Pressure into Power

Interviewed by Dana Blickensderfer 

Written by James Alexander 

Dr. Mark Schwaiger knows a thing or two about bouncing back. After a series of setbacks, Dr. Mark has managed to pick up the pieces and build a business empire that spans across multiple states. There are monthly high-end networking events that connect medical professionals at various stages in their careers; there’s the network of medical centers that serve patients who need cost-effective treatment and care; there’s the referral collaboration with medical specialists and facilitators who need to connect with patients who need their services, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Mark Schwaiger is just getting started. 

Today we sat down with the man himself to talk business, life, and discover how hunger and determination can turn pressure into power. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

Good afternoon, Dr. Mark Schwaiger. 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Regional Medical Magazine, how are you?  

Regional Medical Magazine: 

Very well, thank you. 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Good. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

So, we are excited to feature you in our inaugural issue. Regional Medical Magazine is going to take an in-depth look at the personal injury space. Everything from 3D imaging to telemedicine, legal marketing coverage, insights from medical professionals, technology breakthroughs in the industry, and much more. So, we’re incredibly excited about this issue. 

Mark Schwaiger: 

I love it. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

I have the 10 “most requested” questions sourced from medical professionals and entrepreneurs. Is that ok? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Yeah. That’s fine. Totally fine. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

Great! Let’s jump right in and get to know the man behind Regional Medical Group. So, a few people realize that Regional Medical Group (RMG) was founded after you suffered tremendous hardships in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, technically making this enormously successful venture your second act. What was it like coming to Georgia, starting all over again, only to build an even bigger practice than ever before? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Well, I went to Life Chiropractic College in the early ’80s here in Atlanta. So I’ve always had an affinity for Atlanta, and ironically, I initially left Atlanta for Katrina only to never go back. So, at that point in time, I owned and operated seven medical clinics as I practiced chiropractic in Louisiana for five years in the early ’80s. This was before migrating over to the medical side of the equation and specializing then in the treatment and management of personal injury cases, utilizing medical doctors there in New Orleans. 

Out of my seven clinics, six of them flooded. And it was a different time, just a short 15 plus years ago, but everything was manual. We had papers and folders-hard patient files because electronic medical records just didn’t exist at the time. And in the case of a flood, whether you had six inches or six feet of water, you had mold and mildew. A clinic with all these paper files didn’t stand a chance. 

So, we were essentially out of business, period. The postal service was completely knocked out in the aftermath of the storm. The mailman did not pass through for three months. The legal system did not open back up for another eight months. Everybody that had a business was out of business. So my world was turned upside down and, at that point in time, I made the decision to start over in Atlanta, which was my version of Ground Zero. No clinics, no doctors, no patients, and no place to live. 

That’s where I started at that point in time. I firmly believe that because we did the right things with the right people, for the right reasons, we were able to build Regional Medical Group into the entity that it is today. We have 21 staff physicians and over 170 support staff members across 19 clinics and growing. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

That’s incredible. You must be so proud of all the work put into it, especially with starting over in a different state. 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Well, when you have a catastrophic event like Katrina happen in your life, you realize that certain things are not so important-like material items. You wouldn’t take money in exchange for your family, your health, or your close relationships. What’s most important becomes clear. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

Putting those things into perspective is what got you through it? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

To be honest with you, I don’t know how I got through it. It was step-by-step baby steps and looking at it in the rearview mirror. It was maybe harder than what I realized at the time, because at the time, I was just doing what I had to do and calling upon inner strength to make things happen on a day by day basis. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

What about these events has shaped the kind of leader you are today? Can you give us three leadership tips for uncertain times? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

I think that during times like this is when several things happen, that is when the strong get stronger. And what I mean by that is when you have a true desire to build your practice, whether it’s on the chiropractic legal or medical side of the equation, you will utilize this transitional period. Get creative and come up with fresh good ideas and get comfortable knowing that there is no such thing as perfect, but you can aim and hope to land on excellence. 

With that said, doing these webinars in conjunction with Dr. Steve Barnett has been an example as to how, with a creative mindset and marketing team, we’ve been able to reach out to the personal injury community and provide a venue whereby they can still communicate with each other. While the form and function are somewhat compromised, it’s certainly better than doing nothing. 

