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Episode 121: Dr. Aerie Chung (She/Her) of Lotus Health & Wellness - Mishawaka, IN

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

Direct Specialty Care Doctor



Dr. Aerie Chung of Lotus Health & Wellness - Mishawaka, IN
Dr. Aerie Chung

Dr. Chung is board certified in Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease.


She completed her Internal Medicine residency at Michigan State University and an Infectious Disease fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She has been practicing in Northern Indiana since 2013. She has a special interest in integrative medicine, women’s health, and herbal medicine. She is a member of the Infectious Disease Society of America, College of Lifestyle Medicine, and Institute of functional medicine.


While working in the conventional medical field as an infectious disease specialist for 8 years, Dr. Chung realized there were so many limitations on what Western medicine can do for patients. Advancements in technology, and pharmaceuticals did not result in improving quality of life. Hence, more people are suffering from a chronic illnesses without clear explanations. That was a turning point and started looking into different aspects such as lifestyle medicine, nutrition, mind-body therapy, and functional medicine.


Dr. Chung expanded her knowledge beyond conventional medicine and started to apply it in her daily practice which made a huge difference to patients.


In this episode, Dr. Aerie Chung explains how she built her successful membership-based infectious disease clinic. She reveals that she started by talking to referral sources, such as local ID doctors and a non-profit organization for HIV patients, to target the ideal clients. She also emphasizes the importance of making direct connections with physicians and networking, despite working in a community dominated by corporate systems. Dr. Chung adds that every patient referred to her is valuable and she treats each with high-quality care. She says she added acupuncture to the mix after taking a physician course and deciding to go with the Japanese style.





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Transcript*


Direct Primary care is an innovative alternative path to insurance driven healthcare. Typically, a patient pays their doctor a low monthly membership and in return builds a lasting relationship with their doctor and has their doctor available at their fingertips. Welcome to the My DP C story podcast, where you will hear the ever so relatable stories shared by physicians who have chosen to practice medicine in their individual communities through the direct primary care model. I'm your host, Maryelle conception family physician, D P C, owner, and former Fifer Service Doctor. I hope you enjoy today's episode and come away feeling inspired about the future of patient care direct primary care.


I'm trained in infectious disease and internal medicine. I opened my direct specialty care practice in 2019 and added internal medicine and D P C during the pandemic. Direct care allows me to provide the highest quality of care to my patients without the interruption of insurance companies and the administrators.


This is Dr. E Chung from Lottos Health and Wellness, and this is my D P C story.

Dr. Eric Chung is a board certified infectious disease and internal medicine physician. While working in the conventional medical field as an infectious disease specialist for eight years, she realized there was only so much western medicine could do for her. Patients. Advancement in technology and pharmaceuticals did not result in improving quality of life, and she realized more people are suffering from chronic illness without clear explan.


That was a huge turning point for Dr. Chung, and she started looking into different aspects such as lifestyle, medicine, nutrition, mind body therapy, and functional medicine at Lotus Health and Wellness. She brings her expertise and desire to treat the whole patient and has expanded her knowledge beyond conventional medicine and started to apply this expanded knowledge into her daily practice, which has made a huge difference to her patients.


Welcome to the podcast, Dr. Chung. Hi. Thanks for having me here.

This is so awesome. Before we start recording, I shared how unique it is and I hope that changes that you are one of many specialists trained in infectious disease going into direct care offerings in the future. But I just loved, when I was researching.


Who you are and your clinics. I love that. Your first social post that you have on your on your Lotus Health and Wellness is you talking about health and fitness and you lifting weights. And that's not the picture or the image that I think of when I think of Dr. Olson, our infectious disease specialist in residency.


I'm super excited to have you share your story on the podcast. Yeah, sure. I opened as a direct specialty care doing infectious disease in 2019, and I had a lot of interest in lifestyle medicine back then, so I would use my internal medicine board, which was dusty at that time. I wanted to incorporate lifestyle medicine and internal medicine, so that's how my D p C part started after my infectious disease. Specialty care launched.


