As a mother of three teenage girls, a wife and founder of the concierge medical practice located in Scottsdale, AZ, Dr. Susan Wilder inspires health and vitality for patients with her gentle, caring approach, admirable experience and medical knowledge. Her passion and mission continues to provide a positive and healing environment that is patientcentered and focuses on getting to the root causes of the symptoms rather than medicating them.
Dr. Wilder candidly shares the challenges she faced and overcame within the medical field, what she so passionately loves to do and how she was able to cross off an item on her bucket list when she was named Mom-e Club’s “2012 Mom Entrepreneur of the Year”.
Share with us a little bit about yourself.
I am the sixth of seven children to two very entrepreneurial parents. I am the mother of three daughters. My oldest just turned 18 and my twins are 13 years old. I have been married to my husband, Bob for almost 25 years. We’ve been together since my first day in college. We met 32 years ago at Washington University. So, it’s pretty strange to send my first daughter off to college thinking she may meet her spouse right off the bat! Since I was about 11 or 12 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a family doctor. I was in the Air Force for medical school and served 7 years of active duty and 4 years of reserved. In October 2003, after some time in the Mayo Clinic, I started my own practice called, Lifescape Medical.
Tell us about your business, Lifescape Medical.
Lifescape Medical was my dream practice. I was really becoming very disenchanted with the practice of medicine. In the insurance-based system, our costs kept on increasing and we were getting reimbursed less and less. So, it was becoming kind of a hamster wheel type of thing where we had to see more and more patients in less time while medicine was becoming more complex. There were many more diagnostic and treatment options. The knowledge and skill to practice medicine was becoming unwieldy, but at the same time we had less time to deal with any specific patient. So, it was an equation for disaster.
My husband has a JD MBA and I have a very visionary and idealistic sense of the way medicine should be practiced. So, between the two of us, we would give this new business a whirl, be financially creative and figure out a way to create a practice that’s truly patient-centered, where we spend the time it takes to really get to know the patients and get to the root causes of their symptoms rather than just medicate the surface of them.
I think where medicine has gone astray is when we just start throwing prescriptions at symptoms. We really have the ability if we have the time to get to know, work with and inspire patients to healthier lifestyles. When we can get to some of these underlying root causes, we can obliterate those symptoms and cure them. We can cure diabetes and heart disease. We can resolve insomnia and mood disorders rather than just medicate them forever.
It’s been hard financially, but it’s been really rewarding personally and professionally to have patients come back the next year and review their problem list to discover they no longer have those symptoms they were experiencing when they last saw me. To me, that’s the hole in one that keeps us playing this game.
What was your biggest challenge in starting your medical practice?
I’ve made a couple of big mistakes. The number one mistake was believing I could work with the insurance system and get paid fairly for the work we do while creating a patient-centered practice. That was just not financially feasible. The insurance system is a socialized system. It’s set up to directly profit the insurance industry and doesn’t reward quality service or a healing environment. As a physician with over 20 years of experience and board scores in the 99th percentile with great demand, I got paid the same as somebody who just spits out a residency, who paid for their degree in the Caribbean and who just barely passed their boards.
I don’t think many people understand that medicine in the insurance-based system is not a free market in any way shape or form. Also, it’s not a market that rewards what’s really important to patients. To win in this system, you have to see more patients in less time. In my opinion, you can’t successfully practice truly patient-centered medicine in an insurance-centered environment.
The other mistake I made was starting very large. I started with five brand new doctors right out of residency and supported them while they were growing their practice. It was a very large overhead. For many, many years, it was financially tough for us.
Throughout these challenges, especially in the early years, what kept you going?
I would say, number one, my husband has just been incredibly supportive. His parents have been extremely supportive of us, what we were doing and of the dream. We always kept our mission, which is to inspire health as the core central focus. I think that is critical.
My kids have been incredibly supportive. They help out with the practice. They used to come with me on home visits or to see newborns in the hospital or hospice visits. They know a lot of my patients. The practice is part of our family. I think that has been sustaining. It’s a part of us. We call it our most expensive child.
And our patients have been incredibly rewarding. When I made the very difficult decision to go off insurance a couple of years ago, I expected an angry backlash from many of my patients. Well, I was shocked. So many of my patients, even those who couldn’t afford to stay with me, told me that I deserved and needed to do this and they supported my decision. They appreciated what I did and what I created.
What really keeps me going is when my patients say, “All my other doctors monitor my deterioration. You actually inspired my health and you treasure patients.” And that’s what we do.
What is your biggest reward running your business?
Seeing patients get incrementally healthy year after year. And they may not even notice that their muscles don’t ache anymore or they’re not complaining about that knee anymore. These are subtle things. It doesn’t get big press when you steer somebody off the path of becoming a diabetic. But, to me, that’s huge.
Congrats on winning the Mom-e Club’s 2012 Mom Entrepreneur of the Year Award!
