Doctor builds career in urban redevelopment

A North Carolina internist took his interest in architecture and design beyond just a hobby.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Sept. 3, 2007

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Making sidelines pay

Business Pitch

Doctors who branched out beyond running their practice tell why they did it, how they did it, and what you should know before you do it.
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Name: Andrew Rothschild, MD

Specialty: Internal medicine

Location: Durham, N.C.

Business: Scientific Properties, a real estate development firm that got its start by developing lab space for biotechnology companies. Its portfolio now includes new development, urban redevelopment and historic rehabilitation and preservation. Much of Scientific Properties' work has involved the expansive rehabilitation of downtown Durham. Dr. Rothschild turned one historic building into the Triangle Biotechnology Center, and has renovated (or is renovating) other properties for office, retail and entertainment use.

Annual revenue: "We don't disclose annual revenue, but we have a significant pipeline of hundreds of millions of dollars of development under way, and the business continues to grow quite significantly."

Why he started the business: "I had a lot of interests outside of medicine, particularly design and architecture were in the realm of hobbies and interests. I grew disenchanted with clinical practice and started looking for other avenues of professional engagement."

When Dr. Rothschild started looking for other professions to pursue, he says the most obvious choice was to turn his hobbies or passions into a career. "And that is, in fact, what I did by founding a company that does urban redevelopment. Taking interests of mine and turning them into a successful business has been a source of joy."

Why he stopped practicing: Dr. Rothschild said he realized by the end of his residency that practicing medicine was not what he thought it would be and he started exploring ways to leave it. He practiced one year, postresidency, in New York. He was "dismayed by what the clinical practice of medicine had become and looked like it would be for quite some time" because of the forces pressuring physicians to look at patients as groups, rather than as individuals.

"We [in medicine] focus on group outcomes and group economics. Measurable outcomes are geared toward groups. Whether it's patient satisfaction or quality of care, we tend to look at aggregates rather than patient experience. How many patients did you see in the hour rather than how good of an experience did that one patient you saw in the last half-hour have. In some ways it needs to be viewed more as a business in that the customer or client should be the primary focus, and unfortunately that is not the case. It's a true disappointment what American health care has become."

Words of wisdom: "In my experience there are a lot of people in medicine who, because of their heartfelt devotion to all the things doctors, in a very good way, are dedicated to, stick it out even though the day-to-day practice of medicine is not in line with what their principles are," Dr. Rothschild said. "They feel stuck."

"One shouldn't be afraid to explore [other] options. You can get other degrees, I got an MBA [from the University of North Carolina, only a few miles from Durham]. You don't have to give anything up. In terms of satisfaction and even remuneration, you can end up very quickly in an even better place. If you are not happy in the practice of medicine -- and we need to find people who are -- but for those who are not, most people are not doing their patients or themselves a lot of good by sticking it out if they are not happy."

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