It's just so cool because I think about, when you were in residency, did you ever envision that you were gonna be doing that as your career choice in the future? That's changing a little bit now with people choosing out of residency to do D P C, but for people like you and I, this was not something that I had ever heard of or thought of.


Was it something that you had ever dreamed about early on in your

career? Before going to medical school, I did a lot of Studies regarding nutrition and exercise, and I think that was my background. That always kind of foundation of what is health and how do I maintain it. But during the med school and residency fellowship training, I did not ever think about doing lifestyle medicine as an infectious disease specialist.


Totally cool. Now that you are doing what you're doing, so I wanna take a step back because when you share about that you had not thought about doing direct specialty care, direct primary care as part of your career choice in the future, what was Id like being that you. An ID focused physician for almost a decade.


So I finished my ID training in 2013, and I've been practicing ID for a decade now. I did work as an employee physician for five years right after training, and I got severely burned out. That was pivotal moments that I decided that I was gonna leave corporate medicine forever, but I did not want to leave medicine forever.


So I was trying to look into what I can do a little differently. I was doing locums back then, actually. I had a lot of time to do searching and looking into myself and that I came across this D P C group on Facebook. So that kind of changed my. Amazing. And it continues to change people's lives to this day.


So That's so awesome that it was out there and you found it. When you talk about that you were getting burned out, what was it about your job and your environment that burned you out in particular?


So the amount of workload and having no personal time, I was basically working 12, 15 hours, sometimes more than that a day, every single day.


I was on call, so my sleep was severely depro provide and I had to cover several hospitals in one day during the weekends when I was on call. So there was a lot of driving involved. Yeah, and there was basically no quality of life. And I'm just it's appalling that I was able to continue that for five years.


It's amazing and it makes me think about how we are very conditioned in medical school. We're very regimented. I've mentioned this before, we were taught, this is how it is. Like you get a pager and you get paged and you show up and that's it what you do, and then you do it again the next day.


And if you are post-call after a, 24 hour call. Whatever you're doing, you get handed the next assignment. So I think that there's multiple listeners out there who can really relate to how appalling that. Treatment of you as a physician was by the system? In my experience, in my interacting with ID specialists, it's always been inpatient, like maybe 90% an outpatient, 10%.


And getting in to see an outpatient ID specialist in my area is like almost as hard as seeing a rheumatologist. So how was it for you? You mentioned how you were driving between hospitals. Did you have an outpatient base or was it exclusively or mostly in the hospital for you? Yeah, you're right. It ID is mostly inpatient based and the outpatient consists most of the HO hospital follow-ups.


So the reason why there's such a long waiting time is there's also shortage of ID physicians, but there's so much demands of the outpatient referrals who are not on the priority. Usually the hospital follow ups are on the priority in the ID clinic.


Definitely something that I remember from training and I was in a much bigger city than I am now.

So I'm sure there are other listeners out there who are relating to your words. Again, in my residency hospital we were the catchall hospital as I'm sure many residency hospitals are where. The rich hospitals would send their patients to our hospital if they were uninsured or if they had less ideal insurance.


So I wanna ask, when you were covering the hospitals, what limits to treatments or follow-ups did you see because of the insurance driven system?


So insurance. Always the biggest barrier for patients to be discharged or making a plan. Case managers, social workers they nag ID physicians and put a lot of pressure actually to change the drug to a cheaper one.


Affordable all the time, several times a day. And yeah, it's very frustrating that insurance determines what kind of antibiotics patients are gonna go home. Yes th there was a lot of frustration. And patients were mostly understanding because there was no other choices, uninsured or underinsured.

Patients usually ended up with a choice that they. Do not prefer going to long-term care facility or sniff. It was none of their choice. It was the insurance company's choice to send them there.

Did you see disparities in care when it came to options to go home with IV treatments that someone could continue at home because of insurance?


Oh yeah definitely. Yeah. Some people could do it at home. Nurses come to their house, Basically they can do their daily activities with no interruptions. Some people have to stay in the nursing home for six weeks, like a prison. So there was a huge gap.


