When it’s time to start a family, you want someone who has the best knowledge and insight to help you through this new journey. With his OB-GYN practice in Lawrenceville, GA, Dr. Marc Jean-Gilles, DO, FACOG and Abundant Life Healthcare show us that family is everything. From the way you grew up to the family you create yourself, it’s a sacred bond that Dr. Jean-Gilles is happy to see and guide with his patients. He pays attention to all of his patient’s complaints and pains to help avoid any tragedies and to ensure all of his patients feel cared for and informed at every visit. Dr. Jean-Gilles talks about his beginnings of working in the medical field and being an entrepreneur with his own practice.
How it all started
What first sparked your interest to work in the medical field?
Growing up, my dad was an OB-GYN, so I saw first-hand the rewards of a career in medicine. I always thought it was a cool and noble thing to do. I thought I’d make a good lawyer but then I had a moment of clarity that I’d probably have to defend someone in the wrong and I couldn’t do that. So, I went the route of being altruistic, helping others and making a stable career out of that. My dad was a heavy influence on me so that helped.
With having immigrant parents, how did that affect your approach to your career?
I don’t think they were hard, I think I was blessed to be in a household where it was natural to do things like read a book and be academically successful. My dad never put pressure on me to become an OB-GYN. I carved out my own path with no pressure but he was definitely proud. My dad also owned his own practice in New York, so I saw where he made errors, and even talking with him, he speaks on the things he would’ve done differently. I took that approach and did things differently and they seem to be paying off.
What’s your family’s background?
My dad is from Haiti, he went to medical school in Mexico where he met my mother. I’m half Haitian, half Mexican. From Mexico, my mom and dad immigrated to Philadelphia where I was born. My dad has two siblings, one’s an ophthalmologist in Haiti and his older sister was a nurse in Philadelphia for a long time. He got into a residency program and we stayed there for the first four years, then he changed his program and started the OB-GYN program in Westchester County, N.Y. We left at the end of first grade and moved to Miami for a year. He didn’t like it there, so we moved to Connecticut for two years where he worked at Yale University Hospital.
From there, we moved to Long Island and that became home. I finished grade school, went to college and medical school there. After medical school, oddly enough I did my training program in Philadelphia at Temple University Hospital. I did a rigorous four-year program and in the fourth year, I was looking for a job. At the time, I had my wife and my two girls and I was considering going back to New York but with the cost of living, it wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I wanted to be economically free; I wanted the nice things, I just didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. We were looking at places with cities, major airports and sports teams. My wife knew some people in Atlanta and I applied and got a job here.
After working for a hospital, I said ‘why don’t I just do my own thing?’ and started my own OB-GYN practice in 2010.
With Black women dying at a higher statistical rate than other women during childbirth, how do you approach the care of your Black patients?
Whatever complaints my patients have, I take it very, very seriously. The truth of the matter is most of the time it’s going to be a false alarm but you don’t want to miss those false alarms, so you must be aggressive. I think with me being Black, having Black family members, being around my wife and her family, there’s always going to be a cultural reference. I’m always going to be able to connect with my Black patients better than a white doctor. I’m also half Hispanic and speak Spanish, so I can connect well with my Spanish speaking patients. At the end of the day, my advice to all OB-GYN doctors is to be aggressive in their care and evaluate. Be aggressive and never take anything personally. Just listen to the patient and complaint, even if you think they’re being dramatic. That’s how you avoid a lot of bad outcomes in that way.
Advice from Dr. Jean-Gillies
Talking more about ownership and entrepreneurship, now that you have your own OB-GYN practice that includes the responsibility of maintaining yourself and your team. How were you able to maintain everything during strenuous times such as these? How did you approach and pivot your plan with the business?
When we didn’t know much about the virus, we changed certain things in our office. For example, our OB-GYN practice is very family-friendly so we would have kids coming in while they’re [expecting parents] getting an ultrasound. Someone’s having a baby and has about four people in the room with them because they’re excited.
When the pandemic broke out, we adapted and did what other practices did. We only allowed the patient in the room and maybe one other person with them. Unfortunately, we had to turn kids away, we maintained a six-foot space and took temperatures at the door. These were simple measures we were taking as well as staff and patients wearing masks. We also stopped seeing things that could wait; pap smears and fertility consultations were being pushed to later dates.
I typically see things that are acute and can be addressed right away. Things like heavy vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, vaginal discharge, or pregnancy were things that couldn’t wait; so we would see those patients, cut the volume down and be done by noon. As we learned more about the virus, we just opened back up and continued to enact our safety measures. We did see a drop but it didn’t hurt us that bad. Our field is mostly sheltered from those types of losses, unlike a restaurant that depends on patrons, we’re a healthcare facility. Patients are still going to get pregnant and experience pain so these are issues we have to address.
Many of our readers are entrepreneurs who work very hard, especially during the pandemic. What are some health effects that you see that stem from stress?
Stress is real. The public at large is dismissive when it comes to mental health issues and we underestimate the power of emotional distress and its effects on our bodies. Stress can cause you to have an actual disease in your body such as autoimmune disease, mental breakdowns and depression. We have to get to a point where we’re dealing with mental health. You’ll have bad days, things that don’t go your way and it can weigh on you. If you’re not careful and stay down there it could lead to a downward spiral. I would advise people who are working hard to take time to take care of themselves, enjoy life and talk things out with someone. It’s important to talk things out, it’s good medicine. I talk to my wife about things all the time and it helps. The public needs to understand that if someone has issues internally, mentally and emotionally, we don’t need to jump to [prescription] drugs right away. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to have a lot of ups and downs, losses and failures but that’s part of the journey that makes it beautiful. So, enjoy the process and don’t get too down on yourself, don’t let it get to you, always keep it in its proper perspective.
You mention your wife and how she’s helped you through rough patches. She’s also in the health and wellness field. Have you and your wife ever worked together on any projects?
Yes, she helped me get the practice started. It’s now bigger than what she’s comfortable handling, so she’s delegating a lot of responsibility to other people but she helped start it off. Now, she’s pursuing her work within her psychology and health & wellness background. She’s always liked talking to people, helping people and I have plenty of patients that know that my wife is available for any sessions they may need.
Overall, what would you say has been your greatest lesson in entrepreneurship?
Be appreciative of the process. Understand that if you put in the work and effort, it will grow. Also, be patient. Along the way, you’ll have your failures but you’ll have many more victories.
You can get more information about Dr. Jean-Gilles’ practice here.