Direct Primary Care Doctor
Dr. Ga Geong (Jenny) Lee was born in South Korea and grew up there until age 6 when she moved to Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in Canada with honors. She completed my medical training in Beaumont Michigan as a Family Medicine Doctor and then went on to complete a Fellowship in Women’s Health at Case Western University in Ohio.
She moved to Las Vegas after graduation with her family in 2016. During Fellowship, her family had grown to three. She had her daughter Annabelle in Ohio during her training. After moving to Las Vegas, she started working for a local medical group. One year later, she had her second child Lucas. She was employed for three years, and then, three years ago, she opened her own private practice in Las Vegas.
Her practice is called Sunny Health DPC. She is one of the founding members of Free Market Medical Association (FMMA) where she along with others is passionate about building a foundation for price transparency in medical care.
Outside of her work, she has many interests including gardening, cooking and traveling. She enjoys good company, and she likes to share what she knows. She enjoys meeting people; genuinely takes an interest in anyone she sees and talks to. She spends most of her free time attending conferences for learning additional medical skills, and spending time with her young family.
Dr. Lee shares today about how she went from an employed position in Las Vegas, her first job out of residency and fellowship, to opening her own DPC, Sunny Health DPC and how she didn't know she didn't appreciate fully what autonomy meant to her until it was threatened to be taken away. In today's episode she also shares about how entrepreneurship was not her strong suit starting out, the namesake of her clinic and why her patients value her culturally sensitive care.
Hear Dr. Lee on the 'La Vida Las Vegas" Podcast
IG: @sunnyhealthdpc, @sunnybeautyandwellness
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Welcome to the podcast Dr. Lee. Hi, how are you? I'm doing so well. It's so exciting to talk with you. You're only a state away from me in Las Vegas. So hopefully someday we can see each other soon. Yes, absolutely.
I wanted to start with your journey into medicine. What made you choose to become a physician?
Well initially, um, I want it to be a dentist because, um, my dad was in the dental field and he looked up to dentists. So, um, that's how my journey in medicine began, but I didn't really do well on the entrance exam.
So, um, from that I kinda change gear and took some time off and decided to go into medicine.
I did a post-bac program with dental students and medical students, and I could not do their upside down 3d tests, so to save my life. So I completely understand that. And in terms of when you found medicine as a, you know, a better alternative that fit with you more, what was it that fueled your passion to go full board into medicine and get into medical school?
I think that I always liked the idea of being able to help someone and being, um, advocate for people who cannot really, help themselves and just the science itself interested me. And the path of medicine allows you to continue to learn. Not that you can't learn in other fields, but in medicine you always have to be a student.
And I really liked that part.
And knowing that about you, in terms of before you opened Sonny health DPC, what was your life like professionally?
I was three years out of my fellowship. I did a woman's house after my family medicine residency, and I was an employed physician in a big, outpatient clinic.
I was my first job out of my fellowship. So I was in Las Vegas. This is the first place that I moved
to. And in terms of your day to day in this fee for service job, what were your expectations and what was your autonomy like at the time?
You know, um, I didn't know I didn't have autonomy until he was taken away from me later, but, um, I had a very busy schedule. I think initially I was seeing about 18 patients in a given 10 hour shift, but it really grew in, um, in the last year that I was there. I was averaging about 23, 25 patients per day.
Wow. And what were some of the biggest struggles that you found when you were having a schedule like that?
You know? Um, I, I didn't know there was a problem. Like I just thought I was doing a good job and I, of course I was very busy. I was, it was normal for me to miss that. Uh, you know, kind of rushing in Russia out, very busy picking up my children's after work.
but you know, I didn't know much better. Like it was my first job and I thought this is how all the doctors work and everybody around. Work that way. So I didn't really know there was a problem.
I'm sure listeners are thinking to themselves, that sounds really familiar.
And you know, even hearing your words from my own experience, I know exactly what that feels like. It's like you go from residency clinic where maybe you're starting to do 900, 203 is 900, 200 fours, and then you go into a clinic and you know, like, we've talked about those golden handcuffs, you start easing up your schedule.
And then all of a sudden you have the schedule where you are not in control. And so I want to ask there, when you talk about, you didn't know that you didn't have autonomy what was that point where you were like, wow, this is not gonna work for me to continue in fee for service.