So terrible. And again, going back to how were in medical school and residency, what did you think Id was gonna be like in your formidable years in training?


I was naive. When I was in a residency or fellowship, cause idea itself is fascinating. Amazing variety of cases and it's solving the puzzle. So you get this kind of fantasy during training and once you get out you are just in the jungle yourself and you gotta figure out everything.


So I really didn't have a mentor when I was starting my own. Journey as an employee physician, so I had to figure everything out on the go. When you mentioned mentors, I wanna fast forward a little bit because as you explored on the D P C Facebook groups, did you find any mentors then in direct primary care who were also specialized or who were focusing on Id absolutely not.


There was zero and there's still zero.


You are a true trailblazer, so I appreciate you sharing that. And again, I hope that you are one of many, because I hope that there are people out there listening and having their minds blown that you are an ID trained physician doing direct primary and direct specialty care all at the same time.

So when we talk about. You and your life as an employed physician and then seeking another way to work, and you found D P C, how did you start? The mind shift between, okay, I've not had an a mentor in ID in employed medicine. I got through that. Now I'm, my mind is open to this new opportunity. How did you start developing a practice that would represent what you were trained in and how you wanted to practice?


There had to be a lot of thoughts put into it. Since there was no direct specialty care, there was only D P C and mostly family med medicine, trained docs, not even internal medicine. So most of the information and the price points and everything structure was based on family medicine. So seeing the entire family from kids to adults, my focus was only adults.


I am not trained in peds. So that was the biggest difference. And then, I had to navigate myself. How could I shape infectious disease into a D P C model? So that was a difficult decision that I had to do, but I. Honestly, like opening up the clinic brick and mortar clinic was the easiest thing I did.


And there's a checklist, right? And if you follow those checklists, pretty much you can open a space. But having a content and what kind of niche that you're gonna have, what service you're gonna provide, that is mostly time consuming. And you just have to gather a lot of information, talk with a lot of people.


I did talk with quite a lot of family medicine physicians even though the specialty was different and I got some help from local D P C docs who are already established here, surprisingly, there's 5 6 7 D P C in this small area.


What were the different iterations that you thought about in terms of incorporating all of your ideas and putting them into a practice that represented you?


Just started. I don't like spending so much time on planning into details. So we opened it up at the end of 2019. And then pandemic hit. So everything was shut down and I was confused too, of course, as an ID physician pandemic going on. But I live in the red state and there was so much misinformation and hatred towards physicians in the community.


Dr. Fauci, he's a the top of the infectious disease doctor in the nation and he was getting threats and so much attacks. So my first response was, I wanna be invisible. I wanna hide that I'm infectious disease. It was like that kind of a threat that I didn't personally get it, but it was the, what was going on crazily in the environment.


I don't think I can just do infectious disease in this community for the state. Let's look into what people want. What are people searching for? So people who are looking into So many health informations, which a lot of them were misinformed. I took a look into what most of the people are willing to do.


They wanna take care of their health. They wanna be in charge. They don't want their physician or somebody in authority to tell them what to do. That was the biggest thing. It was mind's changing thing. So I changed my concept. Service to cater towards what people want to hear.


That's how I incorporated integrative medicine, not just internal medicine conventionally, but I incorporated like supplements, a little bit of functional medicine, and then I got into acupuncture, so that's another different story.


When, in 2019 when you had opened, what did your offerings look like?

Because at the time you had ID memberships. So I wanna highlight that because when you hear ID memberships, when I read that, I was like, what ID memberships, what does that look like? Could you share what your memberships looked like before you pivoted?


So Id mostly deals with acute infection issues and once it's treated, there's no reason for the patient to keep coming back and see the physician.


But there are several chronic conditions that needs a lifelong monitoring, and even though there's a few, I thought that could be a niche that I could appeal to the population, which are H I V. There's no cure. It's a lifelong disease. And Hep C, chronic Hep C and immunocompromised patients who keep getting recurrent infections because of their compromised immune system or congenital issue or going under chemo.