Oh yes! That was so much fun. I get to check off “wearing a tiara” off my bucket list. But I am still so shocked about it to be honest with you. There were so many incredible and inspiring moms and stories. And wow…I’m still kind of pinching myself about it. It’s a really nice honor. My mom was proud and that’s a great thing, because she’s been a terrific inspiration to me. And my kids had fun with it. After the whole weekend of wearing the tiara, they were saying, “Ok mom. Enough!” They sure keep me humble.
What top advice would you give a mom starting her journey as an entrepreneur?
Number one, take care of yourself. That means sleep, exercise, even if it’s for 10 minutes a day. Learn to use your time bites to breathe, such as when you’re stuck on hold on the phone. Use that time to do some deep breathing. Every time I tell a patient to take some deep breathes, I take some with them. Use those time bites to exercise. How many times do we drop a kid off for practice and we just sit there? Instead, walk around the field or walk with another mom and talk. You don’t have to be stuck at a desk. Do a walking meeting instead.
Number two, keep your overhead low. Start small and go slow.
What do you do to maintain balance in your life?
I do deep breathing, meditation for at least 5 minutes a day. I start and end my day doing a gratitude meditation and think about all the things I’m grateful for. I walk everyday. I eat healthy. And, I mentioned before, I use my time bites to do some deep breathing throughout each day.
I try to compartmentalize the cell phone. I think that all of us get absorbed by being on-call 24/7 and that gets a little hard. But there are times where I will just put the cell phone away such as dinnertime.
Share something about yourself that would surprise people who know you.
It might surprise people that I used to be very shy and easily intimidated. I used to let people walk all over me. I think people would not see me that way anymore.
Are you a busy stay-at-home mom, mompreneur or working mom who is usually on the go and doesn’t have a lot of time, but still has a desire to make healthy living a priority? Busy mom. I chuckle because the term itself is probably redundant. I mean let’s face it, what mom isn’t busy and constantly juggling a million things? We are the masters of multi-tasking. On the same token, every mom wants to get healthy, set a good example for her children and keep her family as healthy as possible. Yet we can’t seem to find the time for it. If you want to make a change in your health or your lifestyle, it doesn’t have to be hard. The key is to find new habits that will serve you better. But it does require a small amount of commitment and a huge desire to feel and look your best. The payoff will come in knowing that you are taking an important step to ensure that your family is healthy.
The good news is with a little preplanning and preparation, you and your family can maintain a healthy diet while keeping your active schedule.
Many busy families rely on the drive-thru or a takeout menu to get a meal on the table. Unfortunately, eating out often means getting too much fat, salt and calories, which puts you and your family at risk of health conditions that include heart disease and obesity. With childhood obesity – and indeed, the weight of many Americans – spiraling out of control, parents need to take extra steps to encourage healthy eating habits. Learning to eat healthy meals benefits the entire family and becomes easier with practice. Planning is the key to developing healthy eating habits. Here are a few tips for healthy living on the go:
Having a plan regarding what foods you will buy and prepare creates the opportunity to have healthy choices on hand. Don’t plan only for dinner. Decide what you will eat for breakfast and lunch too, so that you are prepared with healthy meals for the whole day. Write down each meal, and make a grocery list so that you have all the ingredients on hand. That way you won’t end up calling for pizza when you are pressed for time. Not every meal has to be cooked or prepared from scratch. Despite the fact that we live in an age where quick and easy is synonymous with greasy fast food, there are healthy convenient shortcuts available if you are shopping at the right places. Trader Joes is my favorite go-to spot when I don’t have time to cook. They have a ton of precut fruits and vegetables, pre-washed salad and easy microwaveable yet healthy options. There is no excuse not to have a salad on the table these days when all you have to do is open a bag and pour it into a bowl. When you do cook your meals, be sure to prepare enough so that you have leftovers that can be served on the nights you won’t be able to cook. Similarly, you may want to make an entire meal ahead of time and freeze it for later use. If your family members keep vastly different schedules, you can freeze individual portions that can be quickly heated in the microwave.
Buy healthy snacks and portion them into individual servings so that you always have a grab-and-go snack for each member of the family. A snack between meals is important to keep hunger at bay and prevent binge eating. Students need snacks to help them concentrate and learn at school, and working adults who keep healthy snacks on hand are less likely to hit the vending machine in the afternoon. Good choices include nuts, string cheese, fruits and vegetables, yogurt, trail mix and dry cereal. Stay away from those 100-calorie packs. They may be only 100 calories but they are 100 empty calories and in most cases do nothing to fuel your body. I used to grab protein bars until I discovered that most of them have as much sugar as a can of soda. Now if I need an extra dose of protein I blend up a protein smoothie which literally takes me two minutes and is a quick and easy way to sneak in an extra serving of fruit. My kids love smoothies too. A homemade smoothie is going to be infinitely better for you than the sugar laden versions at Jamba Juice, McDonalds or Starbucks. Not everything that is seemingly healthy is. My protein powder of choice is high in fiber and low in sugar. Make sure you are reading the labels because not all protein powders are necessarily healthy and many brands can be very high in sugar. Lastly, bring healthy snacks along when you go to sports games, the mall or the playground to refuel without ending up at the nearest fast food place.
