Helping Build Businesses: Dr. Cherlin Johnson

Dr. Cherlin Johnson, CEO & Founder, Exer – More Than Urgent Care

July 18, 2014

Dr. Cherlin Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Exer – More Than Urgent Care, a business she founded to service medical patients who fall between the level of urgent care and a hospital emergency room. Since opening her first clinic in 2007, Dr. Johnson has been mobilizing a rapid expansion plan for her business, and First Republic has been instrumental in supporting this growth. 

Here, we talk to Dr. Johnson about her dream of becoming a doctor, the expansion of her business and the challenges she has faced as a business owner.

WHY DID YOU START EXER – MORE THAN URGENT CARE?

At a big hospital, what you find is there are many protocols that have to be followed to keep patients safe. It’s a challenging place to care for people, especially those people who don’t necessarily need the services of a hospital that the ER is attached to.  After about a year working in a hospital, I decided it was time to open a facility that could service these patients but not in the hospital setting. The idea behind Exer – More Than Urgent Care is to bring ER doctors into the community, and we have four basic principles:

  1. Create increased access to make it easy for patients
  2. Make it affordable
  3. Provide high quality care
  4. Focus on the patient experience

Before I started Exer – More Than Urgent Care, I was of the opinion that health care had fallen down in terms of customer service. So for us, it was really important that the patients not only had affordable access to these amazing, high-quality doctors, but when they left one of our clinics they also felt good about their experience.

WHY DID YOU BECOME A DOCTOR?

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to go into medicine, so for me it was a natural fit. I have always been very interested and intrigued by science, and in addition to that I found that I’m a great problem solver and I really enjoy putting people at ease. The combination of those things – being able to learn a lot about a field that I am passionate about, take that knowledge and use it to solve people's problems – has been amazing for me and it’s definitely what drove me into medicine. 

CAN YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE EXPANSION OF YOUR BUSINESS?

After I left the hospital, it took about five years to grow the practice. It was a very ‘grass roots’ process – see some patients, save up, buy some more medical equipment – that style of business. When we reached a point where we knew we had a great model, I went and met with my First Republic banker and showed her my business plan. She brought in a team of people and they took the time to really learn about my business and understand it. They kept saying, ‘Wow, tell us about the business” – they really wanted me to help them understand it more so they could figure out how they could help me. It was impressive.

AS A BUSINESS OWNER, WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED?

As a business owner one of the biggest challenges you face is finding someone to really believe in you and help you realize your dream. That’s where First Republic was instrumental to us; they were willing to sit down and not only say ‘Show us your financials’, but they were interested to know about my passion, what I wanted to do, how my business was going to help people and why I was going to be successful. To have someone take that time to learn about you, believe in you and then ultimately support your expansion is pretty amazing.

HOW DO YOU ENVISAGE THE FUTURE FOR MEDICINE AND FOR EXER – MORE THAN URGENT CARE?

Health care is in an interesting stage right now. A lot of people are frustrated and struggling with the system. I continue to remind myself that we have to remain focused on one main point; it’s about the patients and their care. The road to get there is a little windy, but I think that we are headed in the right direction and as long as you keep that focus on affordable, high quality and easy to access care, you will ultimately meet the needs of the health care system.

The views of the authors of these articles do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.

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