Our Physicians

Dr. Clay Ballantine

Dr. BallantineDr. Clay Ballantine is Board Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and has practiced in Asheville, NC since 1997. Specializing in general internal medicine and hospital medicine, he has gained extensive experience in managing diabetes, hypertension, lipid disorders and other general medical disorders. He also has a keen interest in cardiovascular disease risk factor control, preventive health care, fitness and wellness. Formerly a hospitalist at Mission Health System, Dr Ballantine continues to show special expertise in coordinating care among subspecialists and navigating the diagnostic and treatment components of the regional health care system on behalf of his patients.

Dr. Ballantine grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. He received his B.A. degree in zoology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1984. His medical degree was earned at University of Louisville School of Medicine where he was elected class president every year except his sophomore year when he served as overall student body president. He also worked at the national level to improve medical education as the National Chairman of the Association of American Medical Colleges' Organization of Student Representatives. As chosen by his classmates in medical school, he received the Pressley F. Martin Award as the class member who most embodied the characteristics of an ideal physician.

After completing his residency in internal medicine at the University of North Carolina-affiliated program at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, NC, he was selected as Chief Resident. He was then a founding member of the Asheville Hospitalist Group, participating in the growth of that group to be one of the best in the region. Demonstrating his commitment to medical education, Dr. Ballantine has served as an Associate Clinical Faculty member with the University of North Carolina's AHEC program teaching medical students and residents. The Mountain AHEC Family Medicine Residency graduating class of 2006 awarded him with their Outstanding Community Faculty Award.

He actively enjoys the outdoors in the North Carolina mountains. After a prior career working on sailboats in the Atlantic and Caribbean, he now pursues mountain biking, swimming, hiking and camping with his wife and family. Deeply involved in the local community, he gives his time and energy to numerous neighborhood, community and charitable organizations.


Dr. Jim Cummings

Dr. CummingsSince returning to his hometown in 1998, Dr. Jim Cummings has carried on the tradition of excellent, compassionate medical care started in Asheville in 1963 by his father, Dr. Charles E. Cummings. He practiced in Asheville for 12 years before establishing Asheville's first and only concierge medical practice in 2010 with Dr Clay Ballantine. Focused on developing close relationships with his patients, Dr Cummings appreciates the additional time the practice model of Blue Ridge Premier Medicine allows him to dedicate to getting to know you and optimizing your health. Recognizing that cardiovascular disease and cancer are the two major causes of death in America, he will concentrate on preventive measures and appropriate screening aimed at risk reduction in these primary areas, while also working to help you achieve optimal health in all aspects of your life.

He is board certified in internal medicine. After graduating from the University of Virginia with an undergraduate degree in chemistry, he attended medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received two merit scholarship awards for scholastic achievement. Dr. Cummings then completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond (MCV), where he served an additional year as chief medical resident. He worked in the MCV emergency room as an attending physician for one year before heading to Seattle, WA for fellowship training. He was recognized with several teaching awards from housestaff and medical students during his residency and fellowship training.

Dr. Cummings served as the Director of Critical Care at Mission Hospitals for seven years, making him intricately knowledgeable of the local hospital system, its medical staff, and regional services. He has been responsible for developing treatment protocols which have been integral in bringing Mission Hospitals recognition as a top 100 hospital in the nation by several rating agencies. The nature of Dr. Cummings' former consultative work and his leadership position has fostered close associations as well as respect from Asheville's subspecialist physicians. Thus, he is keenly aware of how to get you the best specialty care this outstanding medical community has to offer in an expeditious fashion.

When not practicing medicine, Dr. Cummings enjoys spending time with his wife and three children pursuing outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping. His true passion is fly fishing, and if he's not in the office or with his family, that's where you're likely to find him. He also enjoys exercise, golf, hunting, tennis and skiing. He is active in his church, the Buncombe County Medical Society, Asheville Buncombe Christian Community Ministry Clinic, and likes building homes with Habitat for Humanity when his schedule allows.

Dr. Elizabeth Gardner

Dr. GardnerDr. Elizabeth Gardner and her family moved to Asheville in 2002 where she began her career in internal medicine. She and her husband, Dr. John Gardner, founded Apple Valley Family Medicine in 2004. There she provided exceptional care and developed strong skills in preventive medicine, the management of metabolic syndrome, and lifestyle coaching and counseling. Additional professional interests include women's health and medical dermatology.

