Author: Caroline Wilbert

Published

Lorenzo developed his urgent care clinic idea with help from EMBA classmates who work in telecommunications, transportation, recruiting, and banking. "I can't stress enough how much my teammates helped me," says Lorenzo. "I don't think I would have had en

Wearing a starched white doctor's coat, with hospital scrubs underneath, Sam Lorenzo (EMBA '06) listens carefully to a patient describe the progression of a troublesome boil that has landed her at the Georgia Urgent Care clinic in suburban Atlanta. Lorenzo asks the appropriate questions. Has she experienced dizziness? Has she had any bites lately? He decides to drain the boil, and the patient seems confident that she's in good hands. "Let's do it!" she says.

Lorenzo was practicing medicine on this Sunday afternoon, but he was also executing a business plan.

By day, Lorenzo is the medical director of the emergency room at the Henry Medical Center, but he had long wanted a business degree. He felt it would help him at his ER job if he better understood the business aspects of the emergency room and how hospital administrators think.

He thought a business degree would also open up other career options — and he was right. Lorenzo is the principal entrepreneur behind Georgia Urgent Care, which recently opened its doors in Roswell, Ga., and he hatched the plan while he was a student in Terry's Executive MBA program.

"A lot of people are now having two or three different careers," says Lorenzo, a father of five, who was part of a student team that worked on his urgent clinic idea during a Terry marketing class. His teammates — who work in a variety of industries, including telecommunications, transportation, recruiting, and banking — helped develop the idea.

"I can't stress enough how much my teammates helped me with this," he says. "I don't think I would have had enough focused energy to do this on my own."

After finishing his Executive MBA, Lorenzo got down to the business of launching the clinic for real, eventually bringing on six other ER docs as partners. The seven partners invested their own money and also secured a loan. The total investment came to roughly $1 million. A year after opening, the doctors, who all practice elsewhere but work a few shifts at the clinic every month, are seeing about 15 patients a day at the clinic.

Urgent care clinics, which are opening at record rates around the country, are marketed to patients who aren't sick enough to go to the emergency room but also don't want to wait for an appointment with their primary care physicians. The patient with the painful boil? Lorenzo says she would have landed at the back of the line at an emergency room, which has to deal with more serious cases first.

"Four hours later, I see her," he says, "and she is not very happy."

Georgia Urgent Care is focused on customer service and patient satisfaction, says Lorenzo, who won't hire people who don't share that vision. "I may not have that much influence in a complex operation like an emergency room," he says. But he's creating a different environment at the clinic.

Lorenzo says the clinic is exceeding his business plan's goals, and for that he credits his Terry training — which prepared him to make a number of key decisions, such as bringing on doctors as partners, instead of merely hiring them on a contractual basis to staff the clinic. The Terry Executive MBA also helped him better understand what tasks and procedures he should outsource and what he should handle himself.

Lorenzo expects the number of clinic patients to climb to 30-40 per day during flu season, but already the clinic is making enough money to pay the bills. The partners' next goal is to generate enough revenue to pay themselves. Long-term, they may elect to expand the operation, so that each partner has his own clinic. An even bigger possibility is to sell franchises. Lorenzo, who is in his late 40s, thinks he'll spend another five years or so working in the Henry County emergency room and then switch to his urgent care business full-time.

Back at the clinic on his Sunday shift, Lorenzo takes a quick break. His office looks pretty standard with a computer, manila folder patient files, and books about emergency medicine. But also visible is a set of weights that he and his partners used to work out with in the early days when the clinic saw only a few patients a day. Lorenzo finds entrepreneurship rewarding, through his favorite thing about Georgia Urgent Care is being a doctor there.

"Patient care is fun," he says. "For 20 or 30 minutes, I will spend time with this person. I will learn about her and accomplish a treatment. It is instant gratification for a physician."