Can Your Doctor Be an Entrepreneur and a Business Leader?
The boardroom of healthcare leadership needs to be filled with innovative risk takers and those with solutions for our system that reach beyond the status quo. In October 2015 I left my place of employment for the past 10 years and opened my private practice, Sharlin Health and Neurology. As the son of a pediatrician who had the largest and most successful private pediatrics practice in Mercer County, New Jersey, I had a great role model, and a desire to follow in my father’s footsteps. Equally motivating was his father, my grandfather Hiller Sharlin, who had emigrated to this country early in the 20th century, took over his father’s lighting store in Trenton, and turned it into a national lighting company with the motto, “Brighten Your Nights with Sharlin Lights.” My grandfather died of stomach cancer when I was 8 years old, but left a legacy of believing in one’s self and what is possible. When I completed my residency at Vanderbilt in 1998, the Chairman of Neurology, at that time Dr. Gerry Fenichel, offered me a faculty position, and I was torn between a desire to be in private practice and the honor of working with one of my mentors. Ultimately, I decided to join a private practitioner, a neurologist in the Nashville area, as an employed physician. Despite two years of hard work I realized that a partnership track was not there for me. In search of something better I moved to Springfield, Missouri. But it took me another 15 years before I could realize my dream.
Since its opening Sharlin Health and Neurology has become the only independently owned private neurology practice in Southwest, MO, and probably one of the few in the entire state. There are challenges that I face because I have chosen this path of independence, but I am determined, and I have found a few open doors. My practice has been successful since its inception, now 10 months ago. The challenges (and a good mentor) have taught me a lot about business, something not taught in medical school, and unfortunately not picked up during my subsequent 18 years as an employed physician. Though I am certain there is much more to learn I would not have it any other way.
I have been able to combine a lifelong desire to own my own business, be an independent neurologist, and blend my passion for neurology with an interest in lifestyle to help the people of the Ozarks get better, not just “manage” their disease. I have been inspired by two great leaders in my field who have sharpened their skills in Nobel laureate laboratories. Dr. Dale Bredesen did his fellowship with Dr. Stanley Prusiner and Dr. Jeffrey Bland worked with Linus Pauling. Each has made tremendous contribution to this new approach to medicine. Dr. Bredesen, a UCLA Professor of Neurology, has developed a protocol to reverse early Alzheimer’s disease, and prevent it from developing in the first place. Dr. Bland is considered the father of functional medicine.
On February 29, 2016, I launched a program called, “Brain Tune Up!” This approach to neurological care, based on Functional Medicine, is focused exclusively on the strategy of addressing root causes of disease. Brain Tune Up harnesses the benefits achieved through changes in lifestyle, 21st century laboratory testing and therapeutic technology, and targeted nutrient supplementation. I have seen for myself that patients willing to do the hard work can reverse diseases we consider “chronic” and lifelong. I am proud of the improvements my patients have made with memory loss, including early Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, migraine, and fibromyalgia, among others. These accomplishments are partly attributable extensive training through The Institute for Functional Medicine, training with Dr. Bredesen, and another earth-mover, Dr. Terry Wahls, whose work has helped thousands with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders change the trajectory of their disease.
My program functions as a separate company within my practice and is independent of third party payers. I have helped patients in the most remarkable way, and created a medical business model for practice that avoids the hassles and hidden costs of health insurance. To provide business stability and a critical service while I grow my functional medicine practice I continue to see patients under the conventional insurance model. This blended approach has worked from a business perspective. I am also launching a clinical trial center to help bring new treatments to market, and remain on the cutting edge. As anyone who reads this essay knows the American Healthcare System is being crushed by mounting costs and an ever-increasing burden of chronic disease. Practitioners like me willing to take a chance on an approach that reduces the burden of chronic neurological disease are the health care champions of the Ozarks. I have developed a practice model that does not cost our system anything, motivates patients, and gets result that are worthy of attention. Simply put, we cannot wait around for the new miracle drug to get its FDA stamp of approval to make a difference in the arena of chronic disease.
I work with clients locally, regionally, and nationally. If you would like to be part of Brain Tune Up! or you recognize the benefit for your company’s executive health program, please contact my office at 417-485-4330. You can also visit my website at https://www.sharlinfxmed.com
Ken Sharlin, M.D.