Women in Business Q&A: Dr. Caroline Cederquist, M.D.; author of The MD Factor

Caroline read her first statistics about obesity at a very young age. Growing up, the majority of Caroline's family was overweight. Through her knowledge of weight management, she is proof that you can manage your genetic predispositions through healthy lifestyle changes and has encouraged her to help America incorporate health into their lifestyle. She wanted a career where she could help people understand this too, which motivated Caroline to become a board-certified bariatric physician with a specialization in nutrition, metabolism and weight management. It's through her extensive work with patients that Caroline developed the nutritional foundation for bistroMD, focusing on the right balance of macronutrients in the diet: the protein, the right carbohydrates, healthy fats and fiber. She further carries her message through publications in professional journals, and has appeared as a weight-management expert on several popular television shows, including Dr. Phil.

How have your life experiences made you the leader you are today?
Early in my medical career, I became focused on an important condition that is critical to health but was considered a lifestyle issue; losing and maintaining weight. I did not feel the medical model at the time really supported the complex issues involved with helping my patients make a lifelong transformation in their health and well-being. So, I had to create my own model. Along the way, I was determined to find real solutions for real patients. I created my comprehensive weight management clinic and creating bistroMD to deliver healthy meals that follow the weight loss dietary prescription I utilize became a natural offshoot. I certainly did not know about the food business either but assembled a great team to make that a reality.

How have your previous employment experiences aided your position at bistroMD?
I went through an accelerated program and finished my medical degree by age 23. Except for some summer work as a food server, my entire professional career has been as a physician. As a physician, the initial employment and training is a real apprenticeship which for me was an additional three years. The most important thing to take from that training is to know what you don't know. Practicing medicine is collaborative. The practice or referrals to other physicians and specialists make it a natural thought process to seek help and collaboration in other areas of business. I admit I am a terrible cook. I have no patience for it, it bores me. I am no foodie. However I do enjoy great food. My husband is a great foodie and he works with our team of chefs to create my medical nutritional recommendations into delicious food.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at bistroMD?
The highlights for me have been meeting the real clients who have used bistroMD as part of their successful plan and have shared their stories in our profiles of success. These clients are not my patients. I am a full time practicing physician in Florida but the vast majority of bistroMD clients are not my patients, they live throughout the US. For me, the work is always about the people we touch. The founding purpose of bistroMD was to share what I have learned that works so well with more people than my own patients so that we could expand this reach nationwide.

A real challenge has been around messaging the medical and nutrition science of bistroMD. BistroMD is not just portion controlled, minimal processed, natural, delicious convenient meals. It's also not just calorie controlled meals. The nutritional program that is utilized is one that I have used successfully in my practice since 1998.

The vast majority of my patients have a metabolic condition that makes gaining weight easy and losing weight challenging. The MD Factor Diet book which has just been released explains it all. This book will provide access to this information to people who are unable to come to my medical practice or receive delivery of bistroMD. The book took a lot of energy and momentum to start and to finish.

Why did you want to start your own business?
I did not picture myself starting my own business. I am pretty risk averse in fact. I think I pictured myself working for a group for my whole career. However, I went into medicine to make a real difference. I remember the day clearly that after writing four blood pressure medications, two cholesterol medications and two diabetes medications for one very overweight patient, I felt as resigned about her weight and future as she did. I knew I could create something different that would make more of a difference for her and others. This realization set my life on an entirely different path.

When you are successful in creating something different, the possibility for future creativity- like bistroMD opens up.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Thinking through what you really want is the most important piece. If you have a drive and passion for something you may get very busy doing it. However, it is important to consider if you are creating a job for yourself or if you are creating a business. Take the time to plan. Consider your funding. Everything takes longer and costs more than you think it will. Realize you will probably not make money right away. Think about and establish who your supporters are. Having a successful business is wonderful. I found stating my own business was harder for me than medical school or an internship, which, for me was in the years before mandated days off and 36 hour shifts were common.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I love a full life and I married the right person for me. My husband Ed was the primary caregiver of our two older children for sure. I wanted to do more and was able to do more when my practice was established when our third and fourth children were little. We split and share the other full time jobs we have of caring for four children and managing a household.

I also realized long ago that I had to take care of me if I was going to be able to take care of anyone else- patients, children, parents, or spouse. My 6 a.m. exercise with spinning or strength training occurs for me almost like meditation. It is my time for me. Also, I eat very well thanks to the Foodie I live with (Ed) and the chefs of bistroMD.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think striking the life/work balance is the biggest issue I see. It remains a challenge and work in progress for all the women I know who have career.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been mentored by outstanding physicians in the field of family medicine and it makes a difference. Seeing the respect and care these physicians gave to their patients and to physicians- in-training was inspirational. It is my fortune to employ skillful and dynamic professionals who are dedicated to the lives they touch and the pursuit of excellence. Many of my staff started in my employ just after completing their nutrition or medical training and it is a real responsibility and privilege to help them grow in their careers.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire small business owners and a large percentage of them are women. Women business owners are adding jobs and growth to the economy.

What do you want bistroMD to accomplish in the next year?
We want to help more people realize the truth of metabolic dysfunction and provide the tools to diagnose and treat it. I've developed the MD Factor quiz which I have provided to my patients for over a year at my medical practice. There is an online version that anyone can take for free at www.MDFactorbook.com. This quiz will allow you to see if you have a metabolic dysfunction that makes gaining weight easy and losing weight difficult. Spreading this knowledge that the weight gain "is not your fault," and providing the resources through the free action plan and recipes available online, the book or the home meal program is really where we are making a difference in people's lives.