# Women in Business – The Private Practice Magazine

# Women in Business – The Private Practice Magazine

Dr Raelia Lew is the director of Women’s Health Melbourne in Malvern, Fitzroy and has a new practice location in Caulfield, North Victoria.

Raelia is a Reproductive Endocrinologist, Gynaecologist and comprehensive Fertility specialist working with Melbourne IVF. She holds a FRANZCOG, a Master degree in Reproductive Medicine, a RANZCOG CREI subspecialty qualification, a clinical academic appointment at the Melbourne University Medical School and a PhD in Reproductive Genetics.

It has been my pleasure to work with Raelia in strategic business planning and implementation for her growing private practice. As a woman in business, it has been very exciting to work with Raelia, a highly qualified and driven professional, whose goal is to achieve the very best in the clinical outcomes for her patients and also in her business achievements.

As a business woman in the medical specialist field, I’m sure that this has come with its’ own unique challenges. Raelia, can you tell me about your journey from the decision to study medicine to starting and growing your private practice, Women’s Health Melbourne?

Hanya, I started studying medicine when I was a teenager. I was only 18 and I thought it was a good idea. I had 6 years to decide which direction to go in and it was a field where I could help people and express myself scientifically. I always felt that it was really exciting to gain knowledge in the area of human anatomy, biochemistry and physiology and to apply that clinically to help my patients.

I very quickly decided I wanted to do fertility medicine and IVF in particular, and from very early stages of my career I strove to go in that direction. So, medically speaking, starting my practice was a natural end point. I had absolutely no training whatsoever in business management or how to run a small business or how the small business side of things might fit into the medical paradigm, so I really learnt that on my feet starting my practice.

To some degree I ‘winged it’.

Initially where did you seek knowledge on the business of running a medical practice? Did ‘winging it’ work well for you?

It did, actually, initially, in that it allowed me to step outside of any expectations and ask myself what did I want from my business. I generated my business in the way that I wanted it to, but certainly in terms of ‘reinventing the wheel’ and finding efficiencies I had a lot to learn and when you’re running a practice that’s steadily getting busier and busier you really do find that you reach a point where you’re no longer coping with that strategy, of lack thereof!

What have been some of the key advantages that came from working with a business consultant?

It allows me to focus on what I’m best at, which is my clinical role and allows me time to do things that I’m interested in in terms of exploring areas outside of medicine. It can become all-consuming when you have to run your business, work your fulltime job, maintain your relationship and your family and commitments to things outside of work all the while trying to achieve the ever elusive ‘balance’. So firstly, in terms of optimising my business strategy and making my business as effective as it possibly can be, I recognised that I did need help and assistance and guidance. But also, to free me from the day to day tasks that do become very onerous in addition to my clinical role, I’ve found your help extremely useful and rewarding! So, thank you!

It’s been my pleasure! Through the experiences of starting a new private practice, what were the keys challenges that you faced from a business and personal perspective and what strategies helped you through this?

‘Challenges’, I suppose, is another word for ‘opportunities’ and in starting my practice my goals were to create a very different environment where patients felt very well cared for, where I could express my personality through my work and create a very boutique practice setting, which is quite different to what I’d experienced prior to going into private practice, working in the public hospital sector.

In terms of challenges, as a practice grows, what can start very organically has to become more systematised and one of my challenges was developing systems in order to allow my practice to grow and not hit a ‘ceiling’. These systems were crucial in assisting me to be more organised and more effective and more efficient in my work and be able to maintain my goals of having the ultimate in patient care, whilst my practice grows in volume. Also, as my practice has grown I’ve had to consider taking on more staff and to create a work culture and a group culture that is compatible with our aspirations and the feel of our practice – to keep it a warm and happy place to work, but at the same time being effective and giving patients the best experience possible.

