In 1979 I founded the San Diego Sports Medicine Center, a revolutionary medical facility focused on providing the average person with the type of high tech and cutting edge diagnosis, conditioning and treatment programs that were at the time only known or available to elite and professional athletes.
Over time, it became evident that most patients in our family practice were minimally aware of the full body of knowledge available regarding health, preventive medicine and sports medicine. But they were hungry to learn and very receptive to receiving coaching and mentoring.
At about the same time, “managed care” programs began to dominate the market in California in an attempt to limit the spiraling costs that were threatening to bankrupt the average persons ability to pay. The standard practice of medicine became more bureaucratic, less personal, and less rewarding for both patients and doctors. Physicians had to spend more time filling out paperwork and arguing with “gatekeepers”, more patients had to be seen per hour and more non-clinical staff had to be hired to process all the forms and paperwork. In the end clinic overhead dramatically increased and efficiencies suffered. The traditional mantra of “do what’s right for the patient, damn the cost” was replaced by “do what’s right for the business, damn the patient”.
And so it happened in 2000, I was struck by the realization that I wasn’t enjoying a large part of my practice day. Even worse, I became acutely aware that no was else was having a good time either. Patients were just as frustrated as the doctors. In many cases patients no longer trusted their doctors values or motives. The end result was an increasingly dysfunctional medical care system that was essentially focused on disease management. Often, decisions were made based on lowest price, lowest bidders or pre-existing relationships, regardless of quality or propriety.
As an avenue of joy during this time, I spent a good amount of time lecturing and offering seminars to doctors and business groups, such as TEC (Vistage), YPO and WPO. Initially they were interested mostly in sports medicine topics but gradually wellness, health promotion, fitness, preventive medicine, anti-aging and substance abuse were requested.
After putting on a three day wellness retreat for a small group of CEOs, one of them remarked about how he had a CFO to advise him on finances, COO to advise him on operations and a CSO to keep him advised of the latest science. What he didn’t have was anyone to advise him about wellness for himself, his family or his employees. He wanted to find a resource who could play the role of “Chief Wellness Officer” (CWO) for corporate wellness programs in California.
The CWO would be his trusted medical advisor, advocate, mentor, coach, and partner in all health and wellness issues. He suggested that having access to such a person would be invaluable. On the drive home, he asked if I would be willing to consider playing this role for him and his family.
It immediately occurred to me that what he was asking for was the role that I already played for my close friends and family, and it was probably the most rewarding role that I played in my medical career. At that moment, I decided I would open wellness a clinic so that I could be the CWO for individuals, families and corporations.
In 2001, I opened Lifewellness Institute for business. I went from seeing patients every 10 minutes to getting to know them over the course of an hour. Our patients have access to me and the team through email and phone, saving our patients time and energy. The team that we’ve assembled is patient focused is trained in the latest medical technology and is attuned to fulfilling patient needs and request as promptly as possible.I have regained my medical soul. I am able to practice the highest quality of medicine possible with people who value it, who have become intimate friends in the process and with whom I am able to carry out my professional dreams with the highest degree of integrity and caring.