In celebration of South Slope Pediatrics 9 year anniversary, we have interviewed Dr. Hai Cao and Matteo Trisolini to talk about the inception of their practice, how they’ve arrived to where they are today, and hear about where they are going. Happy Birthday SSP!!!
The full video transcript can be found here:
Jen: Hi, everybody, this is Jen Valu. I help South Slope Pediatrics with their social media and blogs. Thank you so much for joining us today. In celebration of SSP’s nine year anniversary, we are interviewing Dr. Hai Cao and Matteo Trisolini to talk about the inception of their practice and how they've arrived to where they are today.
Hi, Hai and Matteo, it's so great to see you.
Matteo: Hi, Jen. Thank you for having us.
Jen: Before we continue, I just want to say congratulations on reaching this anniversary of nine years, even that much more amazing after the grueling year that we've all just been through. I know I can speak for everybody when we say we are so thankful for all that you do day in and day out, and continue to do for our families. And as one review on Facebook perfectly states, “100% recommend. Genuine care and love is guaranteed in the service that your child will receive here”. I just think that so accurately sums up what we get at South Slope Pediatrics.
Matteo: Oh, thank you, Jen, thank you for writing that review. I'm kidding. Thank you. That's very humbling.
Jen: And so now to the questions. So take us back to nine years ago, what led you, an accomplished photographer, and Dr. Cao to open up the practice? You want to go first?
Dr. Cao: To start, honestly, I had a great job working at Methodist. And you know, the only thing that was missing was really a little bit of autonomy, and the lack of consistency of relationships. Which, if any of you guys know about my past, it's really about coming from a small town of 9,000 In northern Indiana. Growing up there is a big part of who I am, and a big part of how I approach life and my professional career. And some, a lot of that was missing. So after we had our daughter, we really wanted to maybe institute some changes in our own lives and have some more autonomy and cultivate some of those relationships, which I find really rewarding. In the way that we practice, you get more than one shot, but you get a shot, really, to only prove yourself once. And I truly believe that the way to practice medicine is really to have relationships with people. So that you're accountable for your, for your folks. And those folks are accountable for you. And as a side note, we really felt like a lot of our folks really pulled through, and were super accountable for us in the past year and a half, which has not been particularly easy.
Matteo: It's true. That's true. As far as me, Jen, I used to be a photographer, a professional photographer, and then we had Isabella. And I had decided I'm gonna stay home with Isabella while you continue working. So I was home with her. And by 7pm, I was at the door with the baby ready to be given to Dr. Cao so that he could enjoy. Right? So I stayed home for the first I believe 15 to 18 months. But it was an amazing journey. And still is, of course, we're still in it. But I felt at one point that I had completely lost myself. You know, I didn't remember who I was anymore. I didn't have time for myself. Sleep when the baby sleeps. That's such a lie. That ain't gonna happen, you know. So anyway, I had already paused my career at that point. But around the 15 month mark, I felt that I needed to do something for myself. And so I told my husband, I said, “Well, I'm thinking about going back to work. But I don't want to be in the front line anymore. I don't want to be a photographer anymore. Maybe I'll go back and do some production work, right”? Because I didn't want Isabella to be raised honestly, in an environment where my ego was going to be so big that there was no space for anything else if I wanted to make it in that industry. And then at that point, my husband said, “Well, I feel that I want to open my own practice, but if I don't do it now I will never do it”. So I had had my business for a long time already. I knew how to put together a business. So I had no clue about health care. But there we go. And do you want to tell her the story of how we found the location on Fifth Avenue?
Matteo: That was my daughter. The reason why you heard that voice is because she found that location. She did. We didn't. I was with Isabella, still at home while he was still working. And we were trying to figure out plans to put it all together. In one day, I took her to the park like everybody else does. And she started playing with twins, twin brothers, younger than she was. And she basically took one of their toys. And when it was time to return the toy, I returned the toy and apologized. So I introduced myself and we started chatting, and she asked me what I did. And I don't know why, but I volunteer that with my husband, we want to open a medical practice. And she said to me, “Uh, well, I have the place for you”. And I said, “Yes, sure you do”. A week later, we're visiting the place. And two weeks later, we're signing a contract. And that's how it happened. Yeah. Unbelievable. It's so Park Slope, isn't it? It's very Brooklyn.
