UPA staff

Our Journey

University Physicians' Association, Inc.

What began as a need to secure the clinical practice over 20 years ago remains the same today.

The healthcare industry continues to bring new challenges and UPA was designed to adapt to these unforeseen circumstances.

UPA's reputation remains solid. With continued focus on its foundational values of integrity, accountability, expertise, versatility and partnership, our mission is to offer the medical community seamless, knowledge-based solutions by providing accountable services customized to meet each client's specific needs and challenges.

Our team is equipped to assist you with complex and sensitive issues. Our flexible plan provides you with the freedom you need to select the services that benefit you. We are a well-established business and known in East Tennessee communities by providing services to physicians.

Physician Established Since 1995.

Physician Owned.

Physician Trusted.

Our History

Reflections of UPA

Reflections of UPA

Physicians prior to the 1990's were independently responsible for their own contract negotiations with the insurance carriers while balancing valuable time with their patient care. This pressed providers with additional burden to approach the carriers for fee schedules and reimbursement negotiations. Until fully credentialed with the multiple insurance carriers, they were not paid for their services. During this same time at UT Medical Center, physicians and medical senior leaders began discussing how to more effectively manage the contracts.

The creation of University Physicians’ Association, (UPA) in 1995 became the solution, allowing physicians to meet and contract with the managed care organizations as one alliance. The new physician led association provided their members with contract negotiations which were beneficial to the insurance carriers under one signature for all UPA physician members and broadened the specialty services into the insurance networks that was beneficial to the patient population. As an additional benefit and courtesy to the members, UPA provided administrative support for the coordination of the carriers’ application process and worked with the provider offices and the medical staff office for privilege verifications. While members moved through the UPA committee process, they were simultaneously moving through the full credentialing process with each of the carriers. This was a massive process that became very successful for physicians.

The UPA began with 231 physician shareholders, three administrative staff members and six managed care organization contracts that included BCBS, Bowater, Initial Group, Preferred Health Partnership, Tennessee Health Partnership and UnitedHealthcare.

UPA Initial Leadership:

Trent Nichols, MD, President

C.E. Bilbrey, CEO

David Hall, Executive Director

Kim Friar, Provider Relations Director

John W. Lacey, III, MD, Medical Director

UPA FOUNDING Board Members:

Trent Nichols, MD, President (General Internal Medicine)

John W. Lacey, III, MD, Medical Director (General Internal Medicine)

Janet Purkey, MD (General Internal Medicine)

Robert Elder, MD (General OB-GYN)

Daniel Cox, MD (Family Medicine)

Larry Davis, MD (Family Medicine)

Ann Stuart, MD (Family Medicine)

Jack Gotcher, MD (Dentistry)

Larry Rodgers, MD (General Pediatrics)

Patricia Mohr, MD (General Pediatrics)

Mark Gaylord, MD (Medical & Pediatric Specialties)

J. Russ Langdon, MD (Hospital Based, Anesthesiology)

Steve Morris, MD (Hospital Based, Anesthesiology)

James Cox, MD (Surgical Specialties, Cardiology)

Mark D. Anderson, MD (Surgical Specialties, Gastroenterology)

William Horton, MD (Surgical Specialties, Otolaryngology)

John Neff, MD (Medical Specialties, Pathology)

What began as a need to secure the clinical practice 25 years ago, remains the same today.

The healthcare industry continues to bring new challenges whereas UPA was designed to adapt to these unforeseen circumstances. Along the years, UPA has supported growth for our clinicians to enable more services with success and benefit to our region.

We are unique and UPA’s reputation remains solid. We are physician established and physician led. Our support team of individuals choose to make a difference. We are not here by chance. It’s because of the many hands that work together every single day that make up UPA’s family and as we celebrate UPA’s 25 years of awesome in 2020, we believe, our best is yet to come.

Robert F. Elder, MD & President, UPA

Click to view pdf:

Robert F. Elder, MD

President, UPA

UPA is proud to recognize Robert F. Elder, MD within our 25-year anniversary. Dr. Elder is specialized in gynecologic urology and his practice location is at UT Urogynecology. He is certified in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery with the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Apart from his busy practice, Dr. Elder is widely recognized for his extended leadership roles where he represents both patients and physicians in service with major health organizations at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, University Health System, Inc., The Graduate School of Medicine and alongside University Physicians’ Association, Inc. (UPA).

Upon completion of his education, internship and residency, he began his career at The University of Tennessee Medical Center in 1988. While building his professional career, Dr. Elder quickly advanced into the hospital’s committees and activities. In the early 90s, before UPA was established, he was actively involved in the development of UPA. When UPA became established in 1995, Dr. Elder was elected to represent the specialty of OB/GYN on the UPA Board of Directors and additionally named Chair of the UPA Membership Committee in 1997. Two years following, Dr. Elder was elected in 1999 as Secretary to UPA. He held those leadership roles until 2005 and was, then, elected by shareholders as UPA President. He has faithfully served as UPA President since then.

Dr. Elder continues to serve in multiple local and regional capacities for both UPA and the hospital. His dedication extends beyond a written description. However, we include two submissions from UPA’s own Leadership Team:


“Dr. Elder is a driving force, committed to UPA’s mission and values. Over the past twenty-five years, his leadership, along with the rest of our Board, has driven UPA to succeed.”

