Meet Laura Greenhow MPH, RD, LDN. Laura is the founder and owner of Summerfield Custom Wellness, a nutrition counseling firm based in North Carolina. Laura and her team specialize in weight loss and digestive health, creating customized plans, online learning opportunities, and corporate wellness programming. It is their mission to inspire confidence in their patients and empower them to develop the skills they need to attain their health goals. We at Healthie were so lucky to catch Laura for an interview! Hear about her experience as a nutrition entrepreneur and see what advice she has to share!
Q: What was your path to becoming a dietitian?
Laura: My undergraduate degree is in mathematics. With my math degree, I accidentally ended up managing a fitness franchise. Shortly thereafter, I became a corporate trainer for that company and traveled around the US opening new facilities and facilitating training seminars for owners and managers.
When I moved on to a sales position at another company 2 years later which had no affiliation with the health and nutrition field, I found myself helping coworkers with meal planning and taking them grocery shopping for healthy foods. At that point, I started taking prerequisite coursework online and then left that job to take the rest of my prereqs as a full time student in the classroom. I eventually ended up in the MPH/RD coordinated program at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Q: Tell us all about Summerfield Custom Wellness? What is your approach to care?
Laura: As our name suggests, we have a completely customized approach for each patient that walks through our door. Because we are all so unique (eye color, hair color, height, sex, health history, cooking skills, financial means, degree of readiness), we feel that it is inappropriate to have a “cookie cutter” approach to health and wellness.
During an initial appointment, we review health concerns, medications, health history, and lifestyle habits (nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress). Then we discuss the patient’s optimal health vision, try to capture what ways they have been successful in the past, and understand the barriers they encounter. With all of this information, we help them develop an initial plan to get from where they are currently to where they want to be. The odds that we get it 100% right the first time (or the odds that we develop something on day 1 that will be effortless and sustainable indefinitely) is slim to none so a series of follow up appointments are set so we can measure, monitor, and adjust as we go along. This ensures that the strategies we develop are most practical and give our patients the best chance at success.
Q: What is your favorite thing about your career?
Laura: I love seeing the breakthroughs that people have. In all honesty, we don’t do much except educate them a little bit and believe in them until they gain enough self efficacy but they are always so appreciative for our help. A lot of people just appreciate that we do research for them about what they have going on or that we listen to them and we treat them like a whole person instead of a list of symptoms. It is amazing to see when someone comes in with more bounce in their step, more color in their face, or their first good night’s sleep in years. We help people realize that they can change their experience if they want to.
Q: What has your experience with Corporate Wellness been like?
Laura: Corporate Wellness is our specialty. Because we spend half of our waking lives at work, we believe that worksite programs are essential to progress and sustainability. We also love increasing access to care by being available on-site during the workday. But just as we believe in a customized approach to individuals, we also believe in a customized approach to each corporation. None of our corporate sites are doing exactly the same thing, we develop a customized program for each site depending on their employee concerns.
Q: I heard that you’re something of an insurance pro, I was wondering, what are some of the aspects of being an in-network provider that have helped your practice?
Laura: Our Corporate Wellness division has seen the biggest benefit from being in-network providers. When we partner with sites, most of the time there is no out of pocket cost to the employer or the employees. Talk about reducing barriers to care!
Q: What are some of the challenges you see with taking insurance? What tips and tricks do you have for anyone new to private practice looking to take on insurance?
Laura: There is definitely a huge learning curve to become credentialed and submit the claims but it has all been worth it for us. We are also able to set our rates higher than other dietitians I have seen offering cash rate packages. The problem is that we are not taught to value preventive care so people really consider nutrition as a concierge type of service. Being able to accept insurance makes our service accessible to more people of all different income levels.
Q: What advice do you have for dietetic students looking to start their own private practices?
Laura: Two things: Get a different job first and start building content now. Private practice can be extremely challenging at times and I do not think it would be as easy to deal with the roller coaster of highs and lows if they do not have anything to compare it to. They also won’t understand that in private practice, working hard means helping more people and increasing your income.
In most other jobs, working hard means helping someone else increase their income while yours stays exactly the same. Building content and a following should start to happen as soon as you know you want to start a private practice. It will look way better starting your practice in a year or two and having over a year’s worth of content already established instead of starting at square one when everything else about your practice will also be at square one. If you build your content well enough and consistently enough, people will be begging you to leave your job and dive into your private practice full time!
Q: How do you think technology is changing the way dietitians are practicing care?
Laura: The old model only allows for income streams related to in-person nutrition counseling. While I value the connections made in-person, I love how technology can help expand the reach of our programs through telehealth and online programs. The HIPAA compliant telehealth platform through Healthie was a huge selling point for us especially since we are getting ready to launch our first video course and we wanted a way to support those new patients individually no matter where they live.
Q: Why are you excited about using Healthie?
Laura: When I first got started and it was just me, I developed systems that worked for 1 person for charting, billing, and scheduling. As I started to add to my team, I just kind of shoved them into all of my systems and continued to make work arounds. I continued to search for ONE system that had the functionality of all three systems we were using before. Healthie is the only thing I encountered that had the capabilities we were looking for plus so much more.