Everyone has their story to tell as to how our current crisis of COVID-19 has affected their life, either personally or with their business. The virus has been prevalent in 142 countries, and I think it’s affected every single business here in Georgia. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

On the community side, you’ve created medical facilities that have become a regional powerhouse—treating and diagnosing and providing care to injury patients across the state. So from a community perspective, what made you turn to personal injury as a way to serve your community? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Early on in my career, I saw a need that certain patients had, and namely, that was uninsured patients that could not get access to healthcare because they were uninsured. In the instance of personal injury cases, I was willing to provide that service at the time that they needed and wait until their legal case has settled, which may be a year or two later. This was an easy way to provide patients with care that they desperately need. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

So you were treating because you saw a need and you were in this space? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Absolutely. To provide access to healthcare to folks who were uninsured. People should get the treatment that they deserve when they need it. So it started out as a kind of philanthropic model, but over time it became profitable. So, it was a win-win situation. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

During this COVID experience, Regional Medical Group launched a breakthrough telemedicine platform for patients. What made you approve this new initiative? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

It’s something that had to happen for medicine. I think a version of telemedicine will be something that will become part of typical protocols within the medical community moving forward. If I looked in the rearview mirror back during the time of Hurricane Katrina, that is the point in time where texting became prevalent. No one in our industry was texting prior to that time because they could pick up the phone and call someone. But when the cell phone towers were compromised because of the Hurricane, texting was something as a way that we were able to communicate, and texting increased significantly. Consequently, I think that telemedicine has burst onto the scene and is here to stay and will prevail as an alternative way for patients to get medical consultations and, ultimately, treatment. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

It’s like a catalyst that started texting back then as well, as it is for telemedicine today. So it’s something that’s not going away. 

Mark Schwaiger: 

I don’t think so, no.  

Regional Medical Magazine: 

The Regional Medical Group team members are notable for delivering white-glove treatment to patients and VIP events for fellow colleagues. Can you tell us a little bit about how these events came about? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Well, Dr. Steve Barnett was the originator of this, and I was the facilitator if that makes sense. So that aggregately, he and I were able to put these events on as we still do today and create a platform whereby other businesses can do the very same thing and match it to the same audience several times throughout the year.  

Regional Medical Magazine: 

How do you think the switch to online has been? I know there’s a learning curve for a lot of people, but do you think that online networking is going to be a thing that will continue in your industry? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

I have to be honest, and I’ll say, I hope not. I hope that we all get through the other side of COVID-19, and we can get back to a life of normalcy and have hands-on events because that truly is the best networking that can be done. Anything done through a Zoom meeting is secondary and somewhat compromised compared to interacting face-to-face, and that’s all handshakes. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

So what is your grand vision for Regional Medical Group? How do you see Regional Medical Group evolving in the next year? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

I have a son that’s just completed his pre-med at Emory who wants to go on and become an orthopedic surgeon. So as long as I see him headed in that direction, I’m going to continue to build Regional, not only in Georgia but other states so that I can give him the opportunity that I never had. The ability to take over an organization and build upon it. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

How do you see yourself fostering the change of the evolution of Regional Medical Group for your legacy? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

I think that there will be a transitional period whereby I pass this off to my children. I’m already at an age and stage where that’s on my immediate horizon. Nothing will make me feel better than to do that and then serve as a mentor to some of the younger chiropractors that want to do some version of what I’ve done and to do that strictly from a philanthropic mindset. 

I would get a lot of fulfillment out of that because chiropractic has been very good to me throughout my career, and financially, I’ve met milestones that I’ve never thought I would or could. So at this point, the money is not as relevant to me as the legacy would be. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

So readers want to know, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job as the founder and CEO? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

That’s a good question. I would say trying to get the best of the best out of each and every employee and to do that by having them focused on their job at hand and not be influenced by social media and a lot of things that are right at their fingertips. In other words, keep them off their cell phones and focused on work. That, that’s a challenge in today’s workforce. They are getting the best of the best out of each and every employee so that they believe in themselves and give the job at hand their best. 

While we are in the service industry, we’re not selling daiquiris here. There has to be a fulfillment in genuinely helping people. Our team appreciates the fact that we’re giving patients access to healthcare when few other providers would. 

Regional Medical Magazine: 

How do your kids play in a role in motivating you to get up every day and do it all over again? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

I’m proud of them. They have always been my motivation.  

Regional Medical Magazine: 

Last question before we go. What longterm success advice can you give others that are seeking to build a legacy like you have today? 

Mark Schwaiger: 

Because of Katrina, I started out at ground zero, which is probably less than where every other chiropractor is out there. There’s no reason why they can’t work hard just as I did and build something, and build upon that. The years go by before you know it. You have put together something they never thought you would or could. There is no easy way, no short cuts. In fact, it’s probably harder today than it was just a few short years ago. 

I always called it the Mercedes 80s. When things were much easier. But now reimbursement is down, and bureaucracy is up with insurance companies, and you have to work harder than ever before. Moving forward, it’s not going to get any easier. So there’s no easy way out. You got to work hard, do the right things for the right reasons, with the right people. I mean, I mentioned that earlier, but even though COVID-19 has dispensed every one and we’re all kind of once removed or we’re virtual, and we’re not hands-on. You still got to maintain that hands-on mentality and mindset and reach out and touch someone. Whether it’s your colleague or your patient or your staff to let them know that we will clearly get through this current crisis but to carry that mindset on into the balance of their career, before they know it, they’ll be having something that they’re very proud of.