March 14, 2017
Alzada Magdalena, a 2001 Graduate of AIMC Berkeley (back when it was called Meiji College), has two acupuncture practices—one in Davis, CA and the other in Prineville, Oregon.At her two practices, The Healing Arts, she treats patients, teaches Qi gong, meditation and dietary practices.
Alzada began her acupuncture practice in 2002, merging it with her existing bodywork practice.
Two years later she opened a clinic in a remodeled bungalow in downtown Davis, California, and practiced there until 2011. In 2011 she and her family moved to Bend, Oregon.However, her Davis patients requested she come back to take care of them, and so she has done so.She has returned to Davis one week of every month for the past 6 years to serve her Davis patients. In Davis she sees many geriatric patients, with accompanying issues of cardiology, arthritis, and debility pains, as well as stressed out students and professors with musculoskeletal complaints and digestive issues.
In Oregon she sees a mix of rural follk and retirees; farmers, bull riders and retired executives.There her work centers on rehabbing and healing old injuries, recuperating from current injuries, musculoskeletal complaints, and aging issues of those in their 60s and 70s.Her Oregon practice has more in common with a third world practice; the health issues in a rural population are diverse, and people work hard despite extreme pain and suffering.Doctors in Oregon practice very differently than doctors in California, and so the results in health care or lack thereof are surprisingly different.In both practices she gets referrals of difficult cases from other practitioners, so she sees many “mystery complaints” and hard to solve problems with often difficult patients.
Here’s what she says about her mission as a licensed acupuncturist:
“My attitude is that I want to get you pain free, functional, and able to go about your life at the level you find acceptable, without creating a dependency on me. Many problems that people think they must live with are completely fixable!! This is what I live for. We work together to figure out exercises, diet, ergonomics, & lifestyle changes that you are able to implement to improve your health and avoid nasty problems altogether. The more proactive you are, the faster you will improve, the better you will feel, and the more you will have control over your health.”
AIMC provided Magdalena with questions about setting up her business and what she most enjoys about being an acupuncturist:
1. AIMC: What do you especially enjoy about being a practitioner?
Magdalena: I like making a visible and palpable difference in someone’s life in one hour. I love healing work, have been interested in the body and healing since I was 6. It allows me to do all the things I like – solve mysteries, study deeply, mess around with plants, meditate, work on bodies, move all day long, meet people, hear stories, create solutions, teach, and see instant results. And get paid for all that! Wahoo!
2. AIMC: Can you recount a story about a time when you feel you made a real difference in someone’s life?
Magdalena: This week I saw a patient who came to me in January in excruciating pain, low back pain, history of surgery in the low back, constant diarrhea, and tremors. He was let loose by his doctor who said she could not do anything more for him. Now he has no back pain, can bend over and touch his toes, has no diarrhea or “IBS” symptoms, and has been working all during the snow season shoveling snow off roofs. He was referred by a patient who had excruciating joint pain, and constant nausea, who now feels great and sends people to me all the time.
I could go on and on. I expect my clients to feel noticeably better the day I see them, to improve over the next three days, and to gain an understanding of what they can do to improve their situation as they continue to see me. I emphasize that health is a process, not a product.
3. AIMC: What are some things you learned being in your practice that you had to learn for yourself outside the program?
Magdalena: The business of keeping a practice going – if you cannot do the business end, you will not make a living. Most consultants are helpfully making sure they are paid, not necessarily getting YOU business!
Data driven decision making and the questions you ask make a big difference:
If you advertise, how much is it costing, and how effective is it? Lots of money is coming in, but how much is going home with you? Do you “need” all the things that everyone insists you need…? How do you attract good patients? How do you define your ideal patient?
4.AIMC: What have you learned about how to talk to your patients about future treatments?
Magdalena: I expect to treat patients initially for their presenting problem. After that, they should be well enough to not need me much. Then they come back because they find that it makes them feel better. Some come monthly, others yearly, some quarterly. I judge my efficacy on whether they send friends and family, not how often they show up.
AIMC 5: What should students do now to set themselves up for success if they want to be in practice for themselves?
Magdalena: Take some business courses. Read Guerilla Marketing It is an old book; but the concepts are still there. Think strategically about what skill sets you lack, and get them. And then, do not believe everything that the experts say you need! Learn to identify what you like to do, what is effective for you and do more of that. Expect that you will make some mistakes, so consider implementing your ideas in a beta version that costs little to give it a trial run. Stay out of debt. That bears repeating. Stay out of debt.
AIMC 6. Do you have advice about what people should do just fresh out of school? Do you think it’s a good idea to work for an established practitioner, for example.
Magdalena: It is helpful to work for someone else, as you can learn their system, and see if it applies to you. You get paid to learn, and that is very useful.
7. AIMC: Tell us about your average day? Or does your day change day to day? (ie you do Qigong on Mondays and see patients on other days).
Magdalena: In Davis I see patients during the one week a month that I am in California. Some patients see me 2 or 3 times in that week. I work 5 days straight, 8:30 – 7:30, teach Chi Gong one morning, and visit patients on house calls at 6:30 am. Frankly, it is grueling, and I am glad I do not do it more than once a month.
I work three days a week in Prineville. The other days I farm with my husband. In the summer, I farm before and after office hours as well. So my summer Oregon farm days start with farming at 5:30am, office hours at 10 – 5:30, farming 6:00 – 8:30 pm.(We have no problems sleeping!!!) We typically work 15 or 16 hour days. In the winter it is very relaxed – I see patients from 7:45 or 8:45 until 3 or 5:30 depending on the last patient.I have a number of special patients who drive many hours to see me so I will see them whenever they show up – Saturday, Sundays are ok for them.
I take off time in the fall after the irrigation ends. We live outside and hunt most of October and November.I find that the more I work outdoors, the better I am able to handle the healing work, so although the farming looks like work, it is healing for me.
8. AIMC: Now that you have two offices, you must have to hire acupuncturists and staff. How is that different than working on your own?
Magdalena: No, I did not hire acupuncturists or staff!! This is one of those things that is a myth. I am very good at working with patients, and love it. I dislike paperwork, and employees are notoriously inefficient, and take up a great deal of my time that I could be seeing patients. So I do not have employees… I have an online scheduler, and I call and text patients. If you stay focused, you can accomplish a lot in little time. It is a spiritual practice unto itself.
9. AIMC What do you consider a full practice? Students are going to wonder what kind of living they can make. Anything you can say about income that you are comfortable with would be helpful.
Magdalena: A full practice is whatever you wish it to be. A full life is something else. Making money is a useful thing, but it is the other, intangible factors that will make your life worthwhile. If you are self-employed, in the service industry, figure you are in a 50% overhead business. If you can keep the costs down, you take home more pay. If you see lots of patients, but are trashed by it, you are going to burn out. If you do not see enough patients to cover expenses, you will go broke. If your expenses eat you up, you will have to see many patients just to stay in business. Or if your lifestyle is expensive, your freedom will be constrained….. I have spent years fiddling with the patient/life ratio, and finally am pretty happy with my solution. I am happy to share what worked and what has not worked for me, but your solution to this problem will be uniquely your own.
AIMC: 10. Any other advice for students?
Magdalena: Be creative! You are the only person who can make your life work in a way that pleases you. If you are dedicated, doing a good job, and authentic in the work and caring you do, it will all work out.