Dr. Cassie Wilder: Passionate Founder of the Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center
From her first job as a server at Cold Stone Creamery, Dr. Cassie Wilder learned the value of providing customers with a positive experience. As an undergraduate student on the pre-med track, Cassie shadowed physicians at local hospitals and found conventional medicine didn’t fit her personality. While working as a Chiropractic Assistant, she attended a conference that changed her life and career path. Read more of Dr. Wilder’s story to discover how and why she founded the Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center, what motivates her to offer well-rounded patient care, and how she builds her business out of a growth, not scarcity, mindset.
Tell us about your company. What do you do, who do you serve?
Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center is my dream clinic. It came to fruition out of my love for integrative medicine, frustrations with the current medical model, and a burning desire to spread hope in my community. I have a brick and mortar in Minneapolis, and I also try to share information about integrative health through my social media and blog.
What was your first job growing up, and what did you learn from it?
My first job was at Cold Stone Creamery. Aside from learning the Cold Stone songs, I learned about good customer service. At the time, I was just a kid serving ice cream but reflecting; it was all centered around making the customer experience magical. From when people walked in the door to dressing up their ice cream and singing when they tipped, I discovered the value of creating a positive experience that would brighten someone’s day.
I try to incorporate that joy into my business. Although I don’t sing to patients, I listen to their concerns, and I take them seriously. I often find that other medical professionals have brushed off these patients, and don’t provide an adequate medical work-up. When you go the extra mile, listen, and make a plan to get someone back to feeling one hundred percent, it brightens not only their day but their entire life.
Tell us about your career path before starting your own company:
I’ve always wanted to be a doctor (besides the brief time I wanted to be Elle Woods from Legally Blonde), so when I enrolled at Iowa State University, I did all my pre-med coursework. During this time, I shadowed physicians at the local hospital. I realized a conventional doctor’s role didn’t resonate with my personality or how I envisioned interacting with my future patients. I withdrew my med school application during my last semester and decided to enter the workforce.
While I was at Iowa State, I met my husband Sam who is a native Minnesotan. I was smitten by his kindness, loyalty, and humor. Sam is probably the smartest and funniest person I know! He found a job as a metallurgical engineer in Mobile, AL and after I graduated, I moved down South with him.
I got a job as a chiropractic assistant (in Mobile, AL), and while I was there, I went to a conference on biomedical nutritional therapies. It was the MOST interesting take on medicine, nutrition, and biochemistry I’d ever heard. Naturally, I had a lot of questions for the speaker! She was a licensed Naturopathic Doctor - a doctor with an integrative approach to medicine that was guided by principles. She sought to identify and treat the causes of poor health and saw her role as a teacher who treated a whole person. I realized this was my calling and I enrolled in Naturopathic Medical School in Phoenix, AZ. I finished medical school, an internship in cardiology, and then moved back to the Twin Cities.
I’ve always been entrepreneurial in spirit, so I decided to create and open my own dream clinic, and MPLS IMC was born!
Tell us the story of why and how you started your business:
I created Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center because of frustration I encountered as both a patient and provider in the current fee-for-service medical model. As a patient, visits to an integrative, naturopathic, holistic-minded doctor were first and foremost expensive (with initial visits costing anywhere from $300-900). These didn't include treatments or lab work, which were another up-front, out-of-pocket expense. I was supposed to pay an exorbitant fee, follow-up in four weeks for an additional $200, and continue this for the rest of the year?
It became a lot, but I was determined to feel better! I started my treatments, and it seemed like everyday I had more questions I forgot to ask my doctor. I had this running list, and I spent hours Googling the answers. The searches weren't productive; I wished I could ask my doctor quick questions to save time and get sound answers! It turned out; the doctor charged me $45 for every 15-minute phone call.
As a provider who operated in the fee-for-service model, I was often frustrated that 90 minutes wasn't enough time. Many patients have decades of medical history and a laundry list of questions, but ultimately (like me) couldn't afford to come in every four weeks. In the event a patient dared to reach out in-between appointments, I would spend countless (unpaid) hours replying to them because I understood their concerns.
