In an industry as highly regulated as health care, it is always impressive to see young people boldly taking the plunge. So, it is with great pride that we introduce you to this fearless young doctor, who decided to start her own emergency care centre.
Meet Dr. Foye Ikyaator the co-proprietor of Life Savers Emergency Room – a private emergency centre in Houston, Texas.
Foye lived in Ibadan, Nigeria before her father moved their family to the US when she was 8 years old. With her father being a veterinarian and research scientist, Foye was exposed to the sciences from a very tender age – along with her two older brothers.
In two years, she conceptualised and launched the business and has since then got things off to an exciting start. In our chat with Foye, she tells us about the journey to Life Savers and the business of saving lives.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I went to college knowing I wanted to be a doctor. I studied nutrition science because I also secretly wanted to be a meal planner/nutritionist to the stars… incase medical school didn’t work out. I went to undergrad at University of Georgia in Athens, and was very involved in extracurricular activities. UGA was my first experience in America where I was able to have a large network of Nigerian friends. I was a member of African Student Union as a freshman and grew in the ranks to VP by senior year.
I attended residency at Emory University in Atlanta and studied Emergency Medicine. Following residency, I moved to Houston, Texas to work in the field of Emergency Medicine.
It was a great experience being around other African and Nigerian Students. Today, most of us are still very close friends and have been very successful in our various career paths. WE are mostly physicians..no surprise. I went to medical school at University of Wisconsin.
My older brother was also in medical school there, so it was nice to have my own personal study partner/supporter/friend. University of Wisconsin was a more lonely experience. I was the minority in every way, as a black, Nigerian, female in the Midwest. However, the educational experience was amazing. I am forever grateful to God for the blessing of my education.
Sounds like a very interesting backgrond of medical sciences. So, tell us… why did you decide to set up your own emergency room?
I wanted to have more control over the type of impact I have in my field. I loved my job as a hospital ER doctor, but at times, I felt the lack of autonomy in the day to day work expectations leads to early burn out and mistakes in healthcare that ultimately hurts patients.
A typical day in a busy ER, which is most ERs, consists of one doctor being expected to manage 25-40 patients. Most physicians can agree that this is overwhelming; however, there are not many alternatives to the system. Also in the hospital, there are several factors beyond your control as a physican. You don’t control the volume of patients, the laboratory turn around time, radiology department, pharmacy sending down medications. All you really can do is order the tests and wait.
The free standing ER concept focuses all the services around the patient. The laboratory, pharmacy, and radiology department are all located on site in the ER and are not shared with the rest of the hospital. This means results are obtained much sooner. Patients get their medications faster. They get more time to spend with the doctor. The facility is clean and has a concierge appeal that patients appreciate.
Long story short, my husband, Orseer, got tired of hearing me complain about the frustrations of working in the ER and suggested we open our own facility one day. Two years later, we have Life Savers Emergency Room!
Thank God for supportive husbands! What was the process of getting funding for the business like?
We, Orseer and I, worked tirelessly to pool our funds. We have been frugal in our spending, putting off some of the typical expenses which our colleagues are probably purchasing now and investing into our dream. We also sought out business loans.
What’s the biggest challenge you faced starting your own emergency centre?
There are several moving parts to the Emergency Centre and they are all regulated by the state health department. Learning all the different rules was the major challenge.
How have you been able to overcome some of these challenges?
I did a lot of research. I also have an amazing mentor that helped me through most of it.
Emergency services are traditionally very expensive. What advantage does the client have coming to Life Savers above others… even urgent care?
Emergencies are just that; they are unplanned medical events that require immediate attention. Patients have the option to go to the hospital or come to Life Savers ER. They get the same ER doctor, ER nurse, X-ray, labs, pharmacy, ultrasound, or CT scan… but they get it immediately at Life Savers ER.