Yeah. You know, um, so that's how that's, that's how my schedule was. I was, I was busy seeing about 25 patients per day, but, um, all of a sudden they were asking me to change my schedule, see more patients and all of a sudden changed location. And I didn't really have much control over what they were telling me to do well.
And was that because of your, the way your contract was written?
I think that, you know, with the new management, because our company went through several transitions and, uh, with the new management, they looked at each provider's schedule a little bit differently. And when I was having some admin times built in before work and after work, you know, before they didn't have a problem, but new management had a problem and they, they said that I just needed to see more people.
What was the final straw that you experienced in fee for service that made you transition? You know,
that's very interesting because if I didn't actually go to, I think that GPC summit in year 2018, I, I may have been continuously working at fee for service office, but you know, my husband and I, we were starting to get a little bit burnt out.
So we were looking at other things we're fascinated with DPC. So we went to the DPC summit without much thought. And, and, um, when I mentioned about the schedule change, those kinds of things came after that. And when that happened, All of a sudden, I thought, oh, you know, I don't have to take this. I may have different option.
So I think that's not what we all began.
That's amazing. And you know, I, I am a big believer in things happen for a reason. So what a cool experience that you had that under your belt, the knowledge about DBC under your belt before you actually needed it? Um, I feel that that's also very relatable because I was thinking about DPC long before I made the jump.
So I love that. And let me ask you there, when you talk about that, you guys, I'm assuming you and your husband went to the DPC summit. How did you guys even find out about DPC?
Um, you know, I, I found out through my husband, but I think my husband found out through some Facebook groups. I think that's how most of us are included in that Facebook groups.
Definitely. You know, for, for those people who might not be on Facebook groups, um, for physicians, there are groups like DPC docs. DPC women. DPC docs in the house, DPC for newbies. There's lots and lots of, uh, DPC doctors, groups, DPC Alliance. That is another one.
Um, but I want to ask there in terms of, you know, we are at the cusp of the two DPC summits, the summer, the hint summit is coming up in June and the DPC summit, uh, coming up in Kansas city. So can you tell people, you know, what, what was your experience like when you were at the DPC summit in 2018?
I've never felt that kind of experience before, because even though I was working professionally for three years, I kind of, it was taking me a long time to get out of that student mode because I've been student for so many years and.
To see all these, you know, experienced doctors kind of say, you know, out on the stage clarity about what the problem is with the, with the current medical system and what they did to transition. It was very refreshing for myself to hear it. And I thought that, you know, oh, just because I'm, I'm a newbie, maybe this is how I feel, but it wasn't the case.
And I, I saw that, you know, the people who've been practicing medicine for 20 years actually heard my story and I was able to relate to their story. And, and I think that was very special.
That's incredible. And I hope that the people who are able to attend summits this year, you know, that the in-person experience is so much different than watching recordings.
And while I definitely encourage everybody to watch as many recordings or to listen to as many podcasts as you can. It's very different when you're in the room with other people who are wanting to know more and more about DPC. So I definitely encourage people to check out the options when it comes to the summer and the summits.
And you know, when, when people are going to the DPC summits, you know, clearly entrepreneurship is a big theme in terms of DPC is a business model. And we are physicians being able to practice autonomously through D through DPC as a model. And so I want to ask you there when you. Had experienced this corporation telling you, Hey, you, you ha you're going to have to change your schedule.
Goodbye. Admin time are going to, we're gonna, you know, make you work more for the same amount of money, um, and give patients less care. I, what, when you decided to open up Sonny health DPC, how did you get started? did you take out a business loan? Did you fund it yourself? How did it work out financial.
so, you know, I was fortunate because my husband was working as a physician, so we had a steady income. He could support the household. And, um, I was not good because one of my friend, um, actually opened the direct primary care before me, about six months before me. And so he had an office space very small and he had two rooms and he actually was generous enough to give me the option to use the other room.
So really my overhead coming in was very low, maybe no more than maybe 1,500 per month. So I took out a small loan from my family, so that counts,
I think about $15,000 out. And really that's all I needed. Um, I wasn't making money for first six months, so, but I wasn't taking any money away from the family. So the only money that I took was $15,000 and later I paid it back after about a year. So that was really my starting starting budget. I didn't take any outside of alone.
It's really important for people to hear that because you know, there are some people out there who think that starting a business, you have to take out a loan or you have to go into debt for 20, 40, $60,000 or more. And when you are able to do things like network with people or hear people's stories as to how they got started, just like you shared, you can hear the numbers to see if those numbers are something that can work for you.