I confess. I’m a carb lover. If it were up to me, every snack would consist of something starchy. But I know my body doesn’t respond well when I eat only carbs and I am depriving myself of the natural fiber, nutrients and protein that my body needs. This can in turn lead to increased hunger and cravings and have a downward spiral effect on other food choices I make later in the day. By incorporating foods from all the food groups, you ensure that your family is getting adequate nutrition without overloading on fat, calories, salt, sugar or cholesterol. Include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, low-fat dairy foods and healthy fats. Indulge in the occasional treat to keep healthy meals fun and prevent feelings of deprivation. I try not to make any one food off limits. My kids enjoy treats and juice like any other but I encourage them to drink water and eat something healthy first.
Make Smart Restaurant Choices
As hard as we try, even the best plan can go out the window. There will be times when a busy family has to eat out, but doing so doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating goals. Choose the restaurant you will go to ahead of time, and use its website to look at the nutritional information for the menu items offered. In many areas, quickserve healthy alternatives to fast-food are becoming more available. In my local market we even have a pizza place that makes a pizza with healthier whole grain crust and has a special sauce with hidden vegetables pureed into it. The kids don’t taste the difference.
Life is always going to be chaotic. We have to accept that. In order to fit in exercise, your workout has to be scheduled into the day. No matter how crazy my day, I make my workout a priority for myriad reasons, not the least of which are my health and sanity. I almost never let anything get in the way of exercise. You have to be that committed or it will be the first thing you let go. Even if I feel tired one day or am not into it I still force myself to do it because it makes me feel better. I really believe that physical fitness will change your life. If I have a day with extra time, I will do a longer workout. If there is absolutely no time to go to the gym or squeeze in a run, I have a few of those quick 20-minute videos I can do at home. Sometimes people think that if they can’t get in a full workout they should blow it off altogether. Not true. Even a quick 10-minute walk, or a few squats, lunges and push-ups while your kids watch TV is better than nothing.
Healthy living doesn’t have to be hard. By taking a few extra steps and planning ahead, you will slowly be able to adopt these new habits until they become second nature.
To adapt to the challenges of the recession, to create more flexible work schedules, and circumvent the limits of a male dominated corporate culture, women are starting businesses and becoming self-employed. Women-owned businesses are growing in numbers at twice the rate of all U.S. firms (23% vs. 9%), and the ranks of women business owners are increasing by 23% annually, 2.5 times faster than the growth of businesses in general. “Women Rising: Five Predictions for Women in the Workplace—2012” is from the upcoming book Society 3.0: How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Work, and Society, by Dr. Tracey Wilen- Daugenti (Lang, January 2012).
Today’s society is pushing more and more mothers to go into the work force and provide financially for their families. Mothers are reevaluating their abilities and how they translate into the workforce once they have transitioned into motherhood. More mothers are opting to creating their own businesses in order to get the flexibility they want to continue to be a part of their family’s daily activities. Dr. Wilen-Daugenti also states that, “Women now influence more than 25% of the U.S. GDP and hold nearly 48% of all jobs. Without women, the U.S. economy would be 25% smaller than it is today.” Now that does not calculate the kind benefits of moms who are “at home” where 70% manage the finances of their family and reduce household costs by being “at home”. Basically, as Beyoncé states, “Who runs the world? Girls!!”
So how do you know if you are ready to take on the entrepreneur leap? What are the tools that you need to start being your own boss? Erika Anderson, creator of Proteus, wrote an article for Forbes Magazine in March and identified “What it takes to Create Your Own Business – Really”.
Anderson identified that passion is the most important element in creating your business; finding what wakes you up in the morning and moves your spirit. When we decided to create Transitions in Motherhood we identified motherhood as our passion and supporting mothers and their families in their journey through motherhood. Yes, we wanted both motherhood and career, which is a balancing act. But when you think about it – what isn’t? Everything is a balancing act and finding what that means for you is extremely personal. Literature can go from one extreme to the other as to women working “outside the home”, but finding what makes you happy is something that can only come from within you. Know there will always be someone who has an opinion one way or the other of your choices, but only you who will be living them.
Transitions in Motherhood would like to identify one more element that can assist in supporting your process in considering the entrepreneurial world. We would like to add self-reflection. We believe that making that leap also requires faith in self, so taking time to reflect on your fears that could potentially become roadblocks down the road is very important. We all have fears, but being able to face them and move through them will strengthen you as an entrepreneur. Having clarity regarding your fears will keep you from making decisions based on them. When you have a business that you are passionate about you can feel very exposed at times. So when you face moments when things don’t turn out the way you planned, being able to learn and move through those moments will be key.
We sometimes hear moms share that they feel like they “should” stay home if they have the ability to, but struggle with wanting to go to work once they do. And moms who want to stay home, but are returning back to work. If you could create your idea, what would it be? If you could create your vision and find/ follow your passion, what would it be? Research shows that when mom is happy, so are the kiddos…and partner too.
So whatever you decide or have already decided we wish you all that you could dream of and know that Transitions in Motherhood is a support for you along the way.