I’ve worked at the hospital and freestanding ERs and I know personally how long it takes for me and most doctors to get around to seeing all the patients at the hospital vs Life Savers ER. Sometimes the paitent has to wait 2-3 hours to see a doctor at the hospital, then wait an hour for labs to come back and potentially longer for their imaging (xray/ultrasound/ct scan result to come back) What we offer is convenience, comfort, timeliness, courtesy. We value patient’s time tremendously and all have a mental clock ticking once a patient walks in the door.
As a doctor, how do you balance the need to get paid for services rendered and the oath to save a life at all costs?
It is a necessary balance. I think people mistake being a physician with being a good samaritan. However, medicine is a business as well as a source of healing. Our facility is very clear on this fact. We are transparent about the costs of care at our facility.
Houston has a high Nigerian population. Does Life Savers have a high number of Nigerian clientele?
We have had several Nigerian patients come in. Houston is a very multicultural city. Nigerians/Africans have not been a majority, but definitely always leave a pleasant impression on all the staff. It’s like having a family member come in. We always gist about where in Nigeria we are both from, what language they speak. If it’s an older Nigerian woman, the question about my marital status or children always comes up, quite predictably.
We love Nigerians, don’t we? So, have you ever practiced medicine in Nigeria?
I spent a summer in Nigeria in an HIV clinic in Lagos University Teaching Hospital during medical school. It was an amazing eye opening experience. I mostly observed the physicians.
In 2012 I went to Nigeria again – LASUTH in Ikeja. I worked in the Accident and Emergency department. I spent time on the medical and surgical wards. The physicians are amazingly intelligent and work with such limited resources. It was hard to watch the patients struggle with financial limitation, chronic illness or trauma related injuries. The physicians were the real heroes; their tireless efforts to care for the patients was so moving.
What are your thoughts on the state of emergency services in Nigeria?
It scares me to death. I’ve had quite a few friends and family members go to visit and due to unfortunate circumstances such as auto accidents, medical illness, assault, subsequently die in Nigeria due to lack of medical attention. There is a lot to be done. This will require an infrastructure developed, and enforced by the local governments as well as on the national level.
It is an expensive undertaking that would require the participation a dedication to excellence on many levels – from the training of paramedics, to fuel supply in the ambulance, to adequate resources in the hospital to care for the patients brought in. Things such as ventilators, ICU beds, equipped operating rooms.
What suggestions do you have on how to make things better?
I don’t want to make blind suggestions not knowing exactly what is in place. I think fully assessing the system in place currently and identifying the weak or ineffective processes currently being implemented is a start. Also, identifying ways to fund health care and ensure that the funding raised is used appropriately, is vital.
So, do you think Life Savers will be in Nigeria any time soon?
I think the services provided by Life Savers Emergency Room are entirely possible in Nigeria.
What does an average day in Foye’s life look like?
The awesome thing about my job is that I do not have an average day. Every day is a combination of managing staff and taking care of patients.
How are you able to balance family and work life?
Currently, I work with my husband. We have a live-in nanny. On our days off, we try not to talk about work. We try to table issues that can wait till Monday. It could be better, but we are making these sacrifices for our family and future generations.
What keeps you going when things start to look bleak?
God is my strength. He knows the desires of my heart. My husband and I have one goal: earn a living, support each other and create a legacy for our children. Our trust is in God and He has never disappointed us.
What’s the big picture for Life Savers?
Our short term goal is to double our volumes in the ER. Our long term goal is to expand to multiple locations and become a household name in the various communities that we expand to.
Three things you can’t leave the house without?
Lip gloss, cell phone & wallet
Celebrity Nigerian crush?
Tiwa Savage and TuFace
What’s currently playing on your iPod?
Godwin by Korede Bello
Shoes or bags?
Both any day. I wear scrubs mostly; so on days I get to dress up, I slay 🙂
If you were stuck on a deserted Island, who would you like with you?
My beau Orseer Ikyaator
Ohh! That’s so cute! Thank you so much for speaking to us. We absolutely love what you’re building here and we can’t wait to see all the good work you’re going to do with Life Savers.