In the early months of 2002, Dr. Suzanne Slayton-Milam’s husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. As it turned out to be a rare form of lymphoma, he underwent rigorous treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas.
“We were living in Vancouver with three children, and both of us were working in Portland,” Slayton-Milam said. “After my husband’s six months of treatment we had concern whether he would survive and thus had to make a decision – if I would continue to work in Portland or move my practice to Vancouver. We had three children going in three different directions every morning, it made more sense to move in the event that I may be a single parent and provider. I chose the move and decided to open my own clinic versus joining an established practice.”
In September of 2003, Slayton-Milam opened Cascadia Women’s Clinic in Vancouver. The clinic offers obstetrics and gynecological services, including surgery, ultrasound, massage and cosmetic services onsite. At the start, Slayton-Milam said they had three physicians, a nurse practitioner and four staff, and they saw approximately 100 patients each week. Today, the clinic has four physicians, a midwife, a nurse practitioner, a sonographer, a massage therapist and a total of 27 employees. She said they see approximately 400 patients per week.
“As a women-owned business that focuses on the healthcare needs of women, we are able to truly understand the challenges of blending motherhood, careers and taking care of one’s healthcare needs,” Slayton-Milam said. “Taking care of our families the way mothers do was a challenge with a business that was also young and growing. Starting a new business and being a physician was not a 9-5 job.”
As a smaller women’s healthcare clinic, Slayton-Milam said they offer a warm personalized approach to women’s healthcare, which isn’t always available in bigger clinics or bigger cities. Cascadia Women’s Clinic also has a different clinical atmosphere with a feminine touch. There are aesthetically pleasing light fixtures and each exam room has its own theme, which creates a more relaxed atmosphere versus being so sterile in appearance. Keeping the clinic on the smaller side maintains a personalized touch, and OB patients have a higher chance of their physician doing their delivery.
“We are proud to be a part of this community, supporting local community events, holding after-hour events in our clinic to support other women-run enterprises,” Slayton-Milam said. “We also volunteer as an office every year on MLK Day supporting a local community need. We are also very individualized with our healthcare delivery; we don’t treat our patients as ‘numbers,’ this distinguishes us from other clinics.”
Looking at the future of Cascadia Women’s Clinic, Slayton-Milam said that as a healthcare business they are strongly affected by the direction the policy makers take on healthcare, as well as the rules and regulations put in place by private insurance companies. She said they are hopeful that as a privately owned clinic they will be able to continue to serve the needs of the community working with favorable healthcare policy that supports the operations of small independent physician-owned clinics.
“Our plans for the next five years is to continue to serve our patients with a personalized touch and to ensure that we are able to continue see a diversified population of women by working in tandem with the insurers and the local hospital,” she said.
When asked to offer some advice to other women thinking about starting their own business, Slayton-Milam said: “Don’t let others minimize your dream or your ideas and don’t stop at ‘no;’ push through and persevere. It takes determination and research. I would not have thought we would be where we are today, but because of a passion of serving my family and my patients, I had no choice and pushed forward. My partners also share that passion of family and patient care. I will also say there has been a lot of prayer and answered prayer along the way. I give the glory to God.”
Founder, Cascadia Women’s Clinic