The other one is chronic osteomyelitis. ID clinic, outpatient clinic has a good amount of number of these chronic osteomyelitis patients who has a hardware that will never be replaced for some reason, they have to live with this infection. And ID monitors the labs and they adjust the medication.


So it's like a chronic management, lifelong management. So I thought this was a niche for id me. It was separate from the internal medicine direct primary care membership, and I wanted to grow this. But as I said, During the pandemic, I wanted to be invisible. So it I didn't do any marketing after I launched it.


It's so interesting because as your clinic pivoted and as it's continued to grow, I'm feeling like I'm a back to the future interviewer right now, but when you look at what you have now compared to what you had then, Do you think that the way you did memberships in your original clinic would have worked if we had not had the pandemic?


Good question. I am not sure. I don't know how I would have appealed to the ideal client. It probably will need a lot of time and marketing tactics. I don't think I could have ranked a lot of patience in a short amount of time.


When you talked about pivoting and when you talked about finding out what your ideal patient wanted, how did you do that research?


How did you figure out what your local community wanted as a value proposition?

So I went to the referral sources. H I V There's a nonprofit organization where they see a lot of community h I V patients and. Also I contacted local ID doctors because they were always overwhelmed. They have two to four months of waiting list and they pretty much refuses all the ID referral.


If it's a U t I, no, we're not seeing them. If it's wound infection, no, go back to primary care. It was a big disadvantage to the community where people needed to be seen, but they were turned away. So I approached to them and, hey, if you have those, patients just send to my way. And I just targeted those physicians who I thought would be a good referral source.


And how did you get your foot in the door, so to speak? Because correct me if I'm wrong, but I picture your area with a lot of corporate run offices where there might be, front office staff, back office staff. You can't actually get a back line because they tell you one doesn't exist. How did you get your foot in the door to talk to these fellow Id physic.


I met the physicians in person. I tried to make direct connection with the physician one to one. And I did have some connections because I worked in this community for two years before opening my own practice. So I did know.


Quite some specialist and hospitalist and so I try to remain in contact and somewhat, yeah, so it, yeah, it is dominated by two large corporate system and one large outpatient clinic system. And there's really no independent physicians, but there were a few very few. So I tried to make contact with them as well.


Very cool. And I hope that more in your area are listening to your interview to the day it comes out as well as in the future. When you talked to these physicians and did the, like h I V clinic, did they end up being good referral sources?


So h i v clinic was a nonprofit, so for the patients it was free and the clientele was not my ideal.

They probably couldn't afford the membership. However, the head of the nonprofit paid for them, paid for a few ideal patients who are willing to join the membership. So it was more like a Don. And when they would pay for a member to join your practice because they're a nonprofit, was there any paperwork that was special for you to give to them for them to use the money for memberships?


No. It was a very simple process.


After talking to those doctors, after reaching out to people and networking, who is your ideal patient today?


So every single patient who got referred to me were. Valuable. I treated them with amazing high quality care, every single one of them. So they could come back or go back to their physician and spread the word.


Actually in the very beginning for the patients who got referred for various reasons some of them joined the membership even though they didn't have a chronic illness. They just loved the model and they like, Just joined it and they're still with me like it's been three and a half years and I just can't believe that they're still with me, even though the initial reason was for some kind of infectious disease.


Now I'm doing their primary care stuff as well.


And you talked about you added acupuncture to the mix. So earlier you spoke about adding acupuncture to your services at your clinic. At what point did you start adding that in, and what was the driving force to add acupuncture in particular versus something like acupuncture or another type of treatment?


Acupuncture for physician course. There are a couple of them, and I decided to go with the Japanese style one. Because I heard amazing stories about it. I think that's the reason why, and I have no regrets. I still learning every day. It's a very sophisticated skill that. It's very hard to learn.

It was a total about nine month, 10 month course. In the beginning six months, I really wanted to quit and I was like, why did I sign off for this? Am I too old? So I feel like everything that I was studying, I was like forgetting every day as well. Most of them was virtual kind of lecture. And then we went to, we gathered in Boston for the first hands-on workshop.