Which leads well into the question of leadership… As a new business owner, you would have noticed that there was a need to take on a leadership role. What was this journey like?
I’ve enjoyed it, I think it’s a natural evolution for me. I’ve always sought to excel in each area of my life as best I can and I’ve found it enjoyable to be able to create my own business, my own way and to be able to work in that environment, so that I get a lot of job satisfaction.

In terms of leadership roles, I’ve had other leadership roles in my professional sphere, but taking that on in business adds a new dimension for me and it’s another way to extend myself as well and to learn new things, which is something I always like to do. So, I’ve relished it, really.

Having to employ a new and growing team for Women’s Health Melbourne is a big step for a new business owner. What do you feel have been the triumphs and challenges in this process?

I never really appreciated how much effort and momentum it takes to find compatible staff and grow relationships to grow my business and I’m humbled by the experience! I think that the challenges are to find staff that embrace the culture and engage in and feel some ownership of their relationships with patients and their role within the business. Something I’m trying very hard in my business to engender, is a culture of workplace satisfaction – where my staff enjoy their roles and have room and scope to grow in them, which will hopefully lead to a happy workplace into the future.

What is your vision moving forward as a practice?

As my practice evolves, I feel my vision will also evolve. My vision now for my practice is to create an environment where I can work effectively and help as many patients as I can to achieve happy and healthy families, to be that in pre-conception health promotion, via strategies such as egg freezing or through using fertility treatment strategies that are right for each individual.

I realise that moving forward with these goals, one woman can’t do it all. I would love to bring together a group of clinicians, allied health practitioners, support staff, and nurses working together under one umbrella to deliver the very best care to my patients.

As a woman in business, what do you find you stand for and how is this reflected in your brand? Can you tell me about more about this?

When I started to develop my brand, I wanted it to reflect my personality. I thought to myself, “If I was going to seek help from a doctor in this situation, what would I want in terms of the care that I were to receive?” and that’s really what I want my brand to engender – that women, men and families receive the kind of care that they consider to be the absolute ‘gold standard’.

I want my practice to reflect my values of patient confidentiality, creating a boutique practice setting where patients feel comfortable, giving my patients the certainty that they have enough time spent with them to truly understand their problems and to find solutions that are tailored to their needs.

For me to be able to this, I wanted my practice to work effectively, to deliver clinical excellence with flair.

What is the best thing about being the Director and owner of Women’s Health Melbourne?

Well, I suppose I don’t answer to anybody at the moment in terms of the direction of my practice, and that’s a good thing. But that means I also shoulder a lot of the responsibility. A lot of situations have double edges to them, but so far, I’ve really enjoyed the road.

If you were to have the opportunity to speak to Dr Raelia Lew recent graduate – what advice would you give yourself?

I would probably be very enthusiastic and encourage myself to follow the dream and to choose the area of medicine that I was most passionate about (which is what I’ve done), because there are highs and lows in every profession. It’s really the love of your work and the satisfaction you gain from helping people in a given field, that at the end of the day when you’re tired and worn out and feeling a bit down in the dumps, which happens to us all on occasion, really keeps you going and gets you through those hurdles of exams, difficult times, night shifts and conflicts and gets you through to the light at the end of the tunnel.

This article was published in The Private Practice magazine, Autumn 2018 edition.
View the Autumn 2018 edition of The Private Practice magazine.
[Hanya’s article can be found on page 38]

Download the pdf version of this article

Thrust into Leadership – The Private Practice Magazine

Thrust into Leadership – The Private Practice Magazine

In this publication, Hanya Oversby outlines the steps to effective leadership in a medical practice.

Working with doctors who are becoming medical business owners, I find one of the greatest challenges they face is identifying where they fit within their own organisation. Going into private practice they find themselves suddenly thrust into a position of leadership as the director of the business. Yet at the same time they are working in the business, day-to-day, shoulder-to-shoulder with their clinical and administration team. Having an understanding of and applying effective leadership skills can be the key to a successful business.


