LINWOOD - The impressive $1.8 million AC Best Docs medical and wellness complex in the Cornerstone Commerce Center is laid out in a loop.

Marc Cohen, who had a lead role in its design, thinks of it as a "circle of life."

Circle of health is perhaps more accurate, as the loop runs through medicine and therapy and ends with a TechnoGym that could take people to their peak fitness.

AC Best Docs is a conglomerate of specialists, said another of its Philadelphia-area co-owners, Dr. Eric R. Ratner, board certified anesthesiology and pain management.

The circle begins at a common reception and waiting area, which leads to offices and exam rooms used by a wide range of practitioners.

Besides Ratner and Cohen, a rehab specialist with a chiropractic doctorate, they include:

• co-owner Dr. Robert H. Salvage, a medical doctor board certified in anesthesiology;

• co-owner Dr. Frank Rizzo, an osteopathic doctor board certified in anesthesiology;

• Dr. Milind Vaze, a medical doctor board certified in gastroenterology;

• John F. McGrail, a physical therapist with a master's degree from Thomas Jefferson University;

• Wendy Wang, a physical therapist and acupuncturist with a doctorate from Arcadia Uni-versity;

• Dr. Ravi Ponnappan; a board certified orthopedic spine surgeon;

• Dr. Anila Amin, a primary care doctor with AtlantiCare Physician Group.

Patients can enter AC Best Docs for care from one of these practitioners or at any facility along the loop - with the next being a fully equipped physical therapy room.

A big draw may be the adjacent aqua therapy room. It's unusual for this area, with a 15-by-24-foot warm water pool for no-impact resistance exercise at depths of 3, 4 and 6 feet.

Patients can use two underwater treadmills, adjust resistance with variable water jets, and gaze out the oversized windows on the trees lining nearby Patcong Creek.

A large fitness center equipped with a full assortment of TechnoGym's Kinesis machines rounds out the options for public and patients at the 20,000-square-foot AC Best Docs facility.

These machines allow resistance training in any direction of movement, while sitting or standing. The Kinesis machines for cardiovascular workouts are equipped with touch screens that double as TVs and Internet portals.

The gym has an integrated digital information system that can track workouts and progress, and report back to the various caregivers involved in a patient's progress, Cohen said.

Ratner said one of the great advantages of gathering so many kinds of care under one roof is the higher level of patient feedback and monitoring that's possible.

"In this setting, I'm seeing patients and their therapists and trainers will come to me and ask how they're doing," Ratner said. "We sort of keep track of patients from a multidisciplinary orientation."

The potential for care coordination to improve outcomes while controlling costs convinced the United Auto Workers to locate its Region 9 offices within AC Best Docs, adjacent to the reception area.

Sharon Masino, president of Local 3170, one of three representing casino workers in Atlantic City, said the relationship gives the union "easy access while trying to help control our costs."

Masino, of Galloway Township, said the approximately 1,750 members get a reduced rate for the gym, and can coordinate medical, health and union office visits.

She said the UAW is trying to develop a cost-effective option for members who work part-time and don't get medical coverage through the casinos.

"I think it will be a good thing going forward for everyone," she said.

The formal opening of all of the facility's services will be on Thursday.

The overall goal for the diverse clients served by AC Best Docs, Ratner said, is to get them functioning independently and productively.

"If a patient can make it from one point on the circle to the last point, they can go home and be in a better place," he said.

Contact Kevin Post:

609-272-7250