Jen: Love it. So from the very beginning, you had a clear idea as to what your mission and your vision would be for SSP. Can you tell us about what your mission is and why it's so important to you?
Matteo: Can I take it? It's my jam. So first of all, when we opened the business, we just opened the business, we got so busy trying to get the ball rolling and trying to make a living without getting paid for six to eight months, right? I don't remember anymore. We didn't have a vision. We didn't take the step to write it and to talk about it. But we knew that what Dr. Cao said before about relationships was going to be exactly what we were looking for. Small town doctor with more personal care. I wanted the patients to feel like they were coming to us to visit the extended family and that the waiting area was their extended leaving room. It was not until 2015. We opened the office in 2012. It wasn't until 2015 that I stumbled into reading some books. And I stumbled into Delivering Happiness by the late Tony Hsieh. That book is fantastic. I recommend it to everybody… It opened my mind to new possibilities. It was only at that point that I felt that we needed to write our mission. And so South Slope Pediatrics mission is to change the way that healthcare is experienced by everyone involved. Patients, team members, third party vendors, you know, vaccine reps, and also to give back to the community. So that's our big vision. I liked it. When I train new trainees, new employees, I'd like to tell them, this is the big dream that we have, that we live up here in the clouds. But in order to get from down here, where we do all we do, we send the emails and we schedule appointments, and we see patients on earth to get all the way to heaven. We have other steps, we have daily goals that we specify. And that each time that we achieve those goals we get closer to achieving the bigger idea of the bigger dream.
Dr. Cao: The whole trend in the past 10 to 15 years is that private practices are closing up and selling to privately run equity firms and hospitals and you know, it's fine because they have different resources. We really tried to stave that off. And you know, we're still doctors, primary care doctors. Pediatricians are still getting paid what were being paid 15 to 20 years ago, while salaries otherwise are skyrocketing. So we're getting the same contract pay that we were getting in 2000 or 2010. And Matteo has done wonderfully by making that work by being able to provide for our employees and doctors, and giving that five star service. So much of this is what he built up as far as company culture, how we approach it, how all of our folks approach it. And, you know, whether we're making a personal connection by talking about a vacation, or talking about a family loss or a job loss. That's what our folks are doing, making those connections and making sure that you're not being treated as purely a transaction.
Matteo: See, Jen, I'm obsessed about the difference between transaction and experience. Anybody, anybody can give a transaction to anyone, whether it's a customer, a patient, or team member, or anybody else you interact with, right? A transaction, basically, it's something that you do for them, to satisfy them, right. So you need a school form. I give you the school form, and the transaction ends. At the very end of the transaction, when that desire or goal has been satisfied, that's the end of it. So we're all able to do that. But what I am obsessed about is going from giving a pure transaction to actually giving an experience. And what's missing to go from here to there is that personal emotional connection, that relationship, so that you can trust that I will take you to the end of the transaction, but I won't leave you there. I will still be there to help you out. So in order to get to go from a pure transaction, to delivering an experience, creating the experience for the customer, for the patient, for the team member, you have to just simply connect at a human level to build that relationship. Dr. Coao does it in the room very well. He's just not gonna give you a prescription or tell you, you know, we're going to give these vaccines today, it's much more than that. What happens in the room, when we send out a school form, it's much more than a school form. It's - I got you because you are part of my family. So I tell everyone on our team to think about our patients or anyone we interact with, even your own team member, you know, your teammates, to help them how you would help your best friend or your mother. What would you not do if your best friend called you and said, I need this school form today? Can you help me? Would you say no to your best friend? Would you not go above and beyond for your best benefit for your mother?
Jen: I think from my standpoint and everyone else, it's your authenticity, both of you, and everyone that works at SSP. You bring your authentic selves to work, and you only hire the best of the best.So you've done a tremendous job at building up a team.
So what were those first years, like when you did when you first opened? And what were your biggest learnings coming out of those years?