After ten years of practice, Dr. Gardner joined Blue Ridge Premiere Medicine in 2012. This decision was motivated by a desire to provide more comprehensive care to a smaller number of patients - by building deeper relationships through longer appointments, being accessible after office hours, and by directing and coordinating care in the hospital.

Dr. Elizabeth Gardner grew up in Valdosta, Georgia. She attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina where she received a full-tuition merit scholarship. She earned degrees in both chemistry and English in 1995 and was honored as the Most Outstanding Senior. Dr. Gardner also received a full-tuition merit scholarship to attend the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta where she again graduated at the top of her class. She was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, the highest medical honor society. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of North Carolina-affiliated program at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, NC. There she was recognized as the Most Outstanding Resident. She is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

With four teenaged children, Dr. Gardner and her husband enjoy a busy family life. She can often be spotted on the sidelines of football fields and tennis courts encouraging her brood. They enjoy family vacations, especially a winter ski trip and a lazy week at the lake each summer. She starts her day with a morning workout and ends it with a few rows of stitches on her current needlework or quilting project. Church activities, volunteering at a local medical clinic, and nights out to dinner with her husband or girlfriends round out her routine.

Dr. Margaret Coyle

Dr. CoyleDr. Margaret Coyle has called Asheville, North Carolina her home since October, 2002. At that time, she left the west coast of Florida, where she practiced comprehensive office and hospital care in a Primary Care setting and became a hospitalist working at Mission Hospital. During her tenure at Mission Hospital, Dr. Coyle also served as the Medical Director of Asheville Specialty Hospital from 2008 until 2010. In January, 2015, she earned the appointment of Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Teaching residents in training has been an important role during her years at Mission Hospital.

Dr Coyle received her Bachelor of Science from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She remained at Georgetown for four additional years, receiving her M.D. degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine. From there, her educational pursuits led her to the New England Deaconess Hospital, where she completed three years of resident training in Internal Medicine. Dr. Coyle is board certified in Internal Medicine.

Dr. Coyle is delighted to join Drs. Gardner, Ballantine and Cummings in the Blue Ridge Premier Medicine practice. The opportunity to establish and maintain a collaborative and cohesive relationship with her patients is particularly welcome.

Dr. Coyle also enjoys leisure time and, when possible, likes to golf, hike, listen to music, peruse the arts and travel the world. She shares these extracurricular activities with her partner of eleven years, Bill Dufrane. Her family circle includes three siblings and five nieces, with whom she enjoys close relationships.

Dr. Rick Arwood

Dr. ArwoodDr. Rick Arwood moved to Asheville with his family in 1998. He has practiced in both the outpatient and hospital settings, experiencing the full spectrum of internal medicine care. While striving for wellness and prevention, he also understands the importance of relationships and comprehensive care for managing acute and chronic illness. The practice structure at Blue Ridge Premier Medicine allows him to provide this type of care.

Dr. Arwood grew up in Georgia and graduated from Emory University with a degree in Biology. At Emory, he was a member of the varsity swim team, serving as team captain his junior and senior years. He was also a GTE Academic All-American. Dr. Arwood earned his medical degree at Emory, graduating with Cum Laude honors and completed his Internal Medicine residency at the University of Virginia.

After practicing general internal medicine in Asheville for five years, Dr. Arwood transitioned to hospitalist work at Mission. During his time at Mission, he served in various roles including Associate Director of Asheville Hospitalist Group, Chief Medical Information Officer for Mission Health, and Medical Director for Utilization and Clinical Documentation Improvement. He chaired or participated in many different hospital committees focused on improving care pathways and quality. Recognized for his interpersonal skills, he served as an educator for medical staff training on communication in healthcare. These broad exposures have reinforced his focus on relationships in medicine, with patients and their families, as well as with other physicians and staff.

Dr. Arwood has been living and practicing medicine in Asheville for more than twenty years. He loves the mountains and appreciates the quality of our medical community. When not working, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and traveling. He has recently taken up swimming again, competing in several open water endurance events. While his family nest is emptying, he continues to enjoy time with his wife and three children.