Episode 66: Dr. Christina Gonzalez (She/Her) of Hope Family Medicine DPC - El Dorado, KS

Direct Primary Care Doctor




Dr. Gonzalez sits at her clinic Hope Family Medicine DPC in El Dorado, KS
Dr. Christina Gonzalez

Dr. Christina Gonzalez is a board-certified family physician. She grew up in the Adirondack Mountains area of upstate new york. Then, after earning a BA in Psychology from Gordon College she lived and worked in Boston for a few years, while completing her pre-med classes at Harvard University, before heading off to med school.


She graduated from New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, just outside of New York cavity, and went on to Kansas to train at the Via Christi Family Medicine residency program.


While she is far away from where she grew up, she loves the life she’s built in El Dorado (pronounced El Dor-AY-do), KS with her husband, Pablo, and their gaggle of children. When not seeing patients you might find her chasing after her kids, cooking, enjoying time out on the lake, or going on adventures with her husband and kids.


In her interview, Dr. Gonzalez shares about how she never wanted to be a physician and how ended up going to medical school anyways! She then talks about how she trained for residency in a place she never would have considered, based on where she grew up, and how she happened to then transition to entrepreneurship and opening her own DPC in rural El Dorado, KS!

Resources Mentioned by Dr. Gonzalez:


PODCASTS:

-BizChix Podcast

-Paradocs

-The Business Boutique Podcast

-The Social Dentist

-The White Coat Investor


CONTACT:

Website: Hope Family Medicine DPC

email: info@hopefamilymedicinedpc.com

Phone: (316) 323-4436







TRANSCRIPT*

So Direct Primary Care to me is a modern approach to old fashioned family medicine. It is breaking down the barriers and things that get in the way of the doctor patient relationships so that we can focus on what really matters for the true health and wellness of our patients, for their families and for our community. I am Dr. Christina Gonzalez of Hope Family Medicine and this is my DPC story.


Welcome to the podcast Dr. Gonzalez.


Thank you. I'm really glad to be here.


You have had such a unique journey because you grew up in New York and along your medical training and your medical journey to opening up your DBC, you've had experiences overseas. So can you please share with the listeners about your journey in medicine that led you to eventually learn about DPC?


Yeah. So the story of how I became a doctor, I think it really intertwines with how I became a direct primary care doctor. Like. Kind of almost one in the same, I can't say doctor and then became DPC or doctor and then became primary care because they really kind of flow together. I could probably take your whole podcast to explain the whole story, but I'll try to be really succinct and tell kind of the highlights.


I actually, when I was really young, I was six years old and I made my first diagnosis. I got out of the bathtub and I said, mom, look, I have Lyme disease. And I had bull's eye rash. And I said, look, I have lung disease, just like you do. So my mom, my dad and I all had Lyme disease growing up. And that kind of was defined our lives a lot because back then they didn't really know how to treat people.


There was a lot of kind of longterm sequella, especially, especially for my mom. And so health and wellness was kind of always in our. Our, um, history. I actually remember writing a journal entry where I said, I would never want to be a doctor who would want to be around sick people all the time. So that kind of went again, not against, but, so I kind of had that in my background, but at the same time, I was really interested in it.


I kind of always had that. If something is broke, I want to be the one to fix it. So I saw problems with how healthcare was when I was a kid and I really wanted to, to do something about it, but I didn't actually want to be a doctor. So growing up, I thought maybe I would do physical therapy. Maybe I would be a psychologist.


I went to college and I had a degree in psychology because I figured whatever. Doing that psychology was an important part of that. And so I graduated from college with a psychology degree and moved to Boston. And when I was in Boston, I went on my, I went on a mission trip with my church and we went to Ethiopia.


And what I will say is this there kind of two big defining, I guess, three things. So when I was in that kind of defined how I. I discovered what my like vocational purpose in life was. I remember learning about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And I remember learning that physical needs were at the bottom of the pyramid.