As the business owner, the doctor takes on various roles from clinician to manager to leader. One of the important distinctions to identify is that there are different characteristics between leadership and management. Effective leadership brings together the skills to:

  • Create a vision of the future that is inspiring
  • Develop effective strategies in the delivery of the vision
  • Set organisational direction and goals
  • Establish the business principles
  • Build a team and develop the talent to achieve the company vision
  • Motivate and inspire people to become engaged in that vision
  • Promote innovation and invention
  • Empower and mentor the team
  • Instigate change and risk engagement
  • Have a high level, long term perspective

Effective management brings together the skills to:

  • Focus on tactics and organisation
  • Implement the business strategic plan
  • Administer and maintain systems
  • Plan and coordinate activities
  • Develop and formulate policies
  • Implement and ensure conformance of standards and procedures
  • The allocation and support of human resources
  • Direct, instruct and manage the team
  • Work on the detailed perspective
  • Maintain short term focus

As Stephen Covey says:

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

Within your organisation, your role is most valuable as the leader and the clinician. As a medical practitioner, you have a unique value proposition. The barrier to entry into your profession is very high. You are a unique services provider and not easily replaceable. You need to appreciate this uniqueness and have an understanding that even more than money, your time is your highest currency.

As time is your most valuable commodity due to your unique value proposition, a useful tool is to actually calculate your worth per hour in your business. Once you are cognisant of your actual value to your own business, you need to be careful to use your time effectively and delegate any tasks that fall below your actual value, such as management or book keeping. This way your time can be focused on roles that are worth your time such as the clinician and the leader.

Leadership roles for a medical business owner can often be frightening and challenging as this is not a skill that has been directly taught through your clinical training. The key to success is to be true to yourself and know your limitations. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Identify leadership skills you do possess, and surround yourself with a team that will support your gaps in leadership confidence.


There are many different leadership styles and no style is good or bad. Identifying your style is important to have a good understanding of who needs to join your team to support the way you most naturally lead. If you are leading, you will most likely have more than one style of leadership, but having an understanding of your general style will assist you in developing a team around you to support the way you lead, and work towards achieving your goals. The following are some common leadership styles:

  1. Charismatic – influences others through the power of personality. They inspire passion and act energetically
  2. Innovative – can see what is not working and brings new ways of thinking and actions to the situations
  3. Command and Control – follows rules and has an expectation that others will do the same
  4. Laissez-Faire – monitors performance and communicates regularly, but does not get directly involved in what is going on
  5. Pace Setter – is the epitome of what they expect from others, sets high performance standards for all, including themselves
  6. Servant – puts the needs of others above his or her own. Involves the team in the decision making and allows the team to accept credit for the results
  7. Situational – Empowering and coaching the team, whilst also providing direction and support
  8. Transformational – acts as a role model for the team, and expects everyone to give their utmost to the project

Leadership skills can be developed. There have been many books written on leadership and how to lead. I would encourage reading comprehensively. The list of resources on developing your leadership skills is extensive and the key is to constantly expose yourself to information on leadership development.


A common challenge in leadership is developing effective communication techniques to inspire, motivate and drive your team towards achieving your vision and goals of your business. It is important to understand that your team is made up of many different types of personalities and that each has a particular communication style. To work towards having your team communicate effectively with you and each other, you need to have an understanding of the various communication styles:

The Relater

  • Relaters are considerate and sympathetic. They are focused on interpersonal relationships.
  • Great team players, as they tend to be cooperative and easy to work with.
  • Willing to help others and great listeners.
  • They can dislike conflict and may try to appease people and smooth over issues.
  • Sometimes resistant to change as it affects others and their routine.

How to communicate with the Relater

  • Spend the time to establish rapport. Share some personal experiences or common interests.
  • Avoid aggressive or pushy behaviour.
  • When discussing issues, focus on the inter relationships among the staff and how this will benefit or affect them.