Matteo: My biggest learning is that once you think you got it, you don't got it. I mean, that changes are always coming. And embracing change is more important than trying to survive the day, you kind of have to look into the future a little bit and try to figure out what changes are coming and how to embrace it to make everybody else also understand how important that is. That's it at least for me.
Dr. Cao: I think if we knew ithen what we know now, I think we would have been a little trepidatious stepping into it. It was good that we were kind of blissfully ignorant and just, were, you know, hopeful and optimistic. That was just gonna work out and that I mean, on some level, your outlook really, really plays into how things work out. And I think that, you know, we decided that there was no way that this wasn't going to work out. And we just made it happen. We made lots and lots of sacrifices, and I saw my bank account go down to, like, three digits at some point. And that was not easy. But after years and years of saving, we made it work.
Matteo: Yeah, I actually remember, at the very beginning, we thought, we just need to put our heads down and work, just be ourselves. Don't even look at what anybody else is doing. And every time there was something that wasn't going very well, we just told each other, just put your head down, be you and do what you know what to do. Period. Our way. And that really helped us a lot, not to be distracted.
Jen: So we talked a little bit before, about the amazing team that you have, and the incredible company culture that you've cultivated and you nurture day in day out. I understand you have a video that you have created, if you'd like to share that out.
Matteo: Before we do, I want to speak and I think I speak for Dr. Cao as well that our team is amazing. And we love everyone on the team. And we got so lucky to stumble into these people. In order to achieve what we do - honestly, you have to have the right people and we got lucky. We got lucky because we're not hiring professionals. But you know, with some help from other sources and some education, we have been so lucky. I mean, Taima, we know how amazing she is and how everybody, all patients love her. But she's not the only one, everybody on the team. So I put together a little slideshow. Just to show you what kind of people we are, what we do, and you'll see not not just that we work all the time... but that's not all we do. And in order for us to deliver that sort of experience that we can create for our patients, we also must for ourselves as well because that's important. We work behind the scenes doing other things that most of the time have nothing to do with health care. And you will see in the video at one point, there's a little short video about us doing an improv class. Alright, so if you guys are ready, I'm gonna play it. Let's go.
Jen: Love it. So real quick, before we wrap up today. Just want to say, we've been through a very challenging year...it's been tough. But looking into the future coming out of that, what are your plans for the practice and what do you want our dear SSP families to know?
Dr. Cao: For us, we're always going to take great responsibility and accountability in taking care of our colleagues. We take great accountability and responsibility for taking care of the kids in our practice and their families, you know, it's been a real ride. We've been with people through sickness and illness, of course with your kids. We've had to say goodbye to a lot of folks, because that's Brooklyn, you know, you come in and you leave. And \we understand that. We've said goodbye to kids, with burials and funerals, we've said goodbye to spouses and adult illness and sickness and loss this past year, a lot. But that's part of the journey, and we feel privileged to be part of your journey through it. And we are accountable for being there for you moving forward. I think we try to carry that same spirit with the decisions that we make as far as the business, which really is just the 11 to 13 of us, will always be in the best benefit of taking care of the families that have become our community, and who so many showed up for us in this pandemic. So we're very grateful.
Matteo: And I just want to add that it is true that the SSP community made our team, but also the SSP families are very special ones. And I don't want to say just because it's our business, but because it's true, you know, families refer to themselves as SSP families. We really didn't start that trend. They did. So they created the community. And during the pandemic, you know, we have to hold, for example, some of the in-person classes. So I want our community to know that there are plans of going back to that or reviving all of that. Part two of our mission is to give back to the community. And that's one of the ways that we do it. So right now we're doing the classes virtually, but we can't wait to go back in person and do it. We can't wait to go back into the schools and help out. We can't wait to partner again physically with the Ali Forney center, so that their kids also can be helped. There's a lot of things that unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we have to slow down and we just can't wait to get back on that horse again.
Jen: Well, thank you both for your time today, from all the families of South Slope Pediatrics, thank you. Thank you, and thank you, You are the best of the best. Happy anniversary!