I just got to hang out with a graduate of my physician retreat, Ann Cordum, M.D., who now has a successful ideal medical clinic is Boise, Idaho. Here’s what Ann has to say about her new life:
PW: So this is your office!
AC: This is my office in Boise, Idaho! Ya!
PW: So tell me what it is like here working for yourself.
AC: It’s night and day different from before. It’s awesome! I am walking distance from my house or we can ride our bikes. We are open the hours that are convenient for us, by appointment. So life is really good. I have a partner, Kristen Fiorentino, M.D., and we exercise in the morning and then come to work. We’re happy! It’s totally different than routine clinic medicine. We actually get a lunch break. We go to business lunches with colleagues. We are ready for our patients when they walk in.
We often greet them in the parking lot and walk them in, especially the older patients, serve them tea and coffee. We do all that ourselves, Take them back. Do their vital signs, see them, take care of them, check them out ourselves, and I think they’re pretty happy, and then they refer other people if they have a good experience, which most of them have.
So it’s ramping up. We’re only in month 6. So we still have a ways to go, but I am actually pretty confident that it’s going to work. It just feels good. It has good energy. And I’m rested. I feel happy.
PW: So what was it like before? Had you always been an employee?
AC: I had always been an employee or contract worker. Ya know, up and down before. Lots of fatigue before. Times of cynicism and feeling beat down. I guess one of the biggest things that’s different is I don’t have that rushed feeling anymore. Ya know, ya gotta get them in, ya gotta get them out, you’re running behind, stressed feeling just doesn’t happen anymore and that’s probably the biggest improvement in my life because it makes me feel joyful about what I’m doing and I think the patients pick up on that and they feel more relaxed. You can have all the technology in the world, but if you don’t have a doctor that has time to relax and listen and spend time with you then I don’t think you’re going to get a good quality visit.
PW: What do the patients think? Are you noticing different interactions with patients? The way they are receiving you or responding to you?
AC: Totally. Totally. Lots of comments like, “Wow! This is so different. Feels like I’m in a house. Doesn’t feel like I’m in a clinic.” When they call us with a question, we either pick up the phone ourselves or we call them back personally and they are kind of blown away because they don’t get that [elsewhere]. So really good feedback from patients.
PW: What about in your personal life? Has this had any side benefits being your own boss?
AC: Unbelievable side benefits. I actually love working for myself. I love the business aspect of it. Total sense of control, sense of autonomy, sense of peace. Collaboration with my colleague who is phenomenal and some other independent colleagues in town so it just feels like I should have done this 20 years ago, ya know, and that’s a good feeling.
I hope more doctors do this because I think this is the way it is meant to be. It’s much more natural. It’s why we all went to medical school I think to be able to really listen to patients and honestly if you just listen, you don’t have to have anything fancy. Just listen and you will get them figured out for the most part . . .
PW: So has your husband or kids noticed differences in you? Your family?
AC: Family and friends just notice that I’m happier and healthier and I think that’s a big bonus too because my health, my skin, I don’t feel moody anymore. I don’t cry anymore. I don’t cry anymore. I used to cry all the time just tired and fatigued and irritable. I feel at peace and rested. Sleep is huge. Sleep is huge. I can get the sleep that I need. And get the exercise that I need. And good nutrition. And we can share that with other people.
PW: Talk about your sleep before and after.
AC: Oh my gosh! Sleep before was fragmented a lot of the time and never consistent, and I was on sleeping pills for 7 years. It just wasn’t healthy and now no problem sleeping and I allow myself 7.5 to 9 hours per night, which is what I finally figured out is what I need to be healthy and productive and with that I feel like I have more energy and can give more to my patient. Another side benefit is I love medicine and I have noticed a complete turnaround in the last 10 years. Ten years ago I thought I’d never practice medicine again and I love it now and I want to do it for the next 15 or 20 years, but I want to do it in a way that is congruent with my values and what I think my patients want.
PW: And just to clarify, are you on sleeping pills now?
AC: No. Got off of them about 6 to 8 months ago. Completely.
PW: So other health benefits? You say you feel peaceful. What was it like before and after?
AC: There was just a lot of anxiety and angst and bitterness before and now I feel at peace and calm and I see a lot more joy in day-to-day interactions. I’m just happier and then I think other people sense that and then they’re happy and calmer. before I used to feel more anxious and distraught and I think that energy bounces off and the patients pick up on that and then they get anxious.
PW: So why do you think more doctors aren’t doing this? You’ve had a big turnaround. You’ve gone from not needing medications to being able to be a real doctor and be present for your family and your kids. What do you think is holding doctors back?
AC: I think fear is holding doctors back. And status quo is holding doctors back. I think new docs and older docs alike have almost accepted that, “Oh my gosh we’ve got to be in an employed model. That’s just the way things are going” and, sadly, that has gotten worse and worse and worse. More meetings about production and bonuses and incentives and how many patients can you get through and then we’re discontent on the side of the doctors.
I would encourage people to step out, take that leap of faith if you’re ready, when you’re ready, and have peace and confidence that it will work out and—it will probably save your life—and save the lives of your patients. I hope more people do it.
PW: What would you say is the one thing that helped you get going or made this feel like it was possible for you?
AC: I think part of it is a timing thing and a personal growth. You have to go through a process of realizing that there’s an issue and it’s not good for your health. Maybe doing some introspection or counseling or writing or whatever it is for you to decide hey, I need to take charge of the direction of my life because this is not good for me or my patients. and then connecting with other people like you who are happy and have a vision and give you the confidence that you can change your life and only you can do it. Nobody else is going to do it for you.
PW: Did it help to be around a lot of other doctors doing this at the same time?
AC: It did. It definitely did. And the other thing I did is just reached out into other sectors of our society. I watched a ton of TED talks when I was going through this transition and got myself motivated and realized that you need to be creative and when you’re sleep deprived and angry and in a system that doesn’t allow you to breathe or move or think out of the box you’re not going to be creative and if you allow yourself to become healthy again and at peace, then creativity comes out and anything is possible with creativity.
PW: So to wrap up what your vision is from here into the future, like if you could have anything and this office could go the perfect direction, what would your life look like for you maybe 6 months, 2 years from now. What would this be like?
AC: So my vision is to have this place, this space, be a healing, calm, peaceful space, and I think it already is, but I hope it just grows a little bit more. I don’t want it to be crazy and chaotic, but I want it to be a place where people come and feel safe and come hang out and get their health care. They can get their massage upstairs and get their acupuncture from the gal upstairs or Kristen and get their traditional care with a focus on prevention and wellness. And do more of my walking visits which I’m starting to do which are fantastic!
PW: Tell us about that.
AC: Yes, so once I’ve established with a patient, if I feel like they are ready to take on a healthier lifestyle then instead of sitting in the clinic for 30 minutes or 40 minutes or 20 minutes, I have then bring their walking shoes or running shoes and I keep mine here, and we go 3 blocks to the trails and hit the trails and do our visit out there. It’s wonderful! They love it. I think it benefits them a lot more than just sitting in an office.
PW: Sounds awesome. So you’ll do more of those.
AC: I want to do more of those. I just want to have that balance. I want to ride my bike more to the clinic instead of driving and slow down the pace a little bit so that I have time to do that and be able to model health to our patients.
PW: Beautiful! Well congratulations!
Pamela Wible, M.D., is a pioneer in the Ideal Medical Care Movement. She has helped hundreds of physicians open ideal clinics through her physician teleseminars & retreats and has been voted the 2015 Women Leader in Medicine for her contributions to medicine. Photos and video by GeVe.