Not many business decisions are life or death, but for physicians in private practice, their daily business is exactly that. These doctors excel at providing patient care while juggling the demands of growing their practices, running their businesses and balancing family demands around the often 24/7 schedule required of doctors.
While each of them has a different medical specialty, at the heart of their success is just that, heart: care for their patients, commitment to excellence and a love of what they do. Surrounding themselves with strong teams, putting their patients first and working hard is also part of their prescription for success.
And of course, they wouldn’t be good doctors if they didn’t add some health advice to their thoughts on business. In this case, it’s to make ourselves and our health a priority, eat a sensible diet, exercise and of course, wear your sunscreen.
Dr. Diane Greiner
Diane Greiner, M.D., a fellow of the American College of Cardiology with the Heart Clinic of San Antonio, puts her own heart into patient care.
“Patients always ask ‘how would you advise your mom?’ And that’s how I think of my patients: if this were a family member, what advice would I give them?”
She feels that personal approach, as well as attention to detail, make a difference. “Patients notice detail, just like any other business. They notice when you know their names, you remember things about their family.”
Greiner, 51, is a United States Air Force veteran who has been in private practice since 2003. She believes the key to building a successful practice, or business, is being a good listener. She hears patients frequently say that previous doctors didn’t listen or didn’t want to take time to work with them to find the solution that was best for them. “A lot of doctors are ‘It’s my way or the highway’, but that’s not how I would want to be treated.”
Patience also hits home. “When you have the patience to sit there and listen to somebody, it makes a big difference. I think people remember that.”
Greiner keeps in mind something one of her attending physicians in medical school said. “Medicine or life is a multiple exposure sport,” she explains. “Something may be hard the first time, but the next time you encounter that problem, you’re going to already have that experience and it’s going to be easier for you.”
Dr. Catherine Tisdall
Catherine Tisdall, M.D., a partner at Dermatology San Antonio, wishes everyone would wear their sunscreen. “It’s not going to put me out of business. It’s a really simple thing. There’s good evidence it prevents skin cancer and it helps prevent wrinkles.”
Simple guidance is also the basis of how Tisdall has built her practice. “When I was in residency, one of my mentors said, ‘Do the right thing always. Everything will follow from that.’,” she explains. “We take excellent care of our patients. And we treat our staff well. If you treat your staff well, you create a positive environment for the whole practice.”
“Be explicit about your visionwith yourself and your staff: this is our priority, this is our goal, and it will take care of itself.”
A board-certified dermatologist, Tisdall, 44, recognizes the value of a team. “As a business owner, you can’t do it all. You have to empower your staff to make decisions in their own areas. You get a better running business that way.”
She also believes in not being afraid of hard work. “In cycling, when you’re going up a hill, you might have to find another gear. Then you might have to find another one. And you don’t think you have that next gear. Then you find you’re capable of working a lot harder than you thought. Not being afraid of hard work, not being afraid to find that third gear, will increase your ability to work and learn.”
Dr. Jeni Vela
As a child, Jeni Vela, M.D., thought she’d become a park ranger, but watching a beloved cousin tragically lose his life to medical malpractice changed all of that. “I saw that there was a lack of quality healthcare. From that point on, I volunteered at hospitals, learning as much as I could.”
An obstetrics and gynecology physician with the Institute for Women’s Health in San Antonio, the medical field, and her specialty definitely suits her. “You’re going to be involved in big decisions in their life—big moments. It’s so rewarding because you’re with them eight or nine months, they have their baby and you get to be a part of that special moment in their lives. It never gets old.”
“I try to talk to my patients and really listen. I take time to explain things and why I recommend one way over another,” she explains when asked about how she maintains a successful practice. I try and talk to them and treat them like they’re family.”
Vela, 35, is also the mother of two children under the age of two, a balancing act for any mom. “I don’t recommend it to my patients,” she laughs.
But she’s up to the challenge. When issues arise, “I try to attack the problem from a different angle and not get caught up in it,” she explains.
“I try to always go back to my roots and remember why Iwent into medicine in the firstplace — to make a difference.”
Dr. Michelle Welch
Michelle Welch, M.D., the founder of Diabetes and Metabolism Specialists in San Antonio, started her practice with two employees, renting a small office from another doctor. She now has 25 employees. “If you know in your heart that you’re doing the right thing and can do a good job, there’s always a better way to skin a cat. If you think you know that way — what’s that quote from ‘Field of Dreams’? — ‘If you build it, they will come.’”
“If you have a philosophy, a vision, you can make it happen. There are a lot of bumps in the road. The most important thing is to seek out mentors,” she offers as advice.
Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, Welch, 48, has been treating some patients for more than 15 years. “Getting to know them, their lives, being able to help them is rewarding — especially seeing them get better,” she explains.
“It’s really bringing medicine to the patient level, teaching them, engaging them and being a team. I work on educating them and I think they see the value in that knowledge base and the value in being engaged.”
The mother of three founded and expanded her practice while growing her family as well. Along the way, she learned the importance of cooperation and letting the little things go. “You have to focus on the big things. Keep an eye on things that really matter and don’t worry about the rest.”
By Dawn Robinette
Photography by David Teran