The Socialiser

  • Expressive and high spirited.
  • They value relationships, acceptance and personal prestige.
  • Animated and expressive.
  • May get side tracked on to other stories or opportunities.
  • Enthusiastic and great motivators.
  • Focused on the big picture – sometimes at the expense of details.
  • Intuition based decisions.
  • Not afraid of conflict and enjoy spirited discussions – sometimes enjoy being the “devil’s advocate”.
  • Love change and challenges.

How to communicate with the Socialiser

  • Engage ideas, be patient with digressions.
  • Focus on concepts and trends and what it might mean for the future.
  • Provide opportunities for innovation.

The Thinker

  • Technical and systematic – they value logic and thoroughness.
  • Will tend to focus on facts and technical data while communicating.
  • Methodical way of approaching problems and tasks.
  • As they are ordered in their approach, they tend to work well independently.
  • Detail oriented.
  • Uncomfortable with conflict and believe facts and figures should override emotion.
  • They need time to adjust to change.

How to communicate with the Thinker

  • Present your ideas in a logical fashion – be evidence based.
  • Try not to rush the Thinker during conversation.
  • When dealing with change, focus on the reasons for the change and the results that will be achieved from the change.
  • In group settings engage them directly – they tend to sit back – this can be a problem when the group has made a decision and they have not “bought in”.

The Director

  • Tend to be bold and direct – big picture focus and competitive.
  • Get right to the point and use few words – this may seem intimidating to others.
  • Concerned with goal setting and achievement – sometimes seen at the expense of others.
  • Can multitask and like to be involved in several things at once
  • Tend not to be detail oriented and will overlook the detail.
  • Unafraid of conflict and may seem stubborn in defending their ideas or beliefs.
  • Enjoy change and being at the front.

How to communicate with the Director

  • Be precise and succinct – present key points and have details as back up if requested.
  • Show how your ideas are in line with their goals.
  • Be aware that their direct nature may put others offside.
  • This is important when a director has made a decision and YOU have to implement it across the other personality types.


Leadership comes quite naturally to some people. For others it is a challenging prospect. It is important to understand that a good leader can lead from any seat. You do not necessarily have to be at the forefront of your organisation. Identify key leaders in your own team and work with them to fill your own gaps in leadership as you identify them. Create a trusted circle of influence around you to enhance your own role as a leader.

Working with your trusted team, some of the common leadership mistakes can be:

  1. Not providing feedback – this must be done often for both positive and constructive feedback
  2. Failing to define goals creates confusion and frustration
  3. Misunderstanding the motivation of your team
  4. Hurrying recruitment – not taking time to carefully consider the needs for the organisation
  5. Not delegating


Effective leadership requires you to act in a way that you would like your organisation to model itself on. In fact, this behaviour will probably be different to your social behaviour, but it is important to set the standards and tone for your organisation.

Effective leaders should:

Be the role model:

  • Do what you say you are going to do
  • Be prepared to be accountable
  • Be willing to take on some of the hard things you ask others to do

Create and guide a shared vision:

  • Construct a vision statement and have others included in the process
  • Use this vision as the reference for how and why things are done in your organisation

Identify your leadership team:

  • Work and collaborate with others to plan or solve problems
  • Set up key communication tools and reporting
  • Give attention to who and what is working well
  • Educate your team leaders

Continuous Improvement:

  • Always review how things are going
  • If something is not working well, don’t see it as a failure, but as an opportunity to review, change and improve
  • Look beyond your own industry for successful business models

Leadership will be an ever-evolving challenge for doctors as business owners. There is no one solution to effective leadership. You need to carefully evaluate yourself and identify your gaps. Continuously educate yourself and be open to changing the status quo.

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” / Warren Bennis

Hanya Oversby is principle at Health Business Network

View the Spring 2017 edition of The Private Practice magazine.
[Hanya’s article can be found on page 10]

Download the pdf version of this article


James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner The Leadership Challenge 1987
Stephen Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 1989
Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink 2005
Malcolm Gladwell The Tipping Point 2000
Malcolm Gladwell The Outliers 2008
Paulo Coelho The Alchemist 1988
Warren Bennis On Becoming A Leader 1989

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