If you remember, it's like a pyramid and at the top is self-actualization, but physical needs were at the bottom and I am a Christian. And so my faith was important to me, but I never wanted to be a missionary. I didn't want to be, you know, out there evangelizing sort of thing I wanted to address, I guess I always knew I wanted to like show love rather than tell love if that makes sense.


So Maslow's hierarchy of needs in eighth grade. And then in college, I, there was a quote by, I think it's Frederick Buckner. That was our theme for, we had a. Convocation one year where it said the place that God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. And so I, at that time, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I knew it was going to be helping people.


It was in health care and it was definitely not a doctor. So I just said, well, I need to figure out where that deep need is. So when. After college went to Ethiopia. I've had this moment where I was literally standing on the road, walking from the guest house to the hospital. And it was just like this like, wave of like, this is it like, this is that intersection.


This is where deep gladness and deep hunger meet. This is where, you know, physical needs and emotional needs and spiritual needs. They all come together. It was a really cool place that I was at. They, um, and this kind of where it sorta ties into DPC a little bit, not so much. Financial model of it. But the concept of it is they worked with women and children who had HIV and aids, and that was their kind of identifier.


And they took care of the whole person. They had counseling, they had financial classes, they helped people with small business loans. They did peer to peer counseling. Basically. They just, they initially had started out as an HIV aids organization, but then once part therapy came out and they were able to help people live longer.


They said we really need to just not be a hospice program essentially, but be a program that takes care of these people and it just changed lives. And so I was like, gosh, if I could do this in the United States, not that I didn't want to live in another country, it just kind of was like, well, if I could do this forever, I wound up.


That's what I want to do like it, where, where people recognize that physical needs and psychologic needs were equally important and equally affected each other. So, so that trip was pretty amazing. But what was actually kind of the funny story about it is that on my flight back, I had this true epiphany.


Like I was like, fix, this is what I need to do. And, you know, I guess I'm supposed to be a doctor, even though I never wanted to be, but on my flight back, there was a doctor. I think his name was, I think Dr. Irv for Irving. And he was a doctor from Texas. And in hindsight, I can see he was burnt out. He was like burnt to a crisp, and I remember being on the plane and this was.


What does that back in 2006, 2007, being on the plane, on the flight back, I said, gosh, I'm thinking maybe I want to be a doctor. And he launched into this 10 point, you know, lesson on all the things wrong with health care about, you know, Documentation and insurance and, and administration and all these things that were wrong with healthcare and ended it by saying, and if you want to go help the poor, then you should just be a PA that's good enough.


And I have nothing against PAs. I think there's absolutely can be a role for them, but I hated, I mean, it just like nod at me to the core that he said, you know, if you, if that's what you want to do, you should just go be a PA. And that just felt so wrong because I had thought about being a PA at one point, because I didn't think that I.


I didn't think I was cut out to be a doctor in a lot of ways. And so I was like, well, gosh, I mean, I do want to help the poor and I don't want to be what that guy just said. So I, um, went home and applied to med school and figured I wouldn't get in. And then I did. So that's how I became a doctor. I think maybe that didn't fully answer your question because I totally tangented.


This is another example of how this podcast is really highlighting the individual journeys of these, of DPC physicians all over the country. Because the journey that we all take to get to being a part of the movement is, is absolutely unique for all of us.


And when you talk about. What you saw and what you didn't want to see. And you know, this idea that how could you have expected to sit on doc to sit next to Dr. Irving or Dr. Irv on the plane? It's just, it's, it's pretty crazy how all of that happened. And, and, you know, they, the idea that at the time you were in Ethiopia, you were seeing the transition from them thinking about HIV as a chronic disease, rather than as a life ending disease.


Like we used to, to it's just, you know, it's, it's great that you were in these places at the right time and that you had your epiphany. And so I want to ask now, after you applied to medical school, you thought you weren't going to get in, and then you got in, how did you. Learning about direct primary care as a business model and as, uh, a type of model that you wanted to pursue after residency.


