Nurse opens clinic to fill Westside’s medical needs

As a Black female nurse practitioner, Ariel Esteves breaks the mold of what a clinic owner looks like

Ariel Esteves has watched Westside grow in the decade since she and her husband moved there. “We just got a Publix,” she said.

The nurse practitioner noticed, however, that although the area was getting restaurants and coffee shops and places to play, access to health care was still lacking. The lack of urgent care became more evident when the Esteveses had children.

“I have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, and learned very quickly they get sick during the night,” Esteves said. “They break their bones. They do all kinds of things, and you worry, and you think, “OK, my pediatrician is great, but they’re not available right now.’ ”

That’s when the idea of WestsideMed was born. Billed as “your neighborhood primary and urgent care” provider, WestsideMed will officially launch Saturday with an open house at 2250 Marietta Blvd. NW, Suite 306.

From nursing school to clinic owner

Although it might seem unusual for a nurse to open a medical facility, Esteves is not new to the clinic scene.

As a 19-year-old nursing student at Kennesaw State University, Esteves needed a vaccination. She popped into the urgent care center near campus, where she met Dr. Robert Carlson. “And then he called me and asked, ‘Hey, do you want a job?’ " she said.

After earning her Bachelor’s in nursing from Kennesaw State, she obtained her Master’s from Emory University. She worked at Emory and Wellstar hospitals in the emergency departments before turns at CVS MinuteClinic, Walmart and QuadMed. “So I saw the need to have that access to great health care,” Esteves said.

But it was 2017 when she finally verbalized her vision.

“My husband (Atlanta School Board Chairman Jason Esteves) and I, we have a system where we’re always asking ‘Are you OK?’ ‘How are you doing?’ and we make it very intentional,” she said, “We see what we can do as a couple, both professionally and personally to make things better for ourselves and for others.”

So one day when her husband asked, “How are you doing?” Esteves replied, “You know, I really want to explore having my own clinic.”

The nurse had set up clinics for CVS and Walmart, but those large corporations had always footed the bill. So she turned to someone who had done it himself, her former boss at Kennesaw Urgent Care.

She and Carlson “literally sat down on a Sunday afternoon outside of Starbucks for three hours,” Esteves said, “and he walked me through what he went through 20-something years ago.”

After that meeting, Esteves began learning all she could about insurance by working for an agency. “So we serve Medicaid, market place and Medicare now.”

“So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past four years — building knowledge, building relationships — in order to have this clinic. And not just on the medical side, but in the community as well, serving on boards, knowing who’s in my community, who’s making decisions and things like that.”

In the meantime, she secured a loan from the Small Business Administration, completed her protocol agreement with the state and obtained her license to prescribe medicine.

Opening the doors

Although WestsideMed’s official grand opening is Saturday, Esteves and her staff have been seeing patients since August 16. “Things just kind of came together,” she said. “We had staff and all the things needed to see patients, so I’m like, well, let’s just go ahead and open.”

The staff of four — including Dr. Ned Okarter and family nurse practitioner Drew Thompson — can see about 40 patients a day, depending on the complexity of the case. But the clinic isn’t just urgent care.

WestsideMed offers a wide range of services, including EKGs; physicals; lab services; primary care; X-rays; vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine; and COVID testing, both nasal swab and rapid testing.

“Your neighborhood primary and urgent care provides convenient, fast, and high-quality care in a clean, modern, and LGBTQ+ friendly environment,” the clinic’s website states. “The WestsideMed team makes it a priority to treat their patients with compassion and respect. They ensure patients receive care that aids in the progress toward their desired outcomes. The team takes a multidisciplinary approach to provide quality patient care that is medically appropriate and cost-effective.”

Part of the community

Esteves said being a part of the community is important and sets her clinic apart.

“We are embedded in the neighborhood, in our neighborhood schools. If there’s something going on, we want to be there,” she said. “We want this area to succeed. That’s one of the reasons we named it ‘your primary urgent care.’

“It’s not just urgent care,” she continued. “It’s not just primary care. We’re looking at the whole person holistically. We’re helping with transportation; we’re helping with different needs throughout the community.”

Being a part of the community also brings a sense of pride for Esteves.

“This kid came up to me — literally, 7 years old — and was so proud to see a woman, to see a Black woman, own a clinic. They just think it’s amazing that someone they see at their school or in their community is taking care of them.

“I’m definitely proud and, more than anything, just honored to have this response from children. It’s like, ‘Wow.’”

If you would like to bring your child to meet Esteves and the other WestsideMed clinicians, the grand opening will be 3-6 p.m. Saturday, September 18, at 2250 Marietta Blvd. NW, Suite 306, in Atlanta. There will be light refreshments, gift bags (while supplies last), tours of the clinic and more.

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