An Excerpt from the Book:
“Drive conquers all: it conquers the fear of starting,
the obstacles, as well as dealing with the uncertainty
that comes with running your own company”
Beginning as an attending anesthesiologist at St. Louis University Hospital in 1994, Dr. Steve Smith’s primary practice has focused on pain management. He specializes in interventional treatments of the spine, including the neck and back. In 2002, he and his wife Lisa started Midwest Pain Center which now has 2 locations. In 2005, they expanded with a surgery center. Lisa has a Master of Science degree in Medical Surgical Nursing and eventually became a Nurse Practitioner. The goal is to deliver a higher quality of care at a price that was more affordable than local area hospitals. They have seen their competitors come and go; their business has been built one patient at a time.
I wanted to be a physician for as long as I can remember. My fascination with medicine started when I was about 5 years old: I had a depressed skull fracture that warranted a trip to the operating room. After that, dissecting kits and anatomy models were my favorite birthday presents. The idea that I would do anything else never really entered my mind.
You need a certain amount of smarts to get through medical school, but more importantly, you have to be a grinder: in addition to the substantial workload, there are the familiar setbacks that are just part of the program; those who are successful are able to grind through the bumps. The drive that I found in medical school is an important part of what allowed me to start (and to continue to have) a successful business. Drive conquers all: it conquers the fear of starting, the obstacles, as well as dealing with the uncertainty that comes with running your own company.
Shortly after my residency training was completed, I was asked to be director of a pain center at a hospital; I was independent but under their roof. Private practice at a hospital facility was at a more relaxed pace than I was used to, especially after the high intensity and workload that was required to become a physician. Academic institutions reinforce atrophy: people are not rewarded for working harder, taking risks, or even something as simple as seeing more patients.
When I would ask coworkers about improving our practice, I was met with a shrug and a response of “we have just always done it this way.” That attitude – and the lack of accountability – just drove me crazy. I am strongly motivated by the idea of continual improvement – of constantly looking for a better way to do things.
Although there was a benefit to being autonomous from the hospital, the staff was hired by them and answered to the administrators. In many cases, these were not the people I would have hired, but my input was not solicited. One simple example is that the managing nurse would set up my supplies to do a common procedure – it was always the same supplies – and she would routinely leave one or two items off of the tray. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was frustrating and showed a carelessness that reflected upon me as a doctor. Because she had been with the hospital for so many years, I had no real ability to fire or discipline her; either she was asleep at the wheel or simply did not give a damn – in either case, that is not why I busted my ass to get through medical school.
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