To bridge my frustration with the current system and decrease the chances of burn out, I created Minneapolis Integrative Medicine Center. I wanted a model that allowed time to ask deeper questions and provided the treatments time to work. I wanted smart medicine, with in-depth laboratory testing, sufficient time to talk about nutrition, stress management, meditation, exercise, and a model that allowed continued support. Sam and I started my business from scratch! It took a lot of hours, stress, and help to get it up-and-running.
What is a typical day like for you?
Each day is completely different, and I love it! I have a terrific receptionist who answers phones and coordinates patient care, but the other hats are worn by Sam and me! On a given day I could see patients, do research, work-up patients for the next day, write chart notes, collaborate with other professionals on mutual patient care, write blogs, film videos, create Instagram posts, listen to continuing education webinars, or reconcile bank statements. You would think that my life is utter chaos, but it’s very organized chaos, and I like it.
Tell us about a tough time in your life, what did you learn and how did it make you stronger?
I was always close to my grandma. She was my rock, best friend, and even roommate for a time! She was everyone’s grandma and had so much love to give - she was my biggest fan. I had to overcome so many obstacles to get into medical school, and she was always there to pick me up and keep me moving forward.
I moved away from Kansas City when I was 18, went to med school from 23-27, and always had it in my mind that I would move back to the Midwest to visit her more often. She even came to see me once in Phoenix for three weeks and read books by our pool while I was in classes and seeing patients.
During my last year in medical school, she started getting odd symptoms that we couldn't explain. She made her rounds to medical specialists trying to figure it out. She just got worse and was finally referred to Mayo Clinic and received a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). I dreamed she would see me walk across the stage to receive my medical degree, but her ALS was too far progressed for her to travel to Arizona. She passed away three weeks after graduation.
She’s still one of my constant sources of motivation. I have a photo of her in my office, and my mother had a ring made for me with her ashes in it that I wear everyday. I learned that tomorrow is never promised, and if I’m going to create my dream career and life, I need to start today.
What advice or tips would you give to a new business owner?
Don’t be afraid to ask or pay for help. If you invest in yourself and your business, you will see a return. New business owners often have a scarcity mindset; if they spend money, they think it won’t come back to them, but that's not true!
What’s next for your business? What are some of your short-term or long-term goals?
Currently, we’re working on finding a bigger space. It’s an exciting time to watch the practice grow! Some short-term goals are to hire other health professionals and expand our services. I have dreams of hiring a dietitian who can dig into the nitty-gritty of our patient’s dietary habits, teach them new skills, and be a resource for sustainable, healthy eating. I also want to bring in another doctor to take on some patient care and expand our reach.
My long-term goals for Minneapolis Integrative are to create a well-rounded support system to encourage our members in their wellness journey. I envision having dietitians, health coaches, personal trainers, and doctors collaborating with each patient to provide support from every angle. Imagine having a team of experts at your disposal, working to not only reverse and prevent disease but also to support you!
How do you balance your career and family/personal life?
The short answer is that I don’t. It’s cliché but when you’re doing what you love the lines of personal and work time blur. Researching patient cases after dinner is fun for me! However, I try to leave the office by a decent time, make it home to help Sam cook dinner, catch up on his day, and spend quality time together before I jump back into work. You can also create your schedule being your own boss, so I try to make it home at lunch and play a little fetch with my golden retriever, Remy.
QUICK FUN FACTS
What’s your favorite charity?
Retrieve A Golden of the Midwest (RAGOM); It’s where we adopted our fur-child Remy! https://ragom.org/
What age do you want to retire at?
I never want to retire. At some point, I want to be researching and following up with patients (via phone) on the beaches of Bora Bora, but I’ll always be working.
One travel location on your bucket list?
Cinque Terre, Italy
Are you an introvert or extrovert?
What is your favorite blog, podcast, or book?
I’m a perpetual learner, so I can’t just pick one! Podcasts- Angie Lee Podcast, Jenna Kutcher. Favorite book: You Are A Badass (Jen Sincero), Why We Get Fat (Gary Taubes), and the Harry Potter series!
What’s a favorite/can’t live without business resource or tool?
Later for social media planning. It’s like my personal social media assistant!
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