We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Stace Nelson-Hicks, DACM, L.Ac. and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Stace, what is the most important factor behind your success?
There is no one success factor, but there are a few factors that make my practice unique: Underneath it all, I’m a medical geek. I went from a career in the entertainment business; first as a publicist and then as a segment producer. The glamour was exciting, and I still have great cocktail party chatter, but in the end, helping clients get onto the cover of a magazine or a slot on a talk show felt shallow and was definitely not intellectually stimulating or fulfilling. My last job in television was my last job in the industry. Surrounded by other producers I now know could be diagnosed with DSM-5 codes, I was handling all of the medical segments. The more I spoke with the doctors I was readying to put on air, the more I realized that I wanted to be the one answering the questions, not the one asking them. After several harrowing incidents that would now be lawsuit fodder, I quit. I knew if I stayed, I’d feel like a sell-out. In order to save my integrity, I threw myself headlong into studying medicine and ultimately, my own healing. I knew I needed a career that would not only serve others, but serve my soul. For over twenty years, my private practice has allowed me to combine a medical license with production research skills and a publicist’s ability to distill complex information into easily- assimilated packages. I’m as much about educating and empowering my patients to take control of their own well-being as I am about treating them. Unlike many peoples’ experience with traditional western medicine, where office visits are typically 10-20 minutes with the practitioner, my patients are booked for one to two hours. This allows me to listen deeply to chief complaints and take a thorough, lifelong history. I’m able to dig for clues as to what has brought on their current state of (ill) health and have the time to create a Lifestyle Medicine prescription; a comprehensive health care plan including nutrition, supplements, personalized herbal preparations, exercise and acupuncture protocols. I believe that your time is as important as mine, and I run an efficient office (thanks, live TV production!). When I have been a patient who is kept waiting thirty minutes or more past my appointment time, I will not rebook with that provider. My patients deserve and appreciate this same respect. My education is also as diverse as my career: I hold a Bachelor’s of Science in Athletic Training, am certified in Functional Medicine and earned my Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. I’m currently working on my Certified Clinical Nutrition program of study. My secret to success is also true for many people: being a medical healer isn’t a job, it’s a calling that fulfills my need to continue learning and feeds my spirit by deeply caring for others.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Starting a solo practice is not an easy feat. Basically, you hang a shingle and wait for people to find you. Twenty years ago there weren’t many employment opportunities for Licensed Acupuncturists. Most new graduates/business owners stay close to home or near their contacts because they already have built in marketing. Of course, I didn’t do that. After finishing a four year degree in Traditional Asian Medical school in three years, I needed another challenge and moved with my brand new husband to a small beach town north of Los Angeles. In L.A. everyone has an acupuncturist and all you need to do is convince them to become your patient. In my new town, no one really knew what acupuncture was and why they would even need to see one. Good thing that tenacity is my motto! With a sizeable student loan and a child on the way, there was no room for failure. So, I brushed up on my PR skills and hit the ground running: I spoke and lectured to every group you can imagine, Breast Cancer survivors, stroke patients, The Lion’s Club, health fairs, mom’s groups and volunteered at every sporting event I could. I created press events so I could be in the local media, wrote opinion pieces for the daily and weekly newspapers (this was before online marketing and social media really took off) and even taught herbal remedy classes at the local community college. Admittedly, it was a slow climb (with baby in tow!) but in a small town, good work stands out and word-of-mouth helped the practice grow. I now have another Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine working as an employee, and I’m about to hire another! Next up: bringing Elixir Lifestyle Medicine to as many people as possible via the book and product line I’m preparing to launch.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A dream week with my friends would start with a ride up the bike path to Ojai’s Beacon Coffee for a SunOven gluten free, vegan cinnamon roll and a Chemex poured coffee. Next stop: the Ojai Athletic club for a swim to work off aforementioned cinnamon roll. A surfside run along Ventura’s boardwalk to Beach House Tacos on the Pier would tide us over for a downtown antiquing stroll. Ventura is Patagonia’s corporate headquarters, so we’d stop into their shop to pick up some outdoor gear for the rest of the week. The Channel Island National Park is 26 miles off our coast and the boat ride out there is incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day. The hiking and kayaking are pristine. Just bring plenty of water, lunch and sunscreen; this is a pack it in and pack it out trip. Back into Ojai for a hike along one of the gorgeous trails-Sulphur Mountain, Gridley or maybe out to the dam for a splash in the river. And then, an authentic farm to table Italian dinner under the canopy at Nocciola. To complete the week, lunch poolside at the Ojai Valley Inn after a 90 minute massage. Then a “pink moment” sunset with dinner overlooking the Topa Topa mountains. Something I’m super excited about is Eric Goode, formerly of Area nightclub fame (where I spent a big part of my youth) and now known as the executive producer of Tiger King, has bought and is currently renovating the recently closed spa/hotel, The Oaks at Ojai. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he will create in this space.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Daniel Hicks, my husband who always has my back and made my early years in practice possible; Dr. Allison Howard, DOM, my study partner-sister-in-arms and sounding board; Dr. Jed Smith and Kimberly Smith of the Ventura Wellness Group for being the best office mates for over a decade and Julie Dubrow of Dubroworks.com for heading up my marketing team!