Growing up, Jeremy Busch never thought about becoming a podiatrist. According to him, it was the last thing on his list. The sight of blood — in real life, in movies, or on television — made him squeamish, and besides, his passion was engineering, not healthcare.
Then September 11th happened.
In 2001, Busch was a cadet at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, just across the Long Island Sound from Ground Zero. The campus quickly became an aid station, and facilities were used to both help victims and store bodies. Lacking any kind of medical training, Busch felt helpless. As some of his peers sailed towards the fallen buildings, Busch stayed behind to set up cots and to prepare food at the academy. “I felt like there was more I could be doing to help people,” Busch said.
“I felt like there was more I could be doing to help people.”
Busch changed career paths. He signed up for an EMT course and began volunteering at a local hospital. It was too late for him to switch majors, but while he was completing his engineering coursework, he enrolled in pre-med classes. In 2005, when he graduated from the academy, he was accepted into a condensed post-baccalaureate program for medical prerequisites at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 2008, he matriculated at The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.
While he was pursuing his medical degree, Busch remained in the Individual Ready Reserves, having already spent time as a midshipman supporting the war effort in both Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. After eight years of service with the U.S. Navy, he received an honorable discharge as a lieutenant. Even though the veteran didn’t initially know where he wanted to go in the medical field, Busch knew he wanted to have his own practice. “I had no interest in working for a hospital,” he said, “and I didn’t have any interest in working for another doctor except for obtaining the knowledge that I would need to utilize in order to start my own practice.”
In 2012, Busch became a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine and moved to Long Beach, California for his residency requirements, where he continued to seek out opportunities to prepare himself to one day build a successful practice.
Rescuing a Sinking Ship
After completing his residency, Busch got a shot at his dream: his own practice. However, taking over Total Foot & Ankle Center in Riverside, California wasn’t easy. The practice he was inheriting was an antiquated operation that needed massive TLC. By the time Busch took it over in late January of 2017, he had his work cut out for him. He was commuting an hour and a half each way and seeing between 40 to 50 patients every day.
“I had to learn how to see a ridiculous number of patients without losing the quality of care,” Busch said. “As doctors, we’re forced to see so many patients in order to be profitable. It’s sad, but it’s true. You can do it, it’s just not a skill that comes easily.”
While Busch was fine-tuning his skills as a patient-focused podiatrist, he was struggling as a business owner. “I didn’t know anything about business,” he said. “It was completely insane, the mountains of paperwork taking over a practice. There was no way of staying on top of everything. I was going to bed at midnight and waking up every single day having to run this marathon.”
Fortunately, Busch found CDC Small Business Finance, a nonprofit that partners with CNote to offer small business loan options to entrepreneurs in California, Arizona and Nevada. If it wasn’t for Busch’s CDC loan officer, Anna Marie Cruz, the former midshipman wouldn’t have been able to keep the practice afloat. According to him, he was doing everything humanly possible to ensure the survival of his practice and to meet payroll. “The CDC loan came through at a clutch time,” Busch said. “What CDC provided me was an avenue for obtaining a goal. They didn’t just throw a book at me say ‘go do it.’ They streamlined the process and answered my questions.”
“Podiatry is one of the medical practices where you can do things that have an immediate effect on people. It’s instant gratification. As long as I’m able to provide that high level of care, I’m going to expand as much as possible.”
The capital working loan from CDC gave Busch the financial runway he needed to get his feet underneath him as a business owner and to continue operations at Total Foot & Ankle Center. The capital injection helped him meet payroll, make minor improvements to the practice, and begin to scale. “It wouldn’t have been possible without that loan,” Busch said. “In the medical field, when it comes to insurance companies, it can take up to four months to get paid for services rendered. That’s frustrating, and it can be killer for sole private practitioners. Without that loan, I would have landed flat on my face.”
Stormy Clouds Behind, Calm Seas Ahead
Busch, however, didn’t land on his face. With the CDC’s help, he navigated a particularly challenging first six months. According to him, his best day as a business owner was when he was able to pay his ten employees with revenue dollars instead of loan money. “To turn around and pay my employees with a check that said ‘Total Foot & Ankle Center,’ it finally allowed me to breathe and say ‘it’s finally working,’” Busch said. “It gave me a lot of confidence.”
He’s quick to credit CDC — and his loan officer — for providing capital and business plan guidance that have ultimately kept the lights on at Total Foot & Ankle Center; however, Busch says without his upbeat, committed staff, his practice would be short on patients. “I can’t take too much credit,” Busch laughed. “My office manager hired such quality employees who turn these laborious appointments for patients into really warm and comforting interactions. My employees have the right attitude, and they make patients feel cared for.”
The word has spread: Busch says that between referrals from current patients and primary care doctors in the community, business is booming. “That’s one of the most rewarding and gratifying feelings,” he said. “I never had to go out there and promote myself.”
Today, Busch is looking to ride his early, albeit hard-fought success towards scaling his practice. He’s already opened a second office in Victorville, and he’s starting up a third location in Barstow. His goal is to ultimately grow Total Foot & Ankle Center and onboard another podiatrist who shares his values for helping people.
“That’s why I got into this,” Busch said. “Podiatry is one of the medical practices where you can do things that have an immediate effect on people. It’s instant gratification. As long as I’m able to provide that high level of care, I’m going to expand as much as possible.”
- Total Foot & Ankle Center
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