Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates: Just Another Family


There is an ideal vision of the American community — one that has struggled to maintain a fingerhold in the collective subconscious of the nation with each passing generation. This vision is one of pies cooling on windowsills, of cars and homes being left unlocked, and one where we love our jobs and coworkers almost as much as our homes and families.

Melissa Lockwood, DPM, owner and podiatrist at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates (HFAA), has striven to capture at least that latter part of the American ideal. It is one in which she believes whole-heartedly.

Part of developing that love for HFAA, however, comes from recognizing the supernal nature of family — that nothing, not even our own careers, should take precedence over our loved ones.

Ten years strong and still growing

“We’ve been in practice for 10 years!” Dr. Lockwood exclaims. “I don’t feel that old, but that is true. It started with just me and my mom was helping at the front desk. Now we’ve evolved into having this great full-time staff.”

With her husband, Scott Heape, recently joining the practice as a full-time partner and CFO, and a new addition in the form of podiatrist Dr. Zain Rizvi, HFAA now has a staff that, coincidentally, consists of 10 people.

As excited as Dr. Lockwood is about Dr. Rizvi joining the HFAA family, no one is more excited than Dr. Rizvi himself. “It was always my goal to come back to the Midwest. I grew up In Illinois and am thrilled to be back in state serving this community,” he says. “My goal was to join a practice with a family-oriented atmosphere and that’s exactly what I found at HFAA. That’s what I’m most excited about. From patients to the staff and Dr. Lockwood, everyone has made me feel welcome.”

Of course, Dr. Lockwood — like a proverbial office mother — sees her growing work family as just part of a larger community for whom she is indirectly responsible. “HFAA is now on par with other small businesses as a desired employer within McLean County, as far as what we are able to provide our staff in both compensation and their benefits. We are also dedicated to participating in activities and giving back in the community,” she explains.

For her office and actual families to be active parts of the larger communal family is of great importance. “How we participate in those different things, both from [my daughter’s] school events to all the church events — we’re embracing that,” she says. “And of course we try to be part of the Chamber of Commerce events. We’re also a huge supporter of senior expos, and I get the opportunity to talk to diabetes support groups and senior center support groups.”

Plus, the team at HFAA brings with them vast community interaction and experience as well. “That experience prior to joining this practice has helped us tremendously when it comes to community involvement and to help us in promoting what we do,” she says.

All her “children”

With Dr. Lockwood as the office mom and Scott as the dad, the rest of the team makes up the hardworking “kids.” “HFAA is a family. We say that a lot,” says Jessica, Dr. Lockwood’s Medical Assistant and Surgery Coordinator. “When I first shadowed here before I was hired, I absolutely fell in love with this group of girls that I didn’t even know yet. Their personalities were fantastic. Everybody was so happy.”

The self-described “oil to the wheel,” Amity is the Administrative Director. Amity is responsible for making sure everything in the practice runs smoothly. Amity left HFAA for a time before it offered full-time hours, but returned as soon as she could work full-time there, “I was just waiting for the day because I love Dr. Lockwood and her personality,” she says. “She makes it easy to work for her. ”

A good mother knows when to encourage and not hold back the growth of her children. Dr. Lockwood, apparently, is no exception to that. Sierra, CNA and lead medical assistant, feels blessed to work in such a supportive environment. “I love the fact that Dr. Lockwood teaches us to be our own leaders and to make decisions on our own,” she shares. “I’ve never worked anywhere before where a boss has wanted that; they just want to be in charge of you. But here, she teaches us to be our own leaders and make choices on our own for the betterment of our patients.”

Recognizing the need for a strong father in the family, Chelsea, MS, ATC Clinical Director, is grateful that Scott joined the team full-time. “He does a very good job of being very positive and recognizing when there is an issue, taking care of it, moving past it, and keeping us working as a team all the time.”

Of course having more men around the “house,” is a boon to Marketing Coordinator Chad, who, until recently, was the only one around with a Y chromosome. “I appreciate seeing guys in healthcare,” he says. “Not that it can’t be done with women, but I appreciate guys who are not afraid to work in this field.”

Chad’s appreciation does not end there, of course. “To have a leader who cares really changes the aspects of work; it changes it from, ‘I have to go to work,’ to ‘I get to work with a team and my voice is heard.’”

As Taylor, CPT, billing coordinator, comes from a pharmaceutical background, she is the go-to girl when it comes to questions about medications. She, therefore not only talks to all the patients, she loves the variety of patients with whom her work family gets to interact. “I like seeing the patients; it’s fun — all the diversity,” she says.

“Mom” is visibly touched as each of her work kids talks of their experiences and she responds in kind. “We’ve always felt the team is what makes our practice,” she says. “They really help keep me going and keep the pace we need to go. We couldn’t do it without them. I couldn’t do it by myself, and I couldn’t do it with just Scott,” she laughs. “We’d probably kill each other.”

From “home” to home

As content, respectful, and loving as the HFAA staff is of their work, Dr. Lockwood insists on always putting family first. “I’m a wife and mom first,” she admits. “Then I’m a business owner, and then finally I’m a podiatrist. It’s hard for anybody, but especially for a woman, to compartmentalize those things.”

Going hand-in-hand with that realization is that HFAA is in the service industry. “Our product is not only care a patient receives but also the environment; our patients need to feel safe and comfortable and not rushed.”

In order to maintain that environment, HFAA intentionally limits the number of patients they see each day. This then translates to a more secure workday for everyone with the end goal of everyone getting home to their respective families.

“Since Dr. Lockwood has family of her own, she really understands the fact that we, of course, want to treat the patients but we would also like to get home to our families at a decent time,” Amity shares.

“I know my day starts when it’s supposed to and it’s done when it’s supposed to be; it’s not just a guess,” Chelsea adds. “It’s been huge for me and my family to have that stability and that set schedule.”

Even though he’s the newest member, Dr. Rizvi already appreciates HFAA’s recognition of the importance of family. “Balance between family and work is extremely important, especially now that my son has been born,” he shares. “I want to be there for him and my wife as much as possible and at the same time as help people feel better at HFAA.”

Of course, the set schedule and the balance help with the office mom’s family as well. “With Scott here during the week, we are able to spend weekends together as a family as he’s not at HFAA all weekend anymore,” Dr. Lockwood says. “That’s the biggest benefit for us.”

Welcome home

“Family first” is not just a catchphrase at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, nor is it a mentality limited to the team there. Dr. Lockwood, Scott, and the rest of the HFAA team understand that the patients who walk through their doors have families of their own and whatever medical help they are in need of can and does directly affect those loved ones at home.

Of course, regardless of the size or makeup of their actual families, the staff hopes each person who walks in feels, at least in some way, like a member of the HFAA family — that when they walk in, they are home.

For more information or to make an appointment, contact Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, 309-661-9975, or visit their website at office is located at 10 Heartland Dr., Suite B in Bloomington.