After that was for four days. I was able to put needles in people. I gained so much confidence. And then after another workshop the next month I was like, okay, I'm gonna do this on my patients. So I got volunteers of patients. Do you mind if I could do some, acupuncture treatment on you?

I'm not gonna charge you. It's gonna, everything is free for the next three months. So my members graciously, they allow me to do it and some of them like saw a big difference, huge difference. Even though I was still in the learning phase. So I was like, okay, this is really working. I'm so glad that I did this.


So I got certification in. July, August, that time last year, so it's not even a year now incorporated it into my membership. So my members get one complimentary session, so they, whoever joins, they get a full session. It's up to them. If they wanna continue it, then it's a separate charge.


If they don't wanna do it, that's fine. You're still a member. And when

you talk about this training program what was the investment that you put forth towards that program in case others are interested?


It was $10,000 for almost a year course, and the workshops were separate.


And when you started incorporating. Acupuncture as part of your services, does your malpractice consider that alternative care? And did you have to adjust your malpractice to reflect you incorporating that service? There was no price increase but I had to add it on cuz it, it is a procedure. And every state has a different requirement for practicing, but most of the states require 300 hours of practice.


It could be com combination of virtual and hands-on, and if you're certified, you can start it asap. So Indiana State had that, so it was really easy to incorporate into my practice without. Doing other loop. I appreciate you sharing about the change from when you were training to the confidence that you gained when you were in person.


Because doing things online as we, experienced during the pandemic was a very big change for a lot of us, and I think that many people can relate to when we. Learn and study things virtually to going in person. But I appreciate you sharing that. Now I wanna go back to that pivot that you had between when you opened in 2019 and then your clinic as it is today.


So you had a totally different website, totally different service offering compared to now. How did you transition? Did you open two separate businesses? Are they DBAs? How did you legally manage the change between the two fronts of your clinic, so to speak?


So my L C is Mission Infectious Disease Specialist and I opened A D B A, Lotus Health and Wellness.


So that was created in 2021. Did you have a lawyer who was specializing in D P C or helping, specializing in helping D P C doctors, or how did you find your legal services, if any?


Yeah, so initially I used a lawyer who is very familiar with the D P C and she did a handful of D S C. So it was easy for her to add on the D p C side later on, cuz the foundation was based on D S C.


There was really no difficulty to add on services. Do you offer one-off services for non-members?

I do. There was a price adjustment this year. I didn't want to be taken advantage of joining a cheaper membership and then terminating after one or two months so they could avoid the one time fee.


So put the price a little higher. So the membership looks more affordable, if that makes sense. And with you changing pricing with you, adding acupuncture, did you set up your contract so that those changes are in an appendix so you don't have to change the whole body of the contract? Or did you have those pieces written into the body of your contract?


I changed the entire contract. The previous members, they are paying the same price as if yet last year. So the price change is only applying to the new members who joined this year going forward. So the contract is a little different. In your initial iteration of your clinic, you had listed on your website that you were accepting Medicare, given that insurance had impacted.


The level of work and the type of work that you experienced in fee for service, have you continued to take Medicare and or other insurances in your current clinic? And if so, why?


I initially started as a hybrid. However, I didn't contract with any of the private insurances. It was only traditional Medicare that I was contracted with, and this applies to infectious disease. Cause I'm not taking Medicare patients as a D P C. It could be confusing cuz I'm doing both and then like I'm opted into Medicare and there's some services that Medicare covers, like for instance, acupuncture. So it could be like really a big miss, but it's really not, to me it's like simple cause straightforward.


I don't see. Primary care Medicare patients, period. I only see Medicare patients for infectious disease, and I bill it, but because the number is so small, it's not a big burden to bill or hire somebody. I can do it myself or. Staff could do it. It's not a big deal to me cuz the volume is so small and I don't have that many Medicare patients in my clinic who comes in for integrative health. I don't know why, but my clientele is mostly at age 30 to 50.


