Business Extension Program
When I started my career as a family physician, I worked in an HMO in Los Angeles, where I was expected to see 25 patients in four hours. I don't remember having any meaningful conversations with my patients. How could I, when each appointment lasted ten minutes?
I opened a part-time private practice in Irvine in October 2004, while juggling my HMO job. I kept hiring employees who didn't have the right skills. Finally, in 2006, I joined the National Association of Women Business Owners to get help. I applied for a scholarship the group offers for new business owners and won $5,000. I used some of the money to take a class at the University of California School of Business in Irvine, which had an extension program that taught entrepreneurs how to find talented employees. That class helped me to identify a great office manager. She had run her own business, selling her own clothing line. When I interviewed her over the phone, she ticked off a list of ideas on how to market my practice better. I knew she would help me expand my business.
To avoid feeling pressured to rush patients through their exams, I decided to stop working with insurance companies and to ask patients to pay out of pocket. I discovered that patients could not afford it, and that slowed the growth of my practice. That experiment lasted a year.
I went back to NAWBO, where I took a two-day course in developing a business plan. I decided to focus on noninvasive cosmetic medicine, such as Botox injections and thermage, a medical procedure that uses heat to stimulate and tighten collagen in the skin. My mother was a cosmetologist, and I've always had an interest in esthetics. Now I see only five to eight patients a day - and they know they won't have to wait to see me.