Growing up in New York City, my first job as a teenager was at a Health Food Store. I became fascinated with what is now referred to as Complementary Medicine.  Each day, I would get customers from all over the world asking for different vitamins, herbs, and home remedies. I would make it a point to ask them what medicinal properties it had. I learned so much especially from the elderly community. As I had a better understanding, I began to “prescribe” herbs and vitamins to my family and friends during high school. I knew then that I wanted to learn more behind the science and decided I would become a physician one day. During my career, I have been able to start my own heart health vitamin company. Later, I started my own health care mobile app company. Whenever I saw a need for something, I was able to address it with a solution.  Being able to be part of change and addressing the needs of the health care population has been a passion. I was very excited when the very first freestanding emergency rooms opened 11 years ago.  I was fascinated by this different approach to patient care.

Over the years, the busier I got in the main ER and the more I felt I was not able to spend time with my patients, the more I wanted to work at a freestanding ER. I remember leaving my full time position at a main Emergency Department and some of my colleagues warning me that I was going into an industry that might not be around in the future. I am happy that I was able to transition into working at a freestanding emergency center (FEC). It has been a complete life style change in a positive way.

The most rewarding aspect of managing and operating a freestanding emergency center is the ability for me to give what I think is great patient care. We are able to implement immediately. I love that I have unlimited health resources that I can use for the best patient care that I can provide. I recently had a patient with chest pain, and he was very adamant that he had to be at work the next day at 1 pm. His wife and kids were at the bedside and very nervous about his condition. I was able to work him up and coordinate his cardiology appointment for 9 am the next day.  The patient was ubered to the cardiologist then stressed and released back to work before 1 pm. I enjoy being able to sit and take my time with patients and be able to explain the work up.  I know this sounds crazy, but I enjoy being able to greet patients at the door and bring them straight back to the emergency room.  Another thing I enjoy is when they ask me if I have my own private practice and if I could be their PCP. Now, with Observation Medicine, I have even more options with my patients. I am able to do more for them and follow up with them at the FEC.

One of the biggest challenges is the negative press that the FEC has. It seems as if we are being attacked from all angles.  The insurance companies do not want to compensate fairly for services rendered to their patients.  We have to overcome all the negative press about the FEC driving up health care costs.

Unfortunately, the news is more likely to focus on bad news than the life-saving stories and how patients are actually getting better care.  This is one of many reasons that I appreciate TAFEC.  Overall, we share similar challenges. It would make more sense that we work together and police ourselves than to have the government tell us how to practice medicine.

The ability to unite all of the FECs as one voice and the resources available to us is priceless. I enjoy going to the conferences and learning how others address common issues. This is a relatively new industry with many challenges and growth to come. TAFEC conferences and networking has made it easier to practice with so many challenges ahead. TAFEC is able to keep me up to date and able to address future issues that lie ahead.

I would encourage our members to come to Austin and share your experience with the legislators. If members want to contact me, my email is Hcastro@thecolonyer.com. Together, we can protect our industry and continue to give the best care to our patients.