And when you mentioned staff who is on staff with you at your clinic,

my manager was my only staff for almost three years. He's my partner and he's the one who helped me a lot. Initially establishing the clinic and kind of being a emotional supporter order.

And then I hired a virtual MA last year. And this year I hired a part-time ma in person and I do have contracted per DM infusion nurses who could be on call in a short notice to come in and give infusions for the patients.


That's incredible. Is there anything else that you would highly recommend for people, especially other ID trained physicians who are looking to do direct specialty care, including ID going into the future?


If they're just opening? So I think having a virtual ma. Is the minimum to start with if your patient panel is not too big. Rooming the patients or those I think you can do it pretty much yourself. You don't really need to hire somebody to do that. Virtual MA could do most of the administrative work and prior authorization, which I do very minimum, but sometimes you, you need it for IV antibiotics I think from the start, I would recommend to have a virtual MA and train.


Training is very important. You gotta train them to fit your style and your kind of service. They are very well versed into what you're doing. You don't have to explain the same thing again and again. So training is I.


And when you talk about training, how did you go about training your team?


As I said, my manager started to work from the beginning and he knew all the ins and outs and even he knew how to bill and everything. He's the one who trained the ma. I trained him, I taught him a lot of medical stuff, insurance stuff, whatever. I know I trained him in the beginning and he, of course, he put his own time and effort to learn himself.


And then he was pretty well trained. He put that training to the other MA, so now he's training the real ma. So yeah, if you train one person really well, that person could train the next person.

So now that you have this clinic, you have your trained staff, you talked about that your population of patients is a younger avatar type patient.


So when you. Started having a certain type of person coming into your clinic. What did they love about the practice? You mentioned a little bit how some people, they didn't even come back for ID issues. They just wanted to have the excellent care. What are some of the other value propositions that your clinic brings that are so unique to your area that has two meanings?


I'm not taking insurance. There's above and beyond high quality. That's the D P C DSC models, but there's another meaning conventional means Symptom focus management. If you have a cough, here's a cough drop. If you have a fever, here's a Tylenol. So not trying to look into what is the reason of those symptoms, but just patching a symptom with another prescription.


Another prescription. I think people are more interested in that kind of holistic way that I look into the whole picture. What do you eat? How much exercise do you do? And what kind of imbalance do you have? So that acupuncture part comes in because everything is in a yang and her and everything.


So I look in several different aspects as a whole person, and they love that. I don't think they care more much about how expensive their membership is. They're paying insurance and the membership. That's a secondary. But it's the approach of medicine that I do very differently than the local clinics, what whatever they're doing.


Yeah. And not only are you a pioneer in. An ID trained physician going into direct care. But you are a member of the Infectious Disease Society of America, the College of Lifestyle Medicine, and the Institute of Functional Medicine. So when you're bringing that extremely personalized care, that holistic whole picture care to your patients, how do you pull from all of that training in terms of getting evidence-based western medicine, evidence-based eastern medicine, and everything in between to bring to your patient?


The excellent care that you do.


So I'm trained in evidence-based medicine, right? So there's a lot of limitations in evidence-based medicine. Nothing is perfect. And mind body mindfulness, that's now there's evidence. But 10 years ago, nobody heard about it. It was like, Absolutely. No, we're not doing that. So time will tell.


Right now we don't have evidence on certain stuff, certain treatment modalities. But you never know after five years, 10 years, 20 years, there could be a robust evidence. So evidence medicine changes time by time and being fixated at what is the evidence at this moment? Is there randomized control trial?


I think that makes your vision. Very narrow. And of course I was trained that way. It took a while to break that vision. Think outside of the box. I try to stay with the standard of care, but if people come to me who exhausted everything that they have, they saw 12 different specialists. They had a second opinion, third opinion, fourth opinion.


Nothing's getting better. Then I talk about why don't we do this as a trial? There's nothing to lose. So there are some, boundaries that sometimes we just have to think, shift the focus of what we're doing. Whatever I'm doing. It's not like severely deviated from the standard of care.


