Doctorpreneurs: Dr Merryn Thomae

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Doctorpreneurs of Doctology is pleased this week to showcase an interview with Dr Merryn Thomae.

Merryn Thomae is an Endocrinologist and General Physician practising in Brisbane, South West QLD, the Sunshine Coast and Northern NSW as well as offering Telehealth consultations world-wide.

Merryn served as a Medical Officer in the Australian Defence Force and has since worked across both the public and private sectors in urban, regional, remote and indigenous healthcare settings.

What organisation/startup/alternative pursuit(s) did you found?

By late 2015, I found myself working across the public and private sectors in Endocrinology and General Medicine with very little down time. I was 20 years post-graduation and feeling emotionally exhausted. I decided that if I was going to continue to practice medicine, I would need some other interests and a “life redesign”.

I read voraciously on the subjects of personal development and work-life integration. Discovering Tim Ferriss ultimately led to my online business pursuits.

First, I founded Impact Medical Enterprises to offer fee-for-service private billing. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would pay a percentage of their billings for a largely online administrative service and wanted to provide others with the admin services that my virtual Practice Manager was providing me with.

My second foray into the world of online business provided me with a huge number of unanticipated challenges and many life lessons! I was newly single and had entered the startling world of online dating. I was immediately struck by the seemingly large number of people misrepresenting themselves and their intentions. So I founded Platinum Introductions (a two-year project as it turned out) to provide a safe, secure and private platform for like-minded people to make genuine connections (this website also gave me a much needed creative outlet through my blog articles – I love to write!)

Nevertheless, my true calling is still Medicine and I have redesigned the way that I practice to ensure that I can provide the type of service and care that defines me in a sustainable way.

I have also started a Podcast - Seek, Find, Rise on Apple iTunes.

I also love working with other health care entrepreneurs and I have recently joined forces with Laura Zimmerman (RN, DE, CDN) to found Your Health Now, an online platform that aims to provide high quality, evidence-based health education that can be accessed by anyone, from anywhere, at any time. We offer a wide variety of resources to individuals, health care providers and health science / medical students in the areas of health education, personal growth and empowerment.

Tell me about the first 10 years of your life?

I was born on the island of Sri-Lanka (then Ceylon) under curfew during the civil unrest of 1971 to diplomatic parents on posting.

I spent the first decade of my life moving countries with my family, developing a deep love for travel and the cultural learning experiences that come with it.

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

My siblings and I began trying to earn money from an early age - we all share cringe-worthy memories of staging magic shows, musicals, gymnastic displays and trying to make wine by fermenting grapes in bottles in the hallway cupboard.

But my first real paying job was as a retail assistant in a beautiful giftwares store called the Boston Ivy in Mittagong, NSW (where my sister and I went to boarding school when our parents moved to the Solomon Islands in the 1980s).

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

My amazing mother is a Nurse and wherever our family was posted, she found volunteer work with local health care services and non-government organisations. I remember walking through the Goldie Hospital with her in Munda, Solomon Islands when I was around 11 years old and thinking that being a doctor would mean being able to help a lot of people in need of care.

The specialty question worried me deeply as an Intern and to this day I clearly remember asking a Paediatric Registrar in the corridor of the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle how he chose his specialty. I thought his response was extremely unhelpful at the time but has proven to be eerily true: “Your specialty will choose you”.

This is exactly what happened to me when the only two Rheumatology advanced training positions in Brisbane suddenly became one due to an accreditation issue but there were four Endocrinology positions available! And then again, four years into my private Endocrinology practice when I was invited to take up a General Medicine post (and complete my second specialty under the post-fellowship training program).

Two specialties chose me!

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

Medicine is my first love - everything I do is defined by service and caring. I hope never to lose those abilities but I would love to practice more in a global preventive / curative health care arena in future. The sickness model of healthcare can be wearing.

Why do you think traditionally many Doctors struggle with entrepreneurship?

I think everyone struggles with entrepreneurship - it s the nature of the experience. Is there any entrepreneur out there who finds it easy? The struggle and challenge may actually be the very reason many people are attracted to entrepreneurship.

However, I do find that many people in Medicine are bewildered by my career path and the way I choose to practice now – I was a Medical Officer in the Navy and Army with postings both in Australia and overseas before entering the physician training program. I have since worked across public and private sectors as well as in indigenous, regional and remote area health care.

I operate my own virtual office with fantastic virtual practice staff located in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Perth, the United States and the United Kingdom. I hold clinics in 16 urban and regional / remote locations across South East Queensland. I have frequently been asked why I “don’t just settle down and build a practice in one place”.

My answer is always the same: Why would I want to do that? I have moved all my life - I love the different people I meet, the different places I get to experience and the freedom that brings with it. I like to take the road less traveled and to go where there is true need – there is a huge need for more specialist services in regional Australia, providing a fantastic opportunity to serve and make a difference to remote communities.

What is your favourite quote?

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Oscar Wilde

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

I actually had to research this on Wikipedia to understand the gravity of the situation! (And why my twins laughed at me when I said I would just go to the nearest hospital to help out. “So that you could get bitten and infected too”, they quipped).

With my new found knowledge on Zombie Apocalypses, I would have to escape to one of the sanctuary communities and help find the cure!

(I do like Dr Amy Imms’ response better than mine though - Prevention is always better than cure) -

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.