Strollers and Stilettos interviewed Dr. Chris Donohoe, founder of Donohoe Pediatrics as our featured business for the month of May. Donohoe Pediatrics is Chicago’s premier concierge pediatric practice. Read the full interview below!
S&S: When was Donohoe Pediatrics founded?
DP: We opened our doors in September of 2016. But my dream of opening my own practice began many years ago.
S&S: Tell us a little about yourself:
DP: I went to medical school at Northwestern and did my pediatric residency at Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s Hospital). My early experience was as a solo pediatrician at a clinic treating poor and underserved patients in Milwaukee, WI. Following four years there I returned to Chicago and worked in private practice for eight years before opening Donohoe Pediatrics. My wife Joy and I have three children – Tommy (14), Molly (12), and Ian (9). They are really great kids and they have all made me a better pediatrician in their own unique ways. In my free time (when I can find some), I love to do woodworking. I made a lot of the furniture in our home, including the dining room table, shelves and cabinets, and all the beds. Oh, and I drive a blue pick-up truck which I love.
Photos by Jenny Grimm Photography
S&S: We hear you offer house calls – could you tell us a little about this service?
DP: Before opening Donohoe Pediatrics I found that families loved the convenience and personal touch of a house call. Occasionally I would stop on my way home to see a sick child I’d seen in the office that day, and other times I would walk over to see a neighbor who needed some advice. These small gestures really made a big difference to families, and I knew early on that my own practice would allow for this very personal way of providing care.
At Donohoe Pediatrics, the first 3 visits for newborns occur at the patient’s home. I have a scale, a measure-mat, and all the other gear I need packed into that blue pickup truck I mentioned. I love those newborn home visits. It is a great way to get to know families and to share in a very exciting (but also emotional and exhausting) time in their lives. And parents love the fact that they don’t have to bring their brand new baby to an office full of sick toddlers.
After the newborn period I make house calls, for a small fee, at the request of the parents.
S&S: What are some of the other services you offer?
DP: I offer everything that a traditional primary-care pediatric practice offers – check-ups, urgent care visits, behavioral assessments, vaccinations, simple procedures. I just offer these services in a more personal and unhurried manner. In addition, I have flexible hours and my patients can reach me directly via email, phone and text message. I find that many questions that come my way do not require an office visit. Parents send me photos and videos and it is not uncommon to have a virtual visit using video conferencing. This saves parents a lot of time and hassle.
S&S: Donohoe Pediatrics is a direct primary care (DPC) practice. Can you tell us about this?
DP: Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a practice model that prioritizes the relationship between patients and their doctor. Families pay a monthly fee which covers all primary care services. We do not accept payment from insurance companies. This independence allows me to spend significantly more time with each patient. It is the reason I can limit my practice size to a manageable number where I know each and every family. It is the reason I can provide ‘virtual visits’ when appropriate and do house calls. In Direct Primary Care, the doctor and the family (not the anonymous insurance provider or distant claims administrator) are the ones who decide what is best for the patient. DPC is an entirely different category of care and I’m thrilled to be able to offer this choice to families in Chicago.
S&S: What is the most rewarding part of working in this practice?
DP: Opening Donohoe Pediatrics and providing care on my own terms has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I take particular pride in those instances where families recognize the benefits of this new model. I feel it when I see the amazed look of a mom watching her child’s ears being examined –without any fuss – for the very first time. Or when a toddler who just received vaccines walks hand-in-hand with me to the door. Or when a dad tells me that his child gets excited to come to see the doctor. These are truly golden moments.
And then there are the situations that families may not recognize, but I certainly do. By practicing high-quality, high-touch, conscientious care, I have the opportunity to slow down a bit and make a thoughtful diagnosis, or change a treatment plan more efficiently, or get a child back to optimal health sooner. I feel good knowing that I help my patients avoid urgent care clinics, specialists, and emergency rooms that they really don’t need. These providers are an important part of health care, but I truly believe that if a primary care physician takes the time to thoughtfully manage a child’s care, many such visits are unnecessary.
Photos by Jenny Grimm Photography
S&S: What makes Donohoe Pediatrics different from other pediatric care offices?
DP: The entire experience at Donohoe Pediatrics is really quite different from the experience in today’s large pediatric practices. It starts when you call (or email) for an appointment. There is no need to schedule a well child visit 2 or 3 months in advance. We can see you in the evening or on a weekend if that’s what you need. And you will never hear us utter the words “next available provider.” I am the child’s doctor. I take the call, I see the child, and I follow-up.
When you come in for a visit, instead of standing in line at a reception desk, we bring you right in for your appointment. There is no paperwork to fill out and no waiting. We get you in and out so you can go about your day. Sometimes moms like to stay after the visit to breastfeed before heading home. In fact our new office has a nice space for that, and a nice little nook where toddlers can play or read a book.
I think it is important to say that we are very lucky in Chicago to be surrounded by some great pediatric practices and many smart, caring pediatricians. Having studied and trained here in Chicago I have developed strong relationships with my colleagues and I have a lot of respect for them and the care they provide. My practice provides another choice for families who would prefer a smaller, more personal environment.
S&S: We all know kids say the darndest things…Do you have a funny story or a kid quote that you will always remember?
DP: I hear or see something from a child just about every day that makes me chuckle. Here are some recent favorites:
I have an amazing five year-old patient who gets lab-work done at Lurie periodically for a chronic health issue. And she hates “the poke.” The folks at Lurie use a numbing-spray on her to take away the ouch. Last fall this child showed-up to my office with a gift – a can of this special spray for me to use on patients when I give the flu vaccine. I was not surprised to hear how she charmed the hospital nurse out of that expensive item.
I gave a shot to an eighteen-month-old. He didn’t cry. But immediately following the poke, he looked me square in the eyes and (with a very deep and throaty slow-motion voice) said “HEYYYYY!” If he were just a little older I’m pretty sure he would have given me “the finger.”
A school-aged girl whispered in my ear, “I think you might need something minty,” after getting a whiff of my morning coffee-breath. The next time she came to the office she brought me a gift – a packet of breath mints. Point taken. I pop in gum or breath mints regularly because of her.
At the end of a quick ear-check visit, a toddler took a bit of an apple on my desk. At her next visit she seemed quite peeved that I didn’t have an apple for her. Now I look ahead and try to remember to bring an apple on the days I know she’s coming. (But it really doesn’t matter – she brings one for me now!)
Truth be told – parents can say the darndest things, too. But I’ll save those for our next interview.
S&S: What does the future of Donohoe Pediatrics look like? Do you have any big changes in the works? Do you have plans to expand outside the Chicagoland area?
DP: Oh yes, without a doubt Donohoe Pediatrics will continue to improve as we learn and grow. In early June we will be moving to a new office on Damen Avenue just a couple blocks south of our current office. The new space is really great. It is bright and open and looks and feels more like a home than a doctor’s office. We think the kids will love it (and the parents too!).
After that we’ve got some technology updates that we’re working on. Our families are quite tech-savvy and we’ve found some excellent companies who specialize in DPC practices. Because we are small and nimble, we have the flexibility to try new things and we have a lot of families who are quite willing to test things out along with us.
Given the rate at which we are growing, it is pretty clear that we will need to add another pediatrician in the relatively near future. We have no plans at this point to expand outside of Chicagoland. But we do have families from out of state (including Wyoming!) and I’ve gotten calls and provided care to families in all corners of the world, including London, Dominican Republic and even China.
For more information, you can visit their website here – Donohoe Pediatrics