If you look into it, you probably find all the evidence what acupuncture points do. So based on evidence medicine, lifestyle medicine is scientific, it's evidence-based prescribing exercise that is evidence-based and it works. So I try to focus on what works for this person. Something that works for this person might not work for this one.


So it's has to be individualized, extremely personalized and free, precise. So that's what I'm focused on and I'm trying to expand my toolbox cuz right now I added acupuncture on it, but I want to add more so I can help more people if that makes. Especially people who are actively practicing or who've have seen and direct specialty doctors in active practice, like I know, I feel like a much better doctor now.


I know my patients, even though I took care of them for almost six years in fee for service, the patients who followed me, I know them way better than I did before, and their care is way more personalized because I have the time. To research oh, this week it was about coq 10, and next week I am attending a lecture on I b d and nutrition and the microbiome.


I didn't have time to do this stuff before, so Absolutely. That makes sense. When you talk about offering different services at your clinic, one of the things that you do offer is IV infusions, and so who do you treat with IV infusions and what specific IV infusions are you utilizing at your.

So during the pivotal moment during pandemic, I had to think about my revenue. Getting more members takes time, but adding more service that doesn't cost me too much inventory and I could have a higher margin. I looked into those stuff cuz I didn't wanna go to bankruptcy. I had to stay afloat. So that was something that I thought maybe I can do it because it's trending.


There's a lot of demand. People ask for it. There's a lot of. Providers who I don't think they have the education background to know what they're doing. So I would rather do in a safe environment if there's a lot of demand. So that's how I started. I do customize, so everything is customizable. I don't use premix.


Because I want it to be personalized depending on what the individual wants. So the basic infusions are like migraine infusions. In the er they give fluids with magnesium sulfate. So it, it's the same concept for migraine headache, acute migraine attack, going to the er, spending like you.

Thousands of money to see probably met level and then getting a bag of fluid that's gonna cost several thousand dollars. But if I do it in my clinic, I could do it in a several hundred dollars, couple hundred dollars. For instance those and like hangover dehydration, people who really need fluids but don't wanna go to the er.


So it's really handy and. Be able to provide when people need it. People want something when they feel sick, they wanna recover from flu or covid. They're exhausted. They can't keep down fluids cuz their like stomach is, yeah, I think it's benign because I know exactly what's going in there and what the osmolarity is.


So I think it's very safe and something that could have immediate relief for people who really need something.


And in terms of IV infusions, do you do the IV infusions yourself in your office and use the infusion nurses that you mentioned earlier? Or do you have that done exclusively by the infusion staff?

No, I had a extra room in my office and I was thinking about subleasing it to a different D P C, but why not? Let's just convert it and put bot two recliners, and I use it as an infusion room. And so I'm usually there when there's infusion patients, so always standby. And the infusion nurse comes in and it's more Kind of a customer service.


Cause they check the patient, they chat with them, they give them emotional support. I mean it for the patients. They love it. They love it. They just vent about their life.


And in terms of the people who have been drawn to that service in particular is, are you seeing more uptake from members or non-members, or is an equal uptake by?


I think it's almost equal, but it's a different clientele. I would definitely say that. So non-members, sometimes they convert to a member, so that's why I open up to non-members. But majority of the clientele who just wants one or two infusion and that's it. It's a little different.


So for my members the purpose is usually there's a reason. There's a reason. And I usually tell them, okay, you need this for this specific issue. People who sign up for their own thing, they know what they want. So it, it's a little different.


With the services you offer for non-members as well as members, what does your typical day look like in terms of balancing the two populations as well as having time for yourself?


So I don't see too much non-members. I think it's because the hefty fee, it filters out a lot, most of the day. Like for instance, like a, having a screenshot. Surprisingly, I have more acupuncture patients these days than a medical visit. So I, I have four acupunctures spread out during the day and sometimes I have zero medical member visit.


It. It's like very interesting. I don't feel like I'm working when I'm doing acupuncture. It's so low stress and it's very enjoyable. People come to me to de-stress and feel better, so yeah, I, I don't have to, look into the labs and, listen, trying to figure out what the diagnosis is.


