November 6 is always a day of special meaning to me. My first secretary (Kate) called it Independence Day.
It's the anniversary of my going into solo practice. Which, after many years, is still one of the best decisions of my life.
As most of you know, I started out with Humungous Neurology, but after a few years I got sick of endless partner meetings (AKA sociopath's roundtable), bizarre fluctuations in my allegedly fixed salary that no one could explain, office politics, and the utter bullshit that seems to come with a large medical practice. Accountants showing me charts of dollars earned vs. square footage of office space used per patient drove me nuts.
Most of the other docs at Humungous Neurology, Inc., told me I wouldn't make it on my own. That I'd be back soon. That there was no place in modern medicine for a solo doc.
But I left anyway. It was a gutsy move. I had a 1 year old. Mrs. Grumpy was pregnant with twins, and couldn't work. I hadn't run a business since age 12, when I sold used golf balls (I fished them out of a lake on a nearby course, and sold them from a card table to passing golfers). My dad helped me form a corporation, and connected me with a friendly accountant he knew.
Kate (who was here before Mary) and Annie came with me from Humungous Neurology, Inc. But my first receptionist was - my mom.
To add another item to the list of terrific things Mom has done, she became my first receptionist when Kate had to go out of town that first week. She patiently answered the phones and made notes in a scheduling book, while I frantically tried to get the phones and computers to work properly. I didn't see a single office patient that week due to a phone system meltdown (it traumatized me so much that I've never changed it since).
Kate left me after 4 years to take a job closer to her home. I was afraid I'd never replace her. I spent a sleepless night at home, and the next morning she introduced me to Mary, who she'd met working for another doctor in the building. She'd found her own awesome replacement in only one day. And Mary is still here, and still totally awesome.
Annie and I have now been together for a total of 14 years, and I can't imagine doing this without her.
I have no regrets about solo practice. It was a self-taught crash course in business: insurance, payroll, withholding taxes, purchasing supplies, etc. It certainly isn't for everyone. But when it's all said and done, I prefer this more than any group. Nobody argues with me about my choice of computers, or EMG machine, or ISP, or whatever. Nobody makes me look at Powerpoint presentations on lobby decor. And nobody shows me charts of dollars earned per square foot per patient.
I'm writing this to say "thank you" to those who have made it possible for me to be here: Annie, Kate, Mary, my parents, and (of course) Mrs. Grumpy. It takes a hell of a lot of patience (and too many other qualities to list) to put up with me.
And, of course, the patients. Without whom I'd have no practice or blog.
Thank you all so very much.