Yeah. So I went to medical school in New York and I found out about this program called via Christi, which is in Wichita, Kansas. And then I, um, I actually met Nick Thompson, um, as a med student and he told me, I said, so what do people do for fun there? And I joke about this with him all the time is that he said, uh, what do people do for fun there?


And he said, well, we have a really nice YMCA. And that was the saddest thing I'd ever. It's like, really? You're going to try to convince me to move to Wichita because of what I'm saying anyway. So, um, I proceeded to try to find a program that was similar to the, uh, Kersey that had that. That kind of cowboy mentality, where you learn how to do everything.


And you were like a family doctor who knew what you were doing rather than a family doctor who was like the bottom of the barrel couldn't get in anywhere else. So I was like, I can find that anywhere else. And I couldn't. So I wound up going to Kansas and said, I will be there for two, three years tops, and then I'll get out of there.


So probably. Second year of residency, Nick Thompson said that he was going to have like a pizza dinner with people. These people who had this different kind of healthcare, um, there was this guy who was supposed to be special or famous or something like that with this program called Atlas and he was going to be in town.


So that was how I first heard about DPC. And I didn't go to the pizza dinner. So I tucked the ideal way, but I thought conch, that sounds like not such a bad. Bad idea, but it's way too new. And so, yes, I went to residency with these two doctors, Nick Thompson, and Brandon almond, who they opened up a direct primary care in Wichita, saw how things went with them.


And then I actually started, I met, had met my husband, my second year of residency. We got married at the end of residency and we were planning on staying. So we had found what I really thought was going to be like my dream job. And I knew realistically, nobody, most people don't find their dream job right out of residency, but it was everything.


So I did OB I could do like minor surgeries. I could do inpatient. Adult, you know, cradle to grave. I delivered babies. I did C-sections I did everything. And so I was doing that, but there were some problems with the practice and about two years into a very long contract that I would never recommend anybody else have redo a contract that long.


I was starting to think maybe my practice wouldn't, wouldn't be able to support me and then wound up not actually doing anything with it. Just kind of tucked it away in the back of my mind. And at that I went to lunch with them. And at that lunch, I was saying like, Hey, maybe at some point maybe you'll have a job opening for me.


I'm kind of thinking, you know, that seems like a really good idea. Now you've proven that you haven't, you know, gone, you're not starving. You're doing okay. And they said, yeah, well, let's see kind of what it, what is possible at that point. But you should really think about doing your own practice. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.


Do you understand, like I am a doctor. I am not a business owner, so I completely like wrote that idea off. So that's how I found out about it.


What eventually led to the decision to open up hope family matters.


Yeah. So I, um, I should have clarified, I live about 40 minutes, half an hour, 40 minutes from them. So I'm kind of like, they're the big town, but where we've got a whole lot of farm in between us. So I was kind of going along and, um, at the very beginning of 2020, I found out I was pregnant with our son. And then shortly thereafter, I, um, in the very end of March, it's actually a pretty awesome story that I love to tell people is that.


Um, I had actually gone back up a little bit further in the fall. I went to, um, not symbols in Orlando in 2019. And I went there with this, like, not ten-year plan, but like this two year plan, like I'm just going to learn everything. I know I want to do CPC, but I did not want to open my own practice, but I had that kind of idea in my head then.


So I, that was what November of 2019. And then we found out we were pregnant and then this pandemic hit. And in March we have these good friends who own a whole bunch of businesses in town and they will periodically, they're actually patients at another DPC in the, in Wichita. And they knew that I sort of had this idea and.


Sort of encouraging. So they said you should open a DPC here and you should rent out this building that we have for your DPC. And I said, well, that's nice, but you know, I'm not going to do that. And then they said it again and I say, well, that's nice. I don't think I'm going to do that. And then they said it again and I was like, that's nice, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.


