Practitioner Still Finds Success Flying Solo
Published: Thursday, January 24th 2013
Louis DiToppa, DO, FAAFP, doesn’t like to follow the crowd; he has no hesitancy about flying solo. That’s the reason he’s been able to run a successful one-physician practice just outside Pittsburgh for the past 26 years.
“I’m kind of a unique individual,” DiToppa admits. “I like to do things my own way. I’m not one to be a follower. I tend to be a leader, and I like to forge ahead.”
It’s been a successful formula for nearly three decades.
Lucky and blessed
DiToppa received his B.S. in chemistry in 1979 from the University of Pittsburgh, then attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine before returning to McKeesport Hospital to complete his Residency in Family Medicine in 1986. That’s when family and friends helped him launch his medical career.
“I had a department chairman who really looked out for his residents,” DiToppa recalls. “He placed a lot of the residents from our program into key areas here around McKeesport.”
DiToppa spent the next three years practicing out of a small office that he rented from his department chairman, then decided that it was time to grow. That meant buying a piece of property and constructing a building which. With assistance from his father, who was the superintendent of the local water authority and had many contacts in the construction industry, the building went up, and the practice flourished from that point forward.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t challenges along the way.
Staying the course
For about six years DiToppa had an associate; a fellow resident who eventually decided to move to California. When the professional separation occurred, DiToppa opted not to bring in another associate.
His decision to forgo another associate came about because of the challenge presented by finding someone who was compatible. DiToppa knew that sometimes he would be spending more time with the associate than his own family, so they had to share likes and dislikes. He decided to go it alone.
“I’ve always been very motivated; I like to work, which, you know, to some people that’s kind of an oddity,” he explains. “But I really like to get up and go to the hospital in the morning. You know, when things were shifting and changing, and practices were being bought by and sold to different entities around here, I never would sell to anybody. I’ve been offered and approached, but I would never be satisfied working for somebody.”
The key to success, DiToppa says, is being personable to patients; talking to them and treating them one-on-one as a human being.
“I try to do that with the patients here, and they keep walking in the doors,” he says. “I have a very active, very busy practice.”
Reaching for the clouds
One of the challenges of being a solo practitioner is that all the work falls on him since there isn’t anybody else, DiToppa says. Needing more flexibility, he decided to take on a partner, of sorts, and signed on with athenahealth’s integrated cloud-based services.
“I’m very computer savvy, but I didn’t want to be burdened with having to make program changes and worrying about servers,” DiToppa says. “I wanted an outside entity, cloud-based, that provided the best of the best. I did my due diligence and came up with athenahealth. That was a very big jump, but I think one of the better jumps that I ever made here in the practice.”
That “jump” paid off in more ways than one, because he can stay very involved with his family. DiToppa’s daughter, Paige, began figure skating when she was three years old. She progressed through the United States Figure Skating Association, and was ranked third in the Eastern U.S. in ice dancing.
The DiToppa family has always been involved in ice skating. In addition to his practice, DiToppa is also president of Center Ice & Blades of Western Pennsylvania and a delegate to the Board for U.S. Figure Skating for the last six years. His wife is a director of development for the club, and she works with national as well as international judges on testing for figure skaters.
“When we go home, we talk about what’s going on at the rink, how things are progressing with our next event, or what problems the club might have to deal with,” he says. “It’s been a family affair.”
Athenahealth’s cloud-based services, DiToppa says, have given him the flexibility to go on the road with his daughter, laptop in hand, and know that he can keep in contact with his office at all times.
“Lab work comes in and I can handle that and make recommendations over the computer,” he says. “Then when I come back [to the office] on Monday I don’t have three stacks of charts staring at me.”
DiToppa subsequently bought two other buildings where he’s added laboratory facilities surrounding the first that he constructed for his practice.
“For me, medicine is just not a job; it’s what I am and what I do,” DiToppa says. “I’m constantly thinking about what my next move is going to be. The wheels are always turning in my head, whether it’s patient care, or what’s going to happen as far as the business part of medicine.”
That hands-on approach has contributed to what DiToppa calls the most rewarding aspect of his medical career: bringing newborns into the world, something he did for nearly 18 years.
“It’s rewarding to know that I helped bring life into the world,” he says. “That’s been the most satisfying thing. It’s been what I like most about family medicine, that aspect of continuity of care, and seeing a patient through the years.”