Medical East: Urgent Care At Its Best


Dr. David Purner of the Medical East Urgent Care facility in Athens was born in Johnson City, TN, and received his undergraduate as well as medical school training at East Tennessee State University. During the Vietnam era, he served in the Army for several years in a non-medical capacity, got out, and then decided that medicine was his true calling. He got back in, graduated from med school, and did his internship at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. He served in Desert Storm, where he was assigned to a CASH, (which stands for Combat Area Service Hospital) in Kuwait City. He came to our area in 1985, and headed up the ER at Fox Army Health Center, the medical facility located on Redstone Arsenal. Dr. Purner has also done emergency medicine at Huntsville Humana as well as Decatur General.

He has experienced firsthand the need for quickness and accuracy that just goes with the territory of combat medicine, and feels that his time “in the Storm” is one of the things that makes him an excellent ER physician. “I had to get good at being able to tell what is really ‘sick,’ and how to triage well,” he said. (Triage is the French term used to figure out who gets treated first based on the severity of their symptoms.) He let me know that a high level of triage skill is very important during cold and flu season. The clinic is much busier, and some of the symptoms that present themselves that are “flu-like” may be a sign of something more serious, and need to be discerned as such. Dr. Purner wanted me to stress that “Medical East is not a mini-ER, it’s urgent care.”


Here are some of the differences between the two types of specialties:

Emergency Rooms are designed for true emergencies that need to be treated immediately, or there could be serious or possibly fatal outcomes. They are for things like animal bites, asthma attacks, chest pains, shortness of breath, confusion or altered mental states, head injuries, ingesting an obstructive object or poison, kidney stones, seizures, severe abdominal pain or burns, shock, snake bites, stroke, unconsciousness or uncontrollable bleeding. It is best to call 911 for an ambulance in these situations.

By contrast, urgent care walk-in facilities are for the following: allergies, colds, coughs, sore throats, flu, or fevers, headaches and earaches, diarrhea, minor cuts and burns, insect bites, nausea/vomiting, pinkeye, pregnancy testing, rashes, sprains, stitches, sinus infections, and urinary tract infections.
In addition, the team at Medical East does occupational medicine, which can include DOT exams, drug screenings, on the job injuries, and all aspects of industrial and occupational medicine.
Most urgent care facilities do not see children under the age of two; however, Dr. Purner will treat little ones as young as six months. This is something that it is a great comfort to young parents who have been up all night with their child, but aren’t sure that an ER visit is warranted.

11-4-2016-8-44-30-amDr. Purner told me that he feels the field of urgent care has blossomed because doctors want more autonomy. “We want to be able to give our patients the best possible care, and now with technology being the way it is, we can digitally view records while we have a specialist view an X-ray at the same time we are from across town. And they can also view our records, which helps them. We can do CT scans here, as well as MRIs and some laboratory tests,” he said, and added, “The result is just a better level of care.”

Medical East does not set broken bones, but the OrthoSport Athens medical facility, which is part of the Athens Limestone Hospital system, is literally right next door. In addition, the Athens Limestone Hospital Wound Care Center is co-located at Medical East. “Most urgent care facilities don’t have this level of service located in the same building,” Dr. Purner said, and he said enjoys working with the other physicians on site.

One of the blessings of the urgent care approach is that they are open seven days a week, and no appointment is necessary. During the week they open at 7 am, so in many cases it is completely possible to be seen, diagnosed, treated, and not miss any work. If you are looking for a top flight urgent care or occupational medicine facility, then either give them a call or go straight to the clinic. You have a seasoned team of caring professionals who are waiting to take care of all your urgent care needs.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner