Dr Fiona Raciti and Dr Maria Boulton, Founders and Owners of Family Doctors Plus practice started their business after becoming disillusioned with their experience practicing ‘5 minute medicine’. They shared a vision for a General Practice that focussed on preventative medicine, health promotion and education. In March 2016, they opened their Family Doctors Plus clinic in Windsor.
Their community impact has been significant in a short time. They have been so successful in their approach that they have already expanded to Family Doctors Plus-Aged Care and Family Doctors Plus-Corporate. They were 2017 Telstra New Business Award Finalists Queensland, and won the overall Queensland 2017 Telstra Business of the Year Award.
Why did you want to become General Practitioners?
Maria: I am one of those strange people who actually likes hospitals. Ever since I was little I always found medical clinics and hospitals fascinating places. I never really considered any other career other than medicine. When I was a junior doctor I gravitated towards surgery. However the love of people, the flexibility and wide scope of general practice won me over in the end. It is a privilege to care for patients, and in general practice we get the opportunity to grow old with our patients. For example, caring for a pregnant lady, then her children and seeing those children grow up.
Fiona: I was initially attracted to medicine because I found the human body fascinating. However, as I progressed through my training I realised that people and their stories are the most interesting part of medicine. I loved meeting people and helping them when they need advice, reassurance and comforting. I think this is one of the most rewarding parts of general practice. The variety we seen in General Practice and the complexity of some of the problems is what keeps me challenged everyday. I love that I can manage a variety of problems in medicine, rather than focus on one area. General Practitioners truly are specialist generalists.
How did you become business partners and start Family Doctors Plus?
Maria: My husband’s business was a finalist for a Telstra Business Awards 2 years ago. Listening to the speeches on the night really inspired me. I was telling Fiona all about it and that is when we looked at each other and said “let’s do it”. It was the catalyst we needed to take the plunge to do things our own way. To start our own clinic where we could provide excellent and caring service. We were both disillusioned at the way general practice was moving towards 5 minute medicine. We’re very similar in the way we both practice medicine. We believe in prevention, education and don’t compromise in quality. Plus we are great friends and have the utmost respect for each other.
We started our clinic Family Doctors Plus in Windsor in March 2016. The clinic design is innovative. It has a waiting room that doubles as a seminar auditorium for education presentations. We both love children and so we designed the clinic with kids’ spaces. A kid’s corner in the waiting room and a kid’s treatment/vaccination room. Both joyfully decorated to make their visits to see the doctor less stressful. The clinic is warm and bright and not clinical like old style medical clinics.
We saw a gap in the market, especially when it comes to education. This is why people are turning to “Dr Google”. We decided to address this with initiatives like our very popular Puberty Information Sessions and School Readiness Seminars. We also support people in their goal to lead happier, healthier lives. Combining the best of the western medical world with the holistic/wellness worlds, with a big emphasis on nutrition, physical activity and emotional wellbeing.
Through Family Doctors Plus-Aged Care we care for over 150 residents in aged care facilities. Our model focuses on prevention, health and emotional wellbeing. Our aged care model is working so well that we are currently having meetings with the Federal and State Aged Care Ministers to discuss our innovations. Through Family Doctors Plus-Corporate we bring our model to workplaces to improve employees’ health and reduce sick days.
What community engagement activities are an integral part of Family Doctors Plus? And what benefits does this bring to your practice and the community?
We are passionate about health promotion, prevention and education and hold regular education sessions at Family Doctors Plus, and at daycares, schools and workplaces. We produce newsletters for the local daycares and schools. And also share health advice on social media (Facebook, Brisbane Kids) and radio. Maria is a regular guest on ABC Brisbane radio. We’ve been blessed with great community support and are so thankful to our local community.
We hold regular fundraisers for Beyond Blue, Women’s Health Week and the Cancer Council. These are great events where we combine education about health issues provided by our doctors and guest speakers with raffles and lucky door prizes. We also support our local schools through donations and recently participated in the inaugural “Neighbour Day” Festival in Ascot. These activities not only reflect our goals but help us give back to our community and increase health awareness.
How has managing your own practice inspired other women to become leaders?
We are both very energetic, passionate, motivated and love what we do. We lead by inspiring others and helping them achieve their dreams. Both in medicine and the business world, females can sometimes take a backseat from leadership roles and we hope that our practice can be inspiration for other women who have a dream to make a difference.
The Telstra Business Awards have been a big part of our story, right from the start. We have come a full circle in that our recent journey as Telstra Queensland Business of the Year and New Business of the Year Awards have inspired others to follow in our footsteps. Our close friend Emelia Chalker was so inspired by our journey that she has decided to go into business on her own too. She is about to launch her own business Ironbark Marketing.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Our greatest challenge has been the business side of owning a practice. Doctors get no business training in their medical degree. We were aware of this and the need for a sound business plan, the importance of cash flow for a new business and a marketing strategy. It has certainly been a learning process. But we are lucky to have found supportive, encouraging and knowledgeable business people to help us on our journey. Our team have helped us develop a great business strategy. Our business has grown exponentially and continues to grow.
What are you most proud of?
We recently underwent General Practice Accreditation and as part of it we undertook an independent patient survey. The feedback we received was excellent. To know that our patients love what we are doing is what keeps us going, and what we are most proud of. Not only that but the word of mouth buzz that Family Doctors Plus receives is fantastic. It makes us feel grateful that what we strive to achieve is a reality.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Surround yourselves with like minded passionate people. We could not have achieved what we have, and in such a short time, if we didn’t have the right business partner or the right team backing us up. Our business partnership is so successful because we have the same goals, we don’t compromise on quality, are both passionate and full of energy. We complement each other very well as we both have own particular strengths. Most of all, enjoy what you do and have the confidence to back yourself.