Doctorpreneurs: Dr Erick Fuentes

Doctorpreneurs of Doctology is pleased this week to showcase an interview with Dr Erick Fuentes.

Erick was born in Chile and moved to Australia at the age of 13, going on to complete all schooling and training here.

He obtained his FRACS in 2011 as well as extra Fellow Training in 2012 and 2013. Erick established his own practice as a Breast Oncoplastic & General Surgeon in 2014 as well having a role at Concord Hospital.

Recently Erick and his wife Jovanna created the Specialist Hub. Close this his heart is volunteering with DAISI (Doctors Assisting In South Pacific Islands) Foundation, providing surgical and medical assistance in remote areas of the Solomon Islands.

What organisation / startup did you found?

The Specialist Hub, a full-service medical co-working space offering doctors both the independence of a private practice, as well as the benefit of shared facilities, staff and systems to ensure cost efficiencies, streamlined processes ensuring professionalism, and a community of medical and business minds that provide support and mentorship.

What is its noble purpose?

To help establish Specialist colleagues into private practice, making their transition from training to practice an efficient, effortless and economical one.

We spend years studying and training to become doctors, but none of this training is about running a business.  As fully qualified specialists many chose to venture into public practice not knowing how or where to start, or what it takes to run a sustainable business. Specialist Hub allows young doctors to focus on doing what they trained for, while we take care of the business side of their practice.

Tell me about the first 10 years of your life.

I was born in Iquique in the north of Chile living in a house at the foot of the Dragon Sand Dune that looked out to the sea. I remember seeing Star Wars at the age of 3, shortly before we moved to Japan where we lived for two and a half years in Nomosaki, about 30 km from Nagasaki.

We could see Gunkanjima, the deserted mining island made famous by a James Bond movie, from our local beach. I think the exposure to such a different culture influenced a lot of who I am today.

Furthermore as my father was a marine biologist, I was exposed from an early age to science, biology, taxidermy and interesting field trips. Then we returned to Chile where I had a great childhood growing up in the eighties, going to Scouts, riding our BMX bikes and copying all the antics from influential films like E.T., The Goonies and Back to the Future (riding a skateboard while holding on to the back of the LPG delivery van being one of my favourites).

What age were you when you had your first paying job? What was it?

My first paying job was a disaster, I lasted one day as door to door canvasser selling useless junk in the pouring rain. I think I was 18, just before the first semester of Uni.

The next one was a little better, selling businesses advertising space for a community Yellow Pages, but I did not have the gift of the gab so I did not sell much. I then became a kitchen hand at a busy Hungry Jack’s store in Sydney. I think I stayed there for 3 moths but it served as a platform to move to better paying jobs where the shifts fitted better with my university schedule.

When I finished my science degree and moved on to medicine, I worked as a lab technician / handyman, setting up physiology pracs and tending to general maintenance in the Department of Physiology at the University of Sydney.

What made you want to be a Doctor and what speciality did you choose?

I was always interested in science given my father’s influence, but one day he brought in a physiology textbook when I was in year 11 and I guess that sparked my interest in medicine.

Once at Uni I chose physiology as my major and for a while I was heading down the neuroscience research path. It was not until I did anatomy as a subject that I thought seriously about medicine. Once I got into medicine, I immediately knew I wanted to do surgery. I am now a breast, endocrine and general surgeon. 

What made you want to be an Entrepreneur? When exactly did you decide?

The idea behind setting up the Specialist Hub came about after my own experience of starting up my private practice. I started my practice without knowing just how much time the business side of the practice was going to take away from the medical side.

I thought there must be a better way and wanted to make the experience for new Fellows much easier, more efficient and economical. Keeping in mind my limited business experience, I outsourced the research, development and setup of the concept to a trusted partner with the right business experience. She happens to be my wife. 

Are you still practicing as a Doctor now? If yes do you intend to stop if your organisation takes off?

Yes, still practising and intend to continue for as long as possible. Not intending to stop, because I love what I do, I believe I am a better surgeon than I am a business man, and I practice what I preach.

Why do you think traditionally many Doctors struggle with entrepreneurship?

Many doctors struggle with entrepreneurship because our rigorous education and training doesn’t provide us with many opportunities to learn true business skills. While some skills we learn along the way may be transferrable to business, only a small minority of doctors have a natural knack for it.

I believe a lot of those who succeed do so more because of hard work, determination, and luck rather than a well thought out and implemented business strategy. I am yet to meet a specialist (myself included) who before starting private practice sat down to write a business plan.

I believe many come to this point later in their careers when they have managed to build some capital and wish to acquire assets or safeguard their retirement. I think that this point can be reached sooner if the right business frame is implemented early.

The trouble is that once fully qualified we must concentrate on earning money to live and provide for our families, and this means doing what we are trained to do i.e. face to face with patients, with little time left to looking at the business side of what we do.

The very nature of our training can sometimes hinder us. We work in a scientifically scrutinised evidence based environment where the evidence if not trustworthy, often makes scientific sense. Doctors look for the same when we foray into business and finance in the hope of understanding both. If we cannot make sense of things or find evidence that things work, our decision making may be slowed only to be counterbalanced by our personal willingness to take risk.

I guess this is the same reason why people trust doctors more than they trust bankers, politicians or business people. Everyone is willing to give you advice at a nominal fee, but it is often not practical or not tailored to your situation.

What is your favourite quote?

"Pilots do not spend their time trying to run an airline. They fly planes and let other people take care of their admin. Doctors need to do the same”.

Jovana Kuljaca.

What would you do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?

Grab my family, keep them safe and go into survival mode. Alternatively, move with them to a deserted tropical island in the South Pacific.

Are you a Doctorpreneur? Do you know of one? If yes then get in touch us and you could appear on Doctorpreneurs of Doctology. Just email today.