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Reflections from a first-time entrepreneur


When I think back on my journey as founder and CEO of Allegheny Medical P.C., it's hard to believe it's been over 35 years in the making. 

I first started the practice in 1984 and at that time, it was purely Chiropractic care, called Fanelli Chiropractic P.C., actually. We were working long, hard days - between 12 to 16 hours each, 7 days a week. We had no time to waste to get the practice off of the ground - we worked with schools, companies, sports teams, and amateur and Olympic athletes both nationally and internationally. In 1989 I became the treating doctor for the NFL players union and held that position for close to 13 years. We saw more than 16,000 patient visits a year, including patients that flew in from other states. We expanded twice during this time and with all of this in place, we thankfully outgrew ourselves faster than we anticipated, again. We decided to open Allegheny Medical P.C. in 1995 and move the office further west to the Airport area. Allegheny Medical P.C. has morphed in more ways than one since that day. 


After receiving my Doctorate from Chiropractic school I felt a desire to further my study 5 more years to receive degrees as a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician and a Board Qualified Chiropractic Orthopedist. It was clear to me, I wanted to pursue a different way of delivering health care, using a transformed health model, if you will. I desired to create something that put the patient first, providing a 'whole body' approach.


Preventative, whole body care using an integrative approach is something that is still very much in its infancy in America. In fact, when I started the practice in 1995, it was so unheard of that some (ok a lot of) people looked at me like I was crazy. My kids will still tell you I am, but that's for another post. I've made it my life’s mission to establish roots with this model and prove it could flourish. Sick-care, as we call it, is so reactive in its nature - and from the day I started practicing medicine, I wanted to promote and educate health care as I believe it is truly intended to be - preventative and inclusive.


I truthfully didn't know if this model would work, and to be honest I didn't have an eloquent or savvy recipe for success. I just knew two things - I wanted to help people and taking this approach was the best way I knew how. Constant feedback from patients telling me that it was something they would want in a health care facility helped settle some fears. I wanted our practice to have a focus on patient first, quality care that was not only proactive in nature, but thoughtful. My goals were simple - to improve the quality of life of each patient that came through my door, help each person feel better faster, to be able to live longer, and to be able to play harder and work just as hard. Keeping those things top of mind led everything else that followed. Efficiencies in care plan workflows, a multidimensional offering of services and specialties, and an approach that made it easier on the patient to receive care. I learned quickly that by simply removing barriers in communication channels led us to immediate higher quality care, especially as each provider from varying specialties worked together under one roof. This intuitive change ultimately led to our integrated model that is truly from a people first perspective.

Another piece to the puzzle was choosing a location that would limit additional barriers and supply access to as many people as we could accommodate. Choosing the Robinson/Airport location back then was a huge risk, especially since we were seeking to increase our space by 8x - and at that time most health centers were consolidating or selling their businesses. But the area changes were consistent with the West growing up - highway name changes, development of brown fields, the Marcellus shale and others all coming into play. My wife actually found this location and it just seemed perfect. We felt this area was the center for the Western Corridor of Pittsburgh - extremely easy to access and right off of the highway. With many companies in the area, we believed corporate care was destined to grow. We knew we also wanted to expand into urgent care, primary care, sports medicine & rehab, and we felt this location would help us to service all of those segments.

The goal was not to just open a practice in the region though, it was to be intimately involved with the region. I've been a member of the Chamber for the past 25+ years and am also a past Chairman of the Board. I feel it is crucial to devote time, money, resources and energy into the community around each of us. Becoming involved with worthy causes that benefit the region as a whole will help us all flourish together. The more we do this as individuals, the greater we all become together.


Reflecting over my 35+ years as a first-time entrepreneur, I've seen a lot - experienced so many ups, downs, surprises, joys, tough times, and 'big wins'. A few ups and downs that stick out to me, I'd like to share in efforts to help other first timers out there. 


Ups

Over the years, we became the leading independent provider of combined services in the region for: primary care, urgent care, occupational medicine, sports medicine & rehab, physical therapy, and weight loss. This is a direct reflection of the effort of my team and the constant pursuit of our mission - a patient first, quality comprehensive approach to health care. Through this, I've been honored to receive awards such as the Paul Harris Fellow from Rotary International, 2x awarded outstanding service and support from the Senate of Commonwealth of PA, Local Hall of Fame, Jenny Award from the Airport Area Chamber of Commerce and others. These are nothing but nice reminders to keep pushing, and never lose sight of why you started in the first place. 


Downs

The most recent pandemic is one that has affected all of us. Shockingly to some, it has even kept many patients away from our practice, despite being an essential business. Previous to this current pandemic though, the biggest learning for me was to understand and navigate the powers of insurance carriers and ever evolving regulations that can create and limit access to independents (not affiliated with hospital systems). We stay independent so that all patients can have access to us, as we believe quality health care options should be available to everyone - and not dictated or limited by anyone or any system. We work hard at this every day to ensure we continue to make this happen. This is all only to say, if you want something and you truly believe it will change the ways things are done for the better, you've got to be willing to roll up your sleeves and fight for it. No one else will for you.

In all, it's been a wild and fun ride. I am continuously driven to push for and create new solutions to help our community thrive. Western PA has been good to me, and hopefully I to it. We are still in constant pursuit of our mission, and by no means are we 'there', but it's nice to see how far we have come - the lives we have been fortunate to impact, and the constant strive to improve ourselves. We will continue our mission as long as our doors are open - patient first, quality care that is not only proactive in nature, but thoughtful.


Dr. Neal