Coming In From The Cold To Recognize Essential Elements For Business Survival

Stephen Barrett DPM FACFAS

His words were accentuated by the visible condensate with each exhale. An accretion of ice was already present on his thick, walrus-like mustache and building. It was cold. Damn cold. Chicago is cold in the winter and this one was a real molecule stopper. It was so cold in fact that it was hard for me to concentrate on what he was asking me.

I kept thinking this “laboratory” must be very special and worth seeing since I had left sunny, warm Arizona for a full body dip in this virtual deep freeze.

“What do you get when you combine two foot and ankle orthopedic surgeons with three podiatric surgeons?”

I tried to shake my head but the frigid air that leaked in around my scarfed neck ceased my movement immediately, and I actually contracted my neck down into my body like a turtle. Frankly, I was really just trying to survive and somehow levity escaped me at that time. Now if I were inside at the time and nice and toasty, I would have had about 100 witty responses ranging from scenes like a medieval bloodletting and torture chamber with God knows who had shackled whom to body outlines on the ground like you see at a CSI crime investigation.

“Dr. Plank,” I said. He turned. “What is the answer to your question/joke?”

His jaw tightened and the icy mustache was now so heavy that it could not elevate normally with the rest of his red face. “I was not making a joke, sir. I am German. You forgot?” I had indeed. More cultural sensitivity training needed, I mused to myself.

“Sorry, sir, I know that you are a physicist and probably don’t fully understand the context of your question so I mistook it for a joke. I will explain when we get inside.”

He pointed to the huge edifice in front of us with his ungloved hand and in his guttural German accent, he said, “You get Fütonium.” I was impressed by the way he accented the umlauted vowel, even coming from a native German.

“Fütonium? What the hell is that?” I replied, still trying to play out the 100 witty responses to his question in my mind.

“Fütonium, my friend, is the newest element, discovered just this last year after more than five years of our scientists’ concentrated effort, and emanates from the ‘strong force.’”

I knew well about the strong force. Some say it is billions and billions of times stronger than the gravitational force. It is the force that keeps the nucleus of atoms from blowing the universe apart. This is the same laboratory (note I will not use the term “lab” as that does not convey the import of this incubator) that discovered “Ankilonium” just a couple of years previously. We entered the frosted glass double doors and above our head was the large letters: FABI.

“Ahh,” I said. Both an exclamation of now feeling the artificial warmth of the building and my figuring out what FABI meant. Now I knew. Fütonium Ankilonium Blending Institute. (That is not really what it stands for but go with me here for a few more minutes.) This institute was impressive and there on the wall were the pictures of the men who founded this living experiment: Lowell Weil, Sr., DPM, Lowell Weil, Jr., DPM, Chris Hyer, DPM, Terry Philbin, DO, and Greg Berlet, MD.

I was anxious to see it. “Show me some of the new element,” I implored Plank.

“Tomorrow, not now.”

Revealing The Essential Element

This new element would be on display for the next three days with each of the founding scientists giving their dissertations about its discovery and what it could mean for all of us who were in attendance at this incredible symposium. Before any of the dissertations began, I knew there really was a true “strong force” in the creation of this element. These guys get it and sadly, there are still multitudes that do not. Each one of them — demonstrated true masters with huge pedigrees and success — came together, checked their egos aside and put together this element, which is far greater and more important than anything any one of them could do individually.

Fütonium is the element that we are all going to need in order to survive in practice in the tumultuous next few years. It is likely going to be the absolute lifeblood for those who embrace it and conversely if we do not incorporate it, it will likely be despised by those who don’t just from jealousy.

The FABI docs (FABI is an acronym for Foot and Ankle Business Innovations) put together a hell of a show and will again in the near future. You may want to take a peak at this new element yourself. With clinical- and surgical-like focus, they said what we all want to say: we are a business.

Yes, that’s right. You are in practice to help patients and get the best outcomes, but it now has come the time where you have to look in the mirror (I’m hearing that Michael Jackson song) and admit that to survive in the future, you are going to have to become a businessperson, pure and simple. As “dirty” as it may seem, if you are going broke trying to fight insurance companies and all of the other dark forces of practice, what kind of patient care can you really deliver?

Yes, we can harness Fütonium’s strong forces to actually do a couple of really powerful things:

1) actually deliver better patient care, and
2) really be paid what we are worth, which by the way leads back to number 1.

You may ask me, “What did you learn?” It would take me a couple of more blogs to encapsulate it all but the take-home message is simple. Go to one of these conferences and chew on every morsel of information they give you. They are doing it right and so can you. It is time for foot and ankle orthopod guy to recognize that pod guy is not the enemy, and can be just the opposite. It is time for pod guy and pod gal to realize we can substantively enhance orthopod guy’s practice (which more and more frequently is our practice as well) and that with the training both disciplines receive today, there is none that is superior to the other. They are just different. But in reality, they are not really that different. Live with it, folks. There is a strong force that should bring us together, not separate us. The FABI scientists have proven that with their new element.

I always want to hang around folks who are smarter and have demonstrated results and success, and are willing to share. Did these laboratory scientists give me everything I needed or, for that matter, could I put everything I received to use? Of course not but what these gentlemen did give us was a tremendous amount of extremely useful information while conveying the fact that we really are businesspeople and that it is okay to have a business spirit.

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in Fütonium or FABI.


Interesting blog, but I was extremely turned off when I saw that for an additional fee, someone could actually have a tour of the Weil facilities. Really? You're actually going to charge colleagues a fee for the privilege to visit your facility? Is this a medical office or a museum?

I think I've got an above average practice and regularly have students, residents and other colleagues spend time in my office to observe. Never even thought of charging them, and I guess I'm the fool since I even have lunch brought into the office for them.

Sorry, the collaboration may be great but I can't get past the offer to give colleagues a tour of their office ... for an additional fee.

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