By Alexander Germanis
We Americans can become quite attached to our professions. After years, they become a part of our identities, a part of who we are. So ingrained into our lives are our jobs that one of the first things we tend to ask one another when first getting acquainted is: “What do you do for a living?”
When one has built a business from the ground up, the profession can become something more than just part of oneself, as Dr. Melissa Lockwood can attest. For her, Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates (HFAA) has grown into something more akin to another child—something she has nurtured and raised to be a helping, contributing member of the Bloomington-Normal business community family.
Partners With YOU in Your Healthcare
How Heartland Foot and Ankle can help is always something at the front of Dr. Lockwood’s mind. “How can we help our patients?” she thinks. “How can we help our staff? How can we be a guide to the team and even to our potential patients in a foot and ankle care sense?”
Even seemingly minuscule things like keeping the website as up to date as possible are taken into consideration. With postings of the latest treatments, Dr. Lockwood wants to make sure her practice is a good place to come for answers to questions regarding foot and ankle care.
It is all part of getting patients to be partners in their own healthcare, which in turn is a significant part of building a quality relationship. “What I mean by ‘to be a partner’ is the educational opportunities that we can give to them and how they can help themselves be preventative,” she explains. “We also strive to educate patients as to what their insurance benefits and patient financial costs are.”
One important educational point is that patients always have a choice when it comes to their own healthcare. Although choices may not all be desirable in every instance, the fact remains that a patient should ultimately be in control of their own health. “We work so hard at educating patients it sometimes means they don’t become a patient of ours,” Dr. Lockwood admits.
“Our business vision and ultimate goal is a community of happy, healthy feet,” she asserts. “I would much rather a patient leave educated and happy—and that leads to those healthy feet—because they’ll go somewhere else and get the help they need.”
All in the Family
Looking at Heartland Foot and Ankle as a member in a family community begins with looking at the staff of HFAA as family members. Of course, in one case it is the literal truth. Scott Heape, Dr. Lockwood’s husband, is the Chief Financial Officer and Practice Administrator of HFAA. He has worked alongside his wife for 15 years to make sure their life/work balance or, as work is such a significant portion of living, life/life balance is a healthy one.
Being there for their kids and making sure the staff is likewise there for their families is just as important as running the practice smoothly.
“My business role is as a support,” Scott says, “but it’s also to be Dr. Lockwood’s partner at home: picking up kids, doing activities, and running them around, so she can focus at work while she is there.”
Of course, Dr. Lockwood always strives to be there for her kids when Scott has to fulfill his work duties. “That was a life goal of ours: for one of us to be at every event,” she shares. “We try so hard to be involved in their lives.”
“We’ve worked really hard in the last three to four years to get that life/life balance to be optimal,” Scott agrees.
The importance of the life/life balance extends to their extended family—the staff—as well. “We are family first here,” Scott proclaims. “If they need time off because their kids are sick, we understand, because we’re the same way.”
Their concern for their extended family further proves itself in the benefits package HFAA provides, including 401k, health insurance, dental insurance, short-term and long-term disability, and life insurance. And their team is well worth it, Dr. Lockwood assures. “We have an amazing team. They document 90 percent of the patient encounters; they’re always hustling and working as the concierge or guide to our patients. They are getting things done.”
The more successful the HFAA family has become, the more they wish to share that success with their community family. Every year, they have worked with Home Sweet Home Ministries and the veterans they serve. “That particular charity is close to our hearts,” Dr. Lockwood reveals. “Both my father and Scott’s were veterans and Scott’s grandfather served in the U.S. Army and was a POW in WWII.”
When they wanted to know what more they could do, HFAA’s Marketing Coordinator and medical assistant Lacey Troyer suggested helping a different charity every quarter.
As nearly every member of the staff has adopted a dog from the Humane Society or another animal shelter, the Humane Society seemed the most logical first quarter partner for HFAA.
“The second quarter is ABC Counseling and Family Services,” Scott shares. “I currently serve on the board of that and have for a long time. They provide counseling for kids who have been sexually or domestically abused. They also do adoption services, which is really great.”
In the third quarter, HFAA will help out Back to School Alliance, which helps lower income families in the community with items like backpacks and other school supplies and makes sure kids are prepared to go back to school. Helping this charity is more of a delight than anything, Dr. Lockwood admits. “I love back to school shopping,” she declares. “Love it.”
“And fourth quarter is Home Sweet Home,” Scott concludes. “We want to bring awareness with whatever reach we have and we’re looking to expand that reach. While we want everyone to have healthy, happy feet, we want to be good community partners. That’s part of what we love to do.”
Independence From Mom and Dad
Celebrating Heartland Foot and Ankle’s 15th birthday this year, Dr. Lockwood truly sees the practice itself almost as a living entity. “I joke about how the practice is my first baby and this ‘kid’ is now in drivers ed. It’s in high school,” she chuckles. “And we’re really working and focusing on what its next step is.”
Of course, getting their “teenager” to where it is now has not been easy. As more and more private practices have been gobbled up by large hospital groups, HFAA has stayed independent through Dr. Lockwood’s insistent determination to remain so.
“Fifteen years ago, Dr. Lockwood got involved in groups who taught business on an adjunct basis,” Scott elucidates. “She was taught how to run a business and what to think about. We determined what type of patients we wanted to see and what we needed to earn to stay independent, and essentially reverse engineered it.”
Now that HFAA is well into its teen years, Dr. Lockwood’s concern is how her child will fare without her in the future. The goal is for Heartland Foot and Ankle “to be a legacy,” she says, “to be beyond just me.” What continues on will hopefully continue to “make at least a small positive change in our community.”
Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates is located at 10 Heartland Drive, Suite B, in Bloomington, Illinois. If you want to learn how you can take your first steps toward happy, healthy feet, please call them at (309) 661-9975 or visit them on the web at www.heartlandfootandankle.com.