-Betzaida Shands, MBA, CHC, CHCO

Vice President, Regulatory Affairs & Chief Compliance Officer


“When Dr. Elder became our President, he continued the commitment to growth and business diversity started by those who came before him. Under his tenure as president, UPA became more widely known as the organization of which providers wanted to be a part. UPA is unique in that it allows its members to maintain autonomy while becoming associated with a larger and stronger organization. Providers wanted UPA’s strategy for managed care contracting, they wanted to practice medicine and not worry about employees, billing and all the other distractions that now interfere in a medical practice. Providers wanted the backbone of UPA behind them and that backbone was made stronger by Dr. Elder and his leadership.”

-Teresa Matherly

Vice President Information Systems & Chief Information Officer

Kim Friar, CEO

Kim Friar, Chief Executive Officer, UPA

Family is first and relationships are key. It’s rare to experience those work ethics in an industry today, yet that is the case for UPA. We would never have such a culture if it were not for one individual.

Kim Friar’s reputation extends beyond a title. She is defined rather by family, respect, trust, and philanthropy. She is UPA’s Chief Executive Officer. Kim previously held the title of UPA Executive Director since 2008 after being hired as UPA Provider Relations Manager in 1998. She was an essential part of the early contract negotiations while teamed together with the UPA Board of Directors, UPA Physician Shareholders and the Executives of UHS, Inc., keeping close watch with the trends of Medicare, managed care organizations and other business matters as changes and demands were certain to impact the physician office.

As business can attest, obstacles are uncertain, and this was equally the case, many times with the future of UPA. But the leadership team were well respected and held a strong bond that regardless of risk and decision outcome, established trust within the membership’s organization and healthcare community at its earliest stage.

Kim implemented responsibilities with strength and as UPA continued to grow, her leadership advanced. As many physicians have shared over the years having worked alongside her, Kim was the right match for UPA from the beginning. None could state it better than W. David Hall, Executive Vice President at The University of Tennessee Medical Center:

“Kim has played an integral role in the UPA since its onset. While her journey included many obstacles, under her leadership the UPA has experienced an unimaginable level of success.”

Kim is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee and values time with her family most importantly. Her strong qualities are an attribute to the organization's unique culture-driven environment. Alongside the 18 physician-led Board of Directors and its president, Kim oversees all aspects of the various business lines within the UPA. She additionally serves on the Board of Directors of ChildHelp in Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.

We could not celebrate UPA’s 25 Year Anniversary without recognizing Kim’s achievements and her dedication to what has become Knoxville’s leading physician organization.

Special Leadership Announcement 5/28/2020

Special Leadership Announcement

May 28, 2020

It is with mixed emotions that we officially announce the retirement of Robert F. Elder, MD, President of University Physicians’ Association, Inc. (UPA) effective 12/31/2020.

UPA achieved great heights under the leadership of Dr. Elder. Prior to UPA’s founding, he played an important role with the growth and success of this organization to which he was actively involved in its initial development. Upon UPA’s establishment in 1995, Dr. Elder was elected by his physician peers to represent the specialty seat of OB/GYN on the UPA Board of Directors. Two short years later he was named Chair of the UPA Membership Committee in 1997 and was then elected UPA Secretary. Parallel to the hospital and teaching appointments, his leadership roles were widely recognized which advanced him into the physician elected position as President of UPA. He has faithfully served as UPA President since 2005.

Dr. Elder’s commitment to our health care organization has been exceptional and we will certainly feel the impact of his stepping aside. We salute him for his dedication to UPA but applaud him with his decision to spend more time with his family and loved ones. So, while saddened with his leaving, we are confident that he will find the same success and happiness in his retirement.

When these business decisions are made, it is rare to find an exceptional leader that can fulfill the obligations without fail.

UPA is fortunate to have leaders with such esteem.

We are therefore happy to formally announce that Amy B. Stevens, MD has been appointed by UPA’s Governance as President of UPA. She and Dr. Elder will transition business operations smoothly, as they have worked together consistently in years past on major dealings and projects.

Dr. Stevens became a UPA Shareholder in 2001 upon her joining University Family Physicians and following her teaching appointment in Family Medicine. She quickly became recognized as a leader among her peers and was nominated to represent the seat of Family Medicine on the UPA Board of Directors in 2007. Dr. Stevens has passionately continued her clinical responsibilities while further advancing her administrative roles between the hospital and UPA. She has served champion with major products including clinical integration (CI) which entailed her as a founding board member with University Health Network (UHN), a combined CI network of UHS, Inc. leadership, UTMC and UHS employed physicians, along with leadership of UPA and independent physicians. She was nominated as Chair of the UHN Board of Directors and has served in that leadership role since 2017.

With her passion, leadership skills, and sharp reputation alongside her knowledge of UPA, the hospital and business partner entities, Dr. Stevens will offer UPA a bright transition into future endeavors amid the challenges which we continue to face in health care.

Dr. Stevens is a native of Knoxville beside her husband (Dr. Jeff Stevens) and children who are active within the Knoxville communities.

Please join us in applauding Dr. Elder for his dedication and service as he steps toward retirement and for Dr. Stevens as she advances further into her leadership as UPA President.

UT Medical Center

UPA partners with UT Medical Center for Credentialing, Medical Staff support services and the hospital committee coordination.

UPA proudly upholds its relationships with University Health System, Inc., University Health Network, and the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network.

www.utmedicalcenter.org