It's just wellness concept and I love it. I love this wellness part of the clinic that I created and it allows me to really enjoy what I'm doing.


As it should be because we worked our butts off to get here to take care of other people. So you totally deserve it. Now you are near South Bend.


So in terms of when I think of South Bend, I absolutely think of be a champion today because shout out to my med school roommate, Wendy, who was an, is a, an Irish at heart because of her Notre Dame ties. When I think of Notre Dame, I think about. Dominated that area must be by the people who have ties to the university.


So when you are near a university like that, how are you marketing your clinic now so that you can share what you're doing in wellness and infectious disease and primary care with a university

community? Notre Dame is the biggest employer in this area and. A lot of businesses are tied to the school, specifically athletics.


However, the school is isolated from the community, if that makes sense, unless there's a football game. So I really don't have a lot of Notre Dame students or faculties as a clientele. They have their own wellness center in the campus. So all their medical needs are met there and students, they.


Usually prefer a walking distance by car. It's about 20 minutes, so it's not a walking distance even though it's close. I personally don't have any ties to Notre Dame. However, once in a while we do get. Some patients, like difficult patients who has infectious disease, I get referrals or somebody search Google and we popped up and they come and, going through your socials again, I wanna highlight how you had one patient who had received acupuncture treatment and he was wearing his Notre Dame jacket.


So how did you get your patient to come on your social media and do a video with you and talk about your service?


Oh he just coincidentally was wearing that jacket that day and I did acupuncture several times on him, and it was just spontaneous on the way out when he was checking out, I asked him, do you mind if you could do a short testimony?


And he was like, sure. And then I just okay, start, I videoed. I hope that inspires other people to just be spontaneous with their patients because the experience of being a direct primary care, a direct care patient is so different from fipa service. Looking back on your journey, what should other specialists, whether they be ID trained or not, What should they be thinking about if they're exploring in the world of D P C or if they're considering opening their own clinic?


So I think trying to find a connection somebody who did something similar is very important, which I could not find. However, if somebody reaches out to me, I'm willing to help. And I, I think finding a niche is really important and what you really enjoy, what you really enjoy, what you're really good at it, and having an open mind to keep learning, keep adding more tools into it because business, being an entrepreneur is needs.


Evolution. We have to adapt. New things have to adjust to it all the time, so have to be very flexible of what we're doing. Unfortunately, I do talk with a lot of ID colleagues and actually there's a group ID locum colleagues, and. Almost none of them have interest in being an entrepreneur. They want to be paid by somebody else.


So it, it's like a big mind shift especially in my specialty to have that kind of I, I had no fear, but I think the fear is the biggest barrier for most of the people. But yeah, just have to overcome it. If you have a will to do something differently and you don't wanna be told by hospitals or administrators what to do, what not to do.


If you wanna get out of it, then you just have to, do all by yourself. I will say that, just a reminder if you. The ability to go through medical school and residency. There's a lot of power and strength in each and every one of you. So thank you so much, Dr. Chung, for joining us today and sharing your awesome story.


Thank you for having me.

Next week look forward to hearing from Dr. Cindy Ruben of InTouch Pediatrics and lactation in Westchester, Illinois. If you've enjoyed the podcast and you haven't yet done so, subscribe today and share the episode with a physician you may know. Who needs to hear about DP C? Leave a five star review on Apple Podcast and on Spotify now as well as it helps others to find all these DPC stories.


Lastly, be sure to follow us on social media. If you're wanting to continue learning more about dpc in the meantime, check out DPC news.com. Until next week, this is Marielle conception.



*Transcript generated by AI so please forgive errors.

1 Comment


Episode 121: Dr. Aerie Chung (She/Her) of Lotus Health & Wellness - Mishawaka, IN I loved Dr. Chung's candor. Thinking outside the box while developing your vision of DPC is key. Having every single part of the process planned has created my delay into this arena. I'm excited to hear more from these podcasts!

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