Dr. Michelle Peris, ND (Class of 2009) on the importance of maintaining connections
The Poppy Clinic’s bustling naturopathic practice in Oakville, Ontario, saw its business plummet by 70% during the first days of the pandemic. Unsettling to Dr. Michelle Peris, ND and her staff, some of whom experienced layoffs, the challenge was how to care for those living in fear and isolation when virtual medicine was a new concept.
The need to make a revolutionary transition to patient care turned into a quick pivot toward technology to help them continue to serve the community they focus on, namely women. The Poppy Clinic’s website describes itself as “a tribe for women who care about their health and want to support each other in their quest for abundance and happiness.”
This community included women in “The Wild Collective”; a community group of like-minded women bonded together by sharing their stories and learning about women’s health topics. What was usually a monthly in-person gathering turned into weekly Zoom calls.
Now the community grew beyond the borders of Oakville so women across Canada and in the U.S. could participate. Thirty-three additional naturopathic doctors use the program, providing The Poppy Clinic with licensing fee revenues.
The spring session of The Wild Collective sold out quickly and has also underpinned the clinic’s growth during the past six months, almost back to pre-pandemic levels. This silver lining coincided with Michelle’s revelation that “virtual practice is here to stay as we see the value in treating people from the comfort of their own homes. The pandemic has given us time to make the necessary changes to a model of practice that wasn’t serving patients or clinicians well.”
The Poppy Clinic’s focus on integrative and preventative health, especially during this time of high stress, is valued by its clientele. “We have done a good job of maintaining connections virtually so we can serve more women,” says Michelle. “We haven’t lost our focus on the importance of connecting. Providing individuals space to have conversations is vital to the success of our programs.”
Michelle is also mindful of the link between self-care and delivering care to others. Having experienced burnout herself, she learned to nourish her mental health and well-being by finding ways to keep her brain healthy with coaching on positive mindsets. “When we have challenges, that’s when the benefit of our investments in our health, come to light. It’s important to find the supports you need to be able to stay creative, inspire, and have an impact through your work.”
Career advice to students and new grads
Michelle spoke at CCNM’s Career Fair on October 5. Part of a panel discussion, “Pivoting in a Shifting Landscape: New Approaches to Practice Management,” moderated by Dr. Meghan Walker, ND, Michelle joined Dr. Jodi Larry, ND and Dr. Anne Hussain, ND to discuss this issue.
She talked to new graduates and interns about the opportunity to diversify their offerings to patients and radically shift health-care delivery. She urged graduates to look for innovative ways to inspire and authentically engage with their patients to grow a new practice. “Group health is a viable way to provide consistent health care. The success we’ve had expanding The Wild Collective helped grow my practice while having a much greater impact by reaching more women than would otherwise have been possible,” she added.
“It may look like a challenging time – and it is in many ways. But I would urge new graduates to think beyond the traditional clinic model of providing patient care while maintaining a mindset of possibility. We are at a very different point in medicine. Not everyone wants health care delivered the way it was before the pandemic.”
This article was originally published in issue #28, Mind|Body|Spirit, Winter 2021, page 36