AN INTERVIEW WITH 

Dr. Miriam Wheeler 

In pursuit of a better work-life balance, Dr. Miriam Wheeler, a naturopathic doctor, set up her own private practice in Tempe, Arizona to stay true to her heart and vocation.
 

Now she’s proud to offer patients a more nurturing environment for treatment, meaning she’s able to nurture her own wellbeing with nature hikes – a reminder of her upbringing in Casa Grande, a small town with cotton fields and blazing desert sunsets. Let’s get into this interview!

Tell us about your background before you decided to become an entrepreneur?

I’m a naturopathic doctor (ND) and have been practicing for nearly 7 years now. It might be surprising to some that entrepreneurship is fairly common within my profession. Traditional job opportunities for NDs differ from our MD and DO colleagues. Since NDs aren’t recognized as Medicare providers, the huge majority of us aren’t able to work in hospital systems or group practices dependent on insurance reimbursement. Many NDs create solo or group cash-pay practices, especially here in AZ where very few insurance companies cover naturopathic medicine. For NDs who are bit business-phobic (like I used to be), finding work after graduation can be a real struggle unfortunately.

Prior to starting my PLLC a couple years ago, I was working as Adjunct Faculty at the naturopathic medical school I graduated from and completed my residency at (SCNM in Tempe, AZ). I was doing a combination of didactic teaching and clinical supervision for naturopathic medical students. I also maintained a modest private practice at the college’s medical center. My private practice was insurance-based which had some pros and cons to it. Overall, I was working really hard, had essentially zero work-life balance, and felt exhausted most of the time. I knew something had to give. 

How did you make the decision to start your own business?

I was tired of feeling tired. I wanted more. I knew I would be able to take better care of my patients if I started taking care of myself again – this meant prioritizing balance and rest a bit more than I was used to. (And certainly more than our society seems to find acceptable, though I feel like glorification of “the hustle” is starting to shift, and I’m really excited to see this.)

I wanted to focus more on private practice for a couple reasons: 1) I love teaching, but I knew having more firsthand clinical experience would be exceedingly valuable to students, and 2) I wanted the freedom to practice how I wanted and in a space that felt nurturing and restorative for both me and my patients.

Can you explain to our readers what your business is all about?

As mentioned, I’m a naturopathic doctor. I’m currently licensed in AZ with CA-licensure pending (as of 5/2/2021). My private practice is located within Nourish Natural Medical Center in Tempe, AZ, which is owned by two other female NDs, whom I admire and appreciate learning from so much. They’ve created a really solid business and have stayed true to themselves throughout the process. 

My practice focuses on treating primarily adults with chronic health concerns, though I still treat a few kiddos and teens. I have a passion for helping patients feel like themselves again. I treat a wide variety of conditions, but some of my areas of interest include thyroid disorders, autoimmune conditions, and mood disorders like anxiety and depression. I also really enjoy helping families who are caring for a loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

My approach is very patient-centered and I feel like my empathetic nature sets me apart from other practitioners. It’s super important to me that every patient leaves their visit feeling like they were fully listened to, all of their questions were answered, and they were included in the development of their treatment plan. I believe that when patients feel empowered, whether this be through greater understanding of their medical condition or simply by finally being heard and understood, they are capable of making lasting changes that will restore and promote greater health. 

There’s a Chinese proverb that really inspires me and provides purpose to the work I do to help individuals become the best and healthiest version of themselves:

If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

What was happening in your life and business when you first realized you needed to invest in personal development to make it to the next level of success?

Feeling tired and burnt out most of the time motivated me to reframe how I had viewed entrepreneurship up until that point. I had always been super averse to the idea of owning a business. This was in part due to my fear of failure and insecurities since I didn’t have any formal training in business or marketing. I studied nutrition and biochemistry in undergrad and didn’t come from a family of business owners. I had very little exposure to entrepreneurship growing up; my mom was a community health nurse and my dad was a counselor. I also had this misbelief that somehow owning a business would require me to compromise on my personal values and ethics. It finally dawned on me though that the beauty of entrepreneurship is you can create and shape your business however you want. It was this ah-ha moment that felt so obvious once it happened. Once I got over that mental roadblock, I started asking my mentors and friends who owned a private practice a thousand questions and felt a renewed sense of energy and excitement for what could be. 

What aspects of your business do you find the most challenging?

Because my business is centered around helping people, honestly the most challenging part is when I have a patient that isn’t getting better in the timeline I’m used to seeing improvement. The second hardest part is marketing; I’m fairly private and introverted so that combination makes networking and promotion challenging.

What aspects of your business do you find the most rewarding?

Seeing patients get better and reach their health goals is by far the most rewarding. My goal for patients is always to get them to a place of health where they only need an annual visit, so anytime I’m able to say, “See you in a year!” it feels like a win. I also really love researching, whether it be a medical condition I maybe haven’t seen in a while, or a new therapy I want to try for a patient. Practicing medicine requires ongoing learning and I very much enjoy that aspect of my job.

What is your approach to work/life balance?

I love being in nature; it’s extremely restorative for me. I make time to hike on the weekends when it’s not too hot and try to get a hike in whenever traveling to a new city.

Cooking and baking are also really meditative and enjoyable for me. I tend to take the role of sous chef in my home and my partner does the majority of the actual cooking. Listening to some good music while preparing a meal together is a great way to unwind. 

Meditating, journaling, taking an herb-infused bath, and planning my next vacation are other ways I love to decompress.

What lessons have you most learned through your journey as a woman entrepreneur?

This was actually advice my partner’s mentor told him, but I feel like it’s especially true for women: You don’t get what you deserve in life. You get what you ask for.

I’ve also learned that often the barriers we create and fears we hold on to may not be true or serve us anymore. It’s important to reflect, talk to your mentors and loved ones, and be honest with yourself. Life isn’t stagnant and we don’t have to be either; it’s okay to change your mind. 

What’s next on the docket for your business growth goals?

I’m in the process of getting licensed in California, which I’m really excited about. CA has great telemedicine laws that existed even prior to the pandemic. While I don’t plan on moving to CA or having a physical practice there, I will soon be able to accept California-based patients who want to work with me via telemedicine. 

I also want to explore creating online courses for naturopathic medical students and other NDs. This will require a lot of time though, and I’m not really willing to start working on evenings and weekends regularly again so I need to figure out how to do this while maintaining my work-life balance.

What skills are next on your deck to learn?

Along the lines of developing online courses – there’s a whole lot that goes into that and aside from the content itself, I will need to learn how to create, host, market, and sell them.

Any advice or tips to share with our audience on how “ordinary” women can do extraordinary things?  

It’s so important to feel a sense of purpose in life and to be able to bring passion to that purpose. Taking care of you first, something women in our society are often not encouraged to do, is so important and necessary though. You can’t fill from an empty cup. Don’t be afraid to push against the norms and advocate for yourself.

QUICK FACTS

about Miriam

DrMiriamWheelerCloseUp

BUSINESS:
Dr. Miriam Wheeler, PLLC

NUMBER OF YEARS AS AN ENTREPRENEUR:
2 YEARS

WEBSITE:
www.drmwheeler.com

SOCIAL HANDLES:
FB: @drmwheeler
IG: @miriamwheelernd

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