Beyond Business: The inspiring story behind Long Island’s AFC Urgent Care centers

June 17, 2024

As kids, Lou Dionisio and Justin Schwartz dreamt of becoming physicians.

But Dionisio’s dad convinced him it was more practical to become a teacher, so he changed course and earned an education degree. Schwartz, perhaps influenced by a family deeply involved in entrepreneurship, would go on to obtain an MBA after starting college as a pre-med student.

“I originally wanted to be a doctor. However, my dad thought teaching was a wiser choice and convinced me to pursue it instead,” said Dionisio, 66, who shifted to a sales and marketing career after college and for decades owned Sportbeat, a business that manufactured heart rate monitors for Reebok.

Schwartz, 46, worked several years in investment banking for UBS in London, and then spent a decade as the chief financial officer for his family’s Long Island-based business, Platinum Energy Group.

Never losing sight of their mutual lifelong goal to work in the medical field, the friends and business partners opened their first AFC Urgent Care in 2016, in East Meadow. They started two additional sites in West Islip and Farmingdale, in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

And in 2022, they began servicing patients in their fourth AFC Urgent Care, at 24 Railroad Ave. in downtown Patchogue. The location is across the street from Buttermilk’s Kitchen and a stone’s throw away from New Village at Patchogue.

Click here to pre-register for a visit to the AFC in East Meadow and avoid wait time.

Additionally, Schwartz returned to school, completed his master’s degree and is now a board certified physician assistant treating patients at each location. 

The impact of Dionisio and Schwartz’s urgent care centers on the community has been profound and immediate; close to a million patients have received treatment across the four Long Island locations. Moreover, they have garnered prestigious national patient experience awards, as well as high recognition from local municipalities and chambers of commerce.

Notably, the AFC Urgent Care centers owned by Dionisio and Schwartz made national headlines in 2020 when the medical facilities became the first in the country to offer rapid COVID-19 testing.

“We take a tremendous amount of pride in the excellent patient experience we deliver,” said Dionisio. “People really like us. More than 90 percent of our patients come back for multiple visits because they’re so happy with the initial visit.”

In addition to providing quality medical care, the local AFC centers strive to connect with the communities they serve by establishing student scholarships, donating to local charities, and creating grassroots programs in schools and with neighboring businesses.

Treating patients like family

“What’s different about us is that we have a personal connection with the communities that we serve. We also treat every patient as if they were our own family,” said Schwartz, who oversees patient experience and manages core operations across the pair’s organization. “We’re intimately involved in all the communities we serve.”

Dionisio and Schwartz also noted the benefits of being part of AFC, which with nearly 400 locations in 28 states is one of the largest urgent care companies in the United States.

While their urgent care centers are part of a large organization, Schwartz noted that unlike other urgent care facilities on Long Island that fall under the umbrella of giant healthcare networks, AFC provides care with a more personal touch.

“Our medical teams serve patients, not shareholders,” he said. “Being owner-operated allows our urgent care centers to do what’s best for their patients and the communities they serve.”

Each of the pair’s four AFC locations offer occupational medicine and other non-life threatening emergency health care. The facilities feature a high-tech, high-touch approach, including digital x-rays, state of the art diagnostics and electronic medical records.

Allergy testing and treatment, pediatric urgent care,vaccines and lab testing, travel vaccines, immigration physicals, fractures, workers compensation, and primary care are all in the mix. Each location is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m during the week and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends.

The centers are staffed by dedicated medical teams and are open every day of the year. Extended hours are offered during flu season.

7-year-olds spark friendship and business success 

Interestingly, two 7-year-olds were responsible for sparking the friendship that grew into the thriving business partnership between Dionisio and Schwartz.

As Dionisio explained it, they met shortly after Schwartz’s daughter Madison was a guest at Dionisio’s Oakdale home celebrating his son Chris’s seventh birthday in 2008. The children were classmates at Idle Hour Elementary School in Oakdale.

The little girl told Dionisio that she had lived with her family in England. Initially skeptical, Dionisio indeed believed after she started saying the names of streets in London.

“I was so impressed with Madison,” he said.

Soon, Chris was invited to a party for Madison at Schwartz’s home. And that’s when the two future urgent care center owners met and quickly struck up a friendship.

In addition to sharing similar hobbies, such as boating, jet skiing and traveling, Dionisio and Schwartz served as advisers to each other’s business ventures. The management company for their AFC locations is Madison Chris LLC. Established in 2015, it’s named after the two children who brought them together.

To this day, the Dionisios and Schwartzes still go on vacations together.

“We realized that each one of us had unique talents that were valuable. I’m a sales and marketing guy. He’s an operations and financial guy. Even though we both do a little bit of both,” Dionisio said. “And we thought that was like the dream team. That’s what our kids call us — the ‘dream team.’”

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