So in March they said something to my husband instead of me. And so he said, sure, we'll go see this building. And I said, honey, I told them, no, you, why did you say yes, you should have checked with me first. So he said, well, there's no harm in going to look at, at this building. So I said, okay, fine. We'll go look at this building on my day off on Wednesday, on Friday.


I said, yeah, I think something's happening. And then on Monday I no longer had a job. So the timing was just amazing that I went to this place and I said, yeah, Wonderful. Like, we'll do just these tiny little modifications, but it's not going to be anytime soon. So just think about it. And then literally it was less than a week later that I suddenly was like, okay, well now I don't have a job.


So, um, let's just do this. So we thought to ourselves at the time, you know, I was pregnant. Nobody knew what really at that point, how safe it was for pregnant women and COVID, and I wasn't going to go start another, like try to get a job, but we couldn't afford for me to not have a job. So we said, well, let's just, you know, do some telemedicine to get by and like hustle and try to put something together.


Really our question was, do we want to open before I have a baby or after? And I decided it would be way less stressful to just open the practice first than to try to be worried to, I didn't want to spoil the, the newborn phase with opening a practice. So, yeah, so that was in April, may and June. I actually, by June, I was already ready to open my practice, but I, the building wasn't ready yet.


So I spent, I hustled for two months. And so I don't really know what it was that made me switch. I think it was just, I think that was probably, it was that it just seems like, I don't know that it was even a conscious decision as opposed to mentally like it just, everything just like lined up. Right. And it just felt like the right thing to do.


So I I've always operated under the impression that like, well, we'll just figure it out. Like we'll, if we're, if that's what, you know, if I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing, then I, then, you know, God will take care of it. We'll figure it out. And, and so far that's, that's proven true. So.


That's a wonderful, and I think that, you know, especially for people who are listening, who are in that space of like, oh, I'm a doctor, I'm not a business owner, but I'll learn about DPC. You know, it's it's I was in that same place of like, I eventually want to open up a DPC, but it's not, it's not now. And then for me, it was.


When I got threatened with being fired, it was like, oh, this is the day that I'm going to make the decision to do DPC. So I just, I say that as, you know, as a reminder to people collect all the information you can, because you never know if the time is right for you, you'll be armed with all of this information and empowered to be able to make decisions towards, you know, making your own DPC potentially.


And I'll say that the business aspect of owning a practice, I, that was what I was most fearful of. And I have loved it. Like I would never have thought it. I know someone recently said something about, I forget the word, but somebody who like continually likes to learn new things.


And I apparently that's me because now I'm just like devouring, everything there is to know, not about, not just about like a deep about DPC, there was that season two, but now. Business plans and not even business plans, but like the, you know, how to run a business. Well, and I just I've loved learning it. I really have, so I would never have thought that I, I mean, never have thought that I would want to do that.


I remember when I started at my previous, uh, employed physician, he said something about my contract. Lawyer said something about putting a provision in there to become a partner. And I was like, well, you can put that in there, but I don't want to be a partner. I want nothing to do with the business of medicine.


And now I'm like, Hey, let's talk all about the business of medicine.


I want to ask about hope family medicine, the name and where it came from. Because on your website, you do share a little bit about the history of the, of the clinic's name, but I would love if you could share with the list of. How family medicine came to be.


Yeah. So one thing that my patients know is that they I'm always, I've always been very open with them and I'm not afraid to share my story as a patient, as well as my story is a doctor. So they, I think that's something that my patients really, I mean, I know it is cause they bring it up that they really appreciate that.


I'm. I relate to them and I understand where they're coming from. You know, I was just talking to an OB patient of mine, uh, this week, who is stressed out because she's post dates and doesn't want to be induced. And, and they just said, gosh, I just feel so much better because you can tell me you've been there, you've been this new, you understand?


So, um, so I've always been really upfront about kind of our medical stuff. So I have it right on my website that when my husband and I first got married, um, pretty soon after it was actually just a couple of weeks after I started my first real job where I am in my town now, um, that we found out we were pregnant.