UPA staff

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 a 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 for providing services to physicians.

Our History

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.

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.

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.

UT Medical Center

The University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC), a participating provider in University Health ACO, is an independent, board governed, not-for-profit academic medical center located in Knoxville, Tennessee. Since its creation in 1956, The UTMC has fulfilled its threefold mission: to serve through healing, education, and discovery. University Health ACO and UTMC are committed to being transformative healthcare providers, addressing the needs of the community and evolving their combined clinical integration efforts to best serve the region. The 685-bed comprehensive medical center serves as a referral center for Eastern Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky, and Western North Carolina. In addition to its main campus, the medical center has an extensive network of primary care and specialist offices throughout the region, as well as two multi-specialty and primary care outpatient centers.

University Physicians’ Association, Inc. (UPA), an affiliated partner in University Health ACO, and the University Health System, Inc. successfully integrate through collaboration to achieve the shared goal of delivering the highest quality of healthcare to patients through a network of providers focused on excellence and individualized care. UPA was established in 1995 as a physician services organization and holds an experienced alliance with UTMC. Comprised of over 1,100 clinical members, UPA implements the credentialing process for providers that apply for clinical privileges at UTMC and navigates its UPA members through the complexities of becoming credentialed in the multiple payor plans. UPA is a liaison between the providers and the hospital that supports the medical staff officers, and medical staff committees to fulfill responsibilities in accordance with the UTMC Bylaws and Rules and Regulations. Being long-time partners, UPA and UTMC have successfully enhanced the care for the East Tennessee population through multiple avenues.