic Imaging Center
At this point in his life, Dave’s parents were retired and living in Oregon. He found this new Northwest locale intriguing, so he interviewed for a job in Washington state. The healthcare center’s pitch was “come practice in paradise – Washington’s wine country.” It was a good pitch, if not appropriate. Yakima, Washington reminded Dave of agribusiness-based Fresno, California, and its surrounding cities, where he grew up. They had only a single large community hospital and one urban hospital. He was hired by the former to lead the neurosurgery program, where he worked for about a year. Yet, he still felt like an employee, yearning to have more control over his daily life and make his own decisions, so he decided he would stretch his wings as an entrepreneur.
In 2010, Dave began Frontier Neurosurgery, where he has worked – in its many incarnations – to this day. Dave operated Frontier Neurosurgery solo for six months, later to be joined by Dr. Hoan Tran, a technically gifted Vietnamese neurosurgeon with a wonderful personality. Dr. Tran attended med school in the Caribbean and residency in Albuquerque, New Mexico, training under a pair of Dave’s former colleagues at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The pair practiced side-by-side for five years, growing the business. They saw thousands of patients and performed hundreds of surgeries. Their little practice grew so fast, they got the grandiose idea of Direct Imaging – a diagnostic imaging center to serve Yakima Valley and surrounding areas.
The Birth of Direct Imaging Radiology in Yakima
Dave and Dr. Tran came up with the idea to open an imaging center across from their neurosurgery practice. But not long after, in 2015, Dr. Tran left unexpectedly, leaving Dave with a rather large overhead for the new facilities and all the imaging equipment it housed. The financial burden his friend left was hard to shoulder. It was difficult to get neurosurgeons excited about moving to Yakima unless they had a yearning to practice in the Pacific Northwest. Luckily, they had a good marketing team. At a medical conference Dave attended, the website for his practice, Nova Health, was one of three that was highlighted for its quality and the fact that it made the business look much larger than it was. It showcased a vast service line, including neurosurgery, endocrinology, podiatry, and plastic surgery. This piqued Sunnyside/Astria Community Hospital’s interest in the company, facilitating the sale of Dave’s practice.
Trouble for the Availability of Affordable Imaging Solutions in Yakima
The relationship with Sunnyside/Astria went well at first, and Nova Health thrived. Then, in 2019, Sunnyside/Astria filed for bankruptcy. With the limited surgical subspecialty care options remaining at the urban facility in town, residents had to drive an hour and twenty minutes to get care or work in nearby facilities. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Dave and the community. During the bankruptcy process, he was able to retain ownership of the practice, Nova Health, to meet community needs, reorganizing it and renaming the entity Direct Imaging PC. The business was once again separated from the hospital and Dave went out on his own again with the desire to be prudent and limit future financial liability tied to the bankruptcy. He was also excited about the opportunity Direct Imaging presented in filling critical needs in Yakima Valley’s healthcare marketplace.
How did founder Dave Atteberry not only keep Direct Imaging afloat, but expand its healthcare services following bankruptcy? Find out in part 3 of our Direct Imaging Owner Interview blog series.