DMU alumni entrepreneurs share their wisdom with students

Not all health care is provided in giant organizations, and not all medical school graduates remain saddled with tuition debt for decades. On Feb. 26, DMU students had lively discussions with nine DMU graduates who have been entrepreneurial in starting and leading their own practices and businesses as well as paying off student loans. During a panel discussion, two roundtable sessions and a networking session, they shared their knowledge and advice on becoming financially savvy and independent health care professionals.

“There are many opportunities and options to practice medicine that do not include working for a big health system or private practice multispecialty medical group. Sometimes working for a large organization will impair or limit one’s own ability to be the best doctor or person they are able to be,” says Todd Johnson, D.O.’00, FAAFP. In 2016, he opened Nebraska’s first direct primary care (DPC) practice, Access Family Medicine, in Lincoln. DPC is a membership-based, insurance-free approach that gives patients virtually unlimited office visits and no co-pays or hidden fees.

The event was part of DMU’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) program, a mentor network comprised of alumni and current students. DMU alumni volunteer their time to share information and knowledge with current DMU students about their education, career choices and transitioning to life after DMU. In turn, students have opportunities to connect with DMU alumni to gain knowledge and ask questions about their future career.

Also participating in the Feb. 26 event was Haseeb Ahmed, D.O.’07, M.H.A.’07. Like Dr. Johnson, he previously worked in a large health system but left to start the first direct primary care practice in Kansas, LiveActive Primary Care, in Overland Park.

“Every entrepreneur can trace their start to a handful of people or events that encouraged them to alter their course. I hope students realize that there is no ‘right way’ to create a career,” says Dr. Ahmed, who is board-certified in internal medicine. “More importantly, I hope they understand the power they have to change our world if they not only optimize their talents, but also learn how to bring talent together for a single purpose. Live with purpose and create a career around satisfying that purpose.”

Both doctors recommend their patients have some form of insurance for medical catastrophes. But since they themselves don’t accept insurance, they decide the best care for their patients, not the rules and paperwork that health insurance entails.

“One simple rule to a long and happy career is ‘Do what you love, and love what you do,’” says Dr. Johnson. “Many people will chase false idols and take on positions that are not fulfilling and end up burned out. They lose sight of what is important, and end up living an unhealthy, unbalanced life. Life is short. Make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to fail and make mistakes. Go for it.  And be happy!”

Students were excited to learn from alumni ways to be successful health care professionals. Amanda Dolley, D.O.’21 & M.H.A.’21, President of the Health Leaders Club, shared her experience, “I left the Entrepreneur Event empowered and highly motivated to become a health care leader within our community. It was inspiring to hear each of the alumni share their journey as they passionately found a way to better serve their patients by owning their practice.” This event provided students from all programs practical advice for enhancing their leadership skills and taking risks in their future profession. In addition to Dr. Ahmed and Dr. Johnson, below are seven entrepreneurial alumni who participated in the ASK event. Check out these interesting people!

Mindi Dayton, D.P.M.’05, M.H.A.’18, FACFAS, and her husband, Paul Dayton, D.P.M., M.S., FACFAS, opened Foot & Ankle Center of Iowa in Ankeny to provide treatments and procedures for patients with foot and ankle disorders. Dr. Dayton has helped develop a new, patented treatment for bunion correction called Lapiplasty® to correct the deformity at the root of the problem. She is also co-owner of WineStyles Ankeny, which allows her to share her love of wine education and food.

Sandra Hilton, D.P.T.’13, is the co-founder of Entropy Physiotherapy & Wellness in Chicago. She has worked in multiple settings across the U.S. with neurologic and orthopedic emphasis combined with a focus in pelvic rehabilitation for pain and dysfunction. She teaches health professionals and community education classes on returning to function following back and pelvic pain, has assisted with myofascial release education and co-teaches advanced level male pelvic floor evaluation and treatment. Dr. Hilton’s clinical interest is chronic pain, specifically in complex pelvic pain disorders for men and women. She is the co-host of Pain Science and Sensibility, a podcast on the application of research in the clinic.

Brian Hunziker, D.P.M.’11, opened Fusion Foot and Ankle in Waukee, IA, three years after completing residency at Trinity Regional Medical Center in Fort Dodge, IA. He specializes in inpatient and outpatient foot and ankle surgical and clinical management, adult and pediatric foot and ankle reconstruction, arthroscopy, toenail procedures and management, infection management, flatfoot reconstruction, forefoot deformity correction, foot and ankle fracture/trauma management, external fixation, and diabetic wound management.

Kaaren Olesen, D.O.’97, M.H.A.’96, started in obstetrics/gynecology practice in 2002 with West Des Moines (IA) OB GYN Associates P.C. In 2014, she retired from obstetrics to better meet the needs of her family. With that change, Dr. Olesen decided to open her gynecology-only private practice, Women’s Care Clinic PLC, in February 2015 in Urbandale, IA. She is also an assistant professor of specialty medicine at DMU.

Sue Schooler, B.S.P.A.’92, is the founder of Skin Iowa in West Des Moines. She practiced in ear, nose and throat care and facial plastic surgery for five years, dermatology for four years and then plastic surgery for five years before starting her own practice 11 years ago. She provides comprehensive dermatology services and advanced minimally invasive cosmetic procedures.

Jackie Stoken, D.O.’90, has been in private practice in Des Moines since 1999. She practices the osteopathic philosophy of treating the whole person and emphasizes preventive measures that can lead to long-term benefits.

Tyler Wishau, D.P.M.’14, and his wife, Jensena, became debt-free four years after he graduated from DMU and prior to his graduation from fellowship. They did so with a financial plan and some creative saving methods. Dr. Wishau currently practices with SSM Health Medical Group in southern Illinois, a multispecialty group, as the group’s first-ever podiatrist.

All DMU alumni are encouraged to join ASK as a meaningful way to share their own experiences, advice and guidance.

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