Married Physicians Share How Their Business Survived Unforeseen Disaster
This article was originally published on the Access+ portal for ByrdAdatto Access+ members. Enjoy this free access to learn the story of married physicians, Dr. Heather Furnas and Dr. Francisco “Paco” Canales.
Navigating their medical practice through two fires and a national pandemic has given married physicians Dr. Heather Furnas and Dr. Francisco “Paco” Canales a unique perspective on resilience.
When Dr. Furnas met Dr. Canales at Stanford University during their plastic surgery residency their biggest concern was juggling hectic schedules. “We learned quickly how much we enjoyed working together by not working together,” Dr. Furnas said.
The couple jointly owns the sought after Plastic Surgery Associates of Santa Rosa and Allegro MedSpa in Santa Rosa, California. Through their unique experiences, they have garnered unparalleled knowledge of how to keep a medical practice not only afloat but thriving during disaster.
Trial by Fire
2017 brought the first unprecedent challenge for the couple with the Tubbs fires sweeping across Northern California – destroying their home and community. The family returned from a conference to a neighborhood that resembled ancient “Roman ruins.”
Cars on fire and only walls remaining of homes made the streets they knew by heart unrecognizable. “Only one house of 200 was still standing,” Dr. Canales said. “We truly lost everything. Not only our home, but memories too, including priceless art Heather created as well as baby photos and family memorabilia.”
Dr. Furnas recalls that every decision from insurance appraisals to mundane choices felt impossible to make. Displaced for three months the couple needed to keep their business afloat despite losing their home.
“Not only did we not know how long our practice would be physically shutdown, but we had no clue the tole this tragedy would take on the psyche of our community,” Dr. Canales said. The couple jumped into action, connecting with bankers, insurance agencies, and vendors – not only assessing the damage but putting strategies in place.
They witnessed their first glimpse of hope after continuing to host the practice’s annual Black Friday event, pivoting the event to a fundraiser for the community.
“Proceeds from the event were donated to those affected by the fire,” Dr. Furnas said. “It was our highest attended event to date.”
Restructuring and Setbacks
A native Puerto Rican, Dr. Canales watched his homeland devastated by Hurricane Maria just three months later. But back home problems persisted. Rolling blackouts began throughout Northern California. The intermittent power outages were intended to minimize damage from potential sparks from transformers but created new challenges.
“The primary focus had to be on communication,” Dr. Canales said. They transitioned their primary staff communication from email and phone calls to WhatsApp and tapped into the practice’s existing social media presence to connect with patients about scheduling and office closures.
While there was a more immediate response to the 2019 Kincade fire, their family continued to witness loss and devastation across Northern California. The family temporarily re-located to San Francisco where Dr. Furnas and Dr. Canales were able to operate remotely but stopped performing all elective procedures.
And then 2020. “What we learned in the past was the importance of communication and also knowing there is an end [to disaster],” Dr. Canales said. During the COVID-19 pandemic they were efficient and proactive. They opted to shut down all elective procedures prior to the state mandated shelter-in-place.
Dr. Furnas remembers discussing, “Should we do surgery tomorrow or not?” and she knew based on the past few years that “A year from now doing one more day of surgery won’t matter,” especially when it compares to a global phenomenon.
They were in uncharted waters again, but this time it was with the whole world, not just their immediate community.
“Since 2017, we have slowly built out new strategies and practices to deal with many of these unforeseen circumstances,” Dr. Canales said.
“Having a great relationship with our bank was a huge asset,” Dr. Canales said. This was especially evident during the PPP loan application process, where the local bank offered quality customer service to their practice.
Revisit & Revise
“After the Tubbs fire we learned almost everyone is underinsured,” Dr. Canales said. Working with private adjusters they continue to update their insurance based on the varying changes in construction cost and new equipment.This step can truly make or break a business – or family – if a disaster occurs. Dr. Canales learned after seeing colleagues selling homes to make up for damage costs after the Tubbs and Kincade fires.
When it doubt, connect with experts. “A lot of issues come out of [temporarily] shutting down a business,” Dr. Canales said. Continued communication and education from their legal team at ByrdAdatto helped keep Dr. Canales and Dr. Furnas on top of patient and employee accommodations during all disasters.
Although they never could have predicted the true devastation that was to come, Dr. Furnas and Dr. Canales met every new obstacle with resilience and positivity. “We had three different occasions to activate insurance coverage we never thought we would need,” Dr. Canales said.
Dr. Canales and Dr. Furnas have proven that together they can truly take on anything.
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