Client spotlight: Dr. Kumapley Lartevi, The Convenient Clinic

July 25, 2023 | 5 minute read

A doctor in a white coat and tie

During Dr. Kumapley Lartevi’s family medicine residency, some of his colleagues—preparing for lucrative careers as physicians—were dubious when he shared his dream of starting a health clinic for low-income patients. In his rotation at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. — a busy hospital and the only one convenient to residents in the neighborhood — he’d noticed an opportunity to provide primary care to underserved patients.

 

However, his colleagues doubted that he could build a financially sustainable operation in an environment of scarce resources and low reimbursements from insurers — one where many established physicians were selling private practices to larger entities. “In fairness, they weren’t laughing at me, or at my dream,” he says. “In that landscape, why would somebody endeavor to do such a thing that seemed almost like professional suicide?”

 

Dr. Lartevi learned to tune out those skeptics and embraced a “watch me do this” attitude in response. The questions of his doubters “lit a passion within me, one where there was simply no turning back,” he says.

 

Dr. Lartevi, who had no previous experience in running a business, learned as he went along with the guidance of Pam Chareon, his small business banker at Bank of America, and with the bank’s easy-to-use digital platforms and merchant services to keep the practice’s finances humming. Working with Chareon, whom, he says, “has a big heart for people,” he was able to access Paycheck Protection Program funds when the COVID-19 pandemic hit shortly after he launched the clinic, and thus keep the doors open. “Having such a solid and stable banking partner has been critical given the financial strains of starting a clinic along with the inherent uncertainties of entrepreneurship,” he says.

 

Today, the board-certified family medicine physician runs The Convenient Clinic, a practice in Washington, D.C. with the mission of bringing high-quality primary and urgent medical care to underserved residents in the nation’s capital. “Our slogan is ‘Quick-Kind-Quality-CARE,’ and we’ve held ourselves to that,” he says.

 

The Convenient Clinic serves hundreds of patients every month with the help of a medical assistant and radiology technician who are also willing to wear whatever hats are needed to keep the clinic running smoothly.

 

A leap of faith

Dr. Lartevi’s dream had its roots in his childhood. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to West African parents, he and his three siblings were raised by his hard-working mother in Montgomery County, Maryland, part of the D.C. metropolitan area. During that time, Dr. Lartevi saw firsthand the struggles of low-income neighbors in his community who didn’t have ready access to healthcare or who found that local providers weren’t welcoming to them. “My experiences serve as the basis for values I hold dearly in my work as a physician,” he says.

 

Picking up shifts at local urgent care facilities to support his family after medical school, Dr. Lartevi tucked away every extra dollar he could to open the clinic, saving for nearly a decade. “I never drove a car that cost more than $10,000,” he says.

 

He finally opened the clinic in 2019, leasing a downtown space of a little over 1,000 square feet for several thousand dollars a month. To serve more patients in the three exam rooms, he divided the largest one with a hospital-style curtain.

 

During the clinic’s early months, Dr. Lartevi focused on doing immigration physicals, something many residents needed. This provided a steady flow of revenue that allowed the clinic to keep going. Gradually, he set himself up to accept Medicaid reimbursements and partnered with local managed care organizations, which allowed him to treat more patients and improved financial stability. He also held health screening events for the community to raise awareness of the clinic.

 

With a limited staff, Dr. Lartevi decided to focus on the services that would have the greatest impact on the community: primary and urgent care. He referred patients needing more complex care to specialists.

 

To create a welcoming environment, Dr. Lartevi hired from the local community, looking for team members who share his passion for delivering care to underserved, marginalized communities. “You can’t teach compassion,” he says. “That usually comes through someone’s life experience.”

 

"My experiences serve as the basis for values I hold dearly in my work as a physician."

Just as the clinic began to hit its stride, the pandemic hit. During the lockdowns, many patients stayed home, and revenue slowed. “The big question was whether to stay the course or abandon ship,” he says. He eventually made the decision to show up to the clinic when needed, while picking up outside shifts at an urgent care facility. “My sole focus was to survive financially to live out the clinic’s mission — on top of the fact that I had a family to take care of,” he says

 

He also picked up shifts at hotels that had temporarily been turned into shelters to protect vulnerable populations from the effects of the pandemic. “That was educational in terms of my understanding of the broader set of needs that exist in the community,” he says.

 

Now that the practice is thriving, Dr. Lartevi is looking for opportunities to expand to two or three clinics. Although the business environment for independent clinics remains challenging, he is committed to his vision.

 

“I truly believe we live in the greatest society in the world,” he says. “As such, we should exemplify that greatness with how we care for all people, including marginalized, underserved communities.”

 

To learn how we can help, make an appointment with a Bank of America small business banker.

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