June 18, 2018

J. Matthew Halverson, DO, FAAFP

Founder, James River Family Practice, LLC

For an independent medical practice, celebrating a 20th birthday is a major milestone. James River Family Practice in Newport News will do just that come October, thanks largely to the dedication and innovation of its founder, J. Matthew Halverson. 

And the practice isn’t going anywhere. 

“We are deeply committed to this community,” Dr. Halverson says of himself, his partner of 10 years, Tammy Beavers, MD, and their two full-time Family Nurse Practitioners. “We have worked very hard to always give our patients the high-quality, compassionate care they deserve – on the same day they need it. That’s how we can stand out amidst all the big competitors around us.”

Dr. Halverson is a proud osteopathic physician, emphasizing proactive preventive care and wellness education. He’s also a self-described “comprehensivist” – he prefers that to “specialist” – who enjoys staying current on effective, evidence-based treatments for a wide variety of health issues.

Competing as a small independent practice has never been easy. Dr. Halverson relies on multiple strategies: 24/7 access to care for patients; comprehensive annual exams with in-depth discussions of healthy lifestyle choices; intensive chronic care management programs; and the quick embrace of emerging technology such as electronic medical records and patient portals. 

“Our goal is to be a five-star practice, much like a concierge setup but without the annual fees,” he says. “Being accessible to patients is simply good medical care.” As an independent business, he’s also able to accept all insurances and has more flexibility in selecting the best specialists for patients, he adds.  

A natural extrovert, Dr. Halverson dreamed of becoming a doctor while growing up in Annandale, Va. Yet despite graduating with distinction with a chemistry degree from the University of Virginia, he initially didn’t get into medical school. He ventured into education instead, earning a master’s in education at Virginia and teaching chemistry and physics in Fairfax County public schools for four years. 

Looking back, Dr. Halverson wouldn’t trade those years for a direct journey into medicine. He learned to work with all ages and personality types, from teenage students to veteran administrators, while honing his scientific research skills. He also got to coach basketball, his favorite sport.

“I’m absolutely a better doctor because of that time,” he says. “The importance of education has carried over to my practice as well. I’m passionate about teaching my patients how to be responsible for their own health, because I consider that an integral part of my duty to them.”

It was a relative of Dr. Halverson’s, a colorectal surgeon, who first told him about the field of osteopathic medicine. Fascinated, Dr. Halverson went to study at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri, the first such program in the country. “It’s a wonderful philosophy, to focus on supporting the body’s amazing innate healing mechanisms and healthy functions,” he says. 

After his 1992 graduation as a member of Kirksville’s 100th class, Dr. Halverson completed a family medicine residency at Riverside Regional Medical Center in 1995. He remained on active staff at Riverside until 2017, including 12 years as an attending emergency room physician and three years as chair of the hospital’s Department of Family Medicine. He and Dr. Beavers were among the last community physicians to defer care of hospitalized patients to hospitalists, which they did last fall. 

In 1998, Dr. Halverson decided to found his own practice. Since then, he has never wavered from his emphasis on prevention over intervention – in fact, it has only grown. Since relinquishing his hospital duties, he is even more laser-focused on outpatient care. 

Conversations about critical issues such as weight loss, smoking cessation, blood pressure control, depression symptoms and alcohol use take precedence during wellness appointments. Patients often leave with both advice and a handful of educational pamphlets. “I firmly believe that this is how we can have the biggest impact on an individual’s health,” Dr. Halverson explains.   

The practice recently added a Chronic Care Management program for its Medicare patients, a proactive and personalized approach for older patients with two or more such conditions. The system requires at least 20 minutes of out-of-office monitoring per month, such as phone calls to check on medication compliance, at-home equipment or progress toward health goals. 

Dr. Halverson’s community ties have won him numerous honors, both as a physician and an instructor for medical students, residents, nurse practitioners and physician assistant students. He also is a past president of the Hampton Roads Academy of Family Medicine.  

The father of two grown daughters with one grandson, Dr. Halverson practices what he preaches when it comes to healthy living. Once a college JV basketball walk-on – “I was slow and too short, but I had a good shot,” he recalls – he has traded hoops for the more joint-friendly sport of golf. 

His career, Dr. Halverson says, has been a challenging but joyful journey of lifelong learning. He is quick to credit his practice’s 20-member team for its success, from his fellow care providers to office staff who handle complicated billing and paperwork. 

At 58, Dr. Halverson has no plans to retire anytime soon. “Some of my biggest role models practiced into their 80s, and I don’t see any reason for me not to do the same,” he says. “I’m happy. I’m healthy. I love my patients – and I think people still value having a doctor who really, truly knows them.”  

Plus, he has that 20th birthday party to plan. <