By Dr. Michone Ouellette
Invariably, at some point when talking to my patients, or anybody really, the conversation turns to where I lived before moving to Mesa five years ago. And, invariably, the question comes up of why I moved from Los Angeles to Mesa. The need for brevity usually has me shorten my answer to “I just loved the mountains and weather” but the reasons are more complex and numerous.
First, let me be clear I loved living in LA. I truly lived the Southern California dream, beach, sun and fun. During most of my time in LA I lived in Venice Beach and Santa Monica. I spent hours running at the beach, hiking in the canyons, or roller blading to the volleyball courts and then playing volleyball all day to exhaustion. My office, in Beverly Hills, was only about 25 minutes from my home, allowing me to avoid the backed-up freeways that are the bane of every LA resident.
For all it had to offer, LA was a challenging place for a newly-licensed chiropractor. I worked as an associate chiropractor for a wonderful doctor, Steven Diamond, who became my friend and mentor. I feel very, very fortunate to have worked with Dr. Diamond and learned so much from him. I also very much enjoyed being able to make a difference with my patients, and to have the opportunity to be doing something I’m passionate about. The challenges mostly came in trying to earn enough to cover my cost of living. As is common in LA, as an associate chiropractor I paid half of everything I earned to the lead chiropractor and I was still responsible for all my business expenses: marketing, malpractice insurance, equipment, continuing education, apartment rent, food, gas and on and on. I was basically living on about 10 to 20 percent of what I was bringing in, and although it was considerable it was barely enough to get by. To make ends meet, I worked for an Orthopedic Surgeon, and conducted spinal screenings just about any available moment, often at various farmers’ markets in the area. I was working at least six days a week, and often worked seven days. All that was quickly burning me out; I loved it, but it was tough.
One day, my father invited me to come visit him in his new home in Mesa. He had recently remarried and he and his wife were what we call here in Arizona, snowbirds, or the more politically correct term, winter visitors. His wife had property and family in Mesa and they loved it. While visiting him, I fell in love with the mountains and the beautiful desert views. My father gave me a great pitch about what wonderful opportunities were available in this “new” frontier. In reality, the Phoenix metropolitan area is the fifth largest city in the country and Mesa is one of its largest suburbs, with more than 450,000 residents. Although hardly a new frontier, I did see a lot of opportunity with its continuing growth and the beautiful vistas. I was hooked.
Moving to Arizona with all its rustic beauty made a lot of economic sense. After all, homes were actually affordable, as was leasing an office space for my practice. So I began the process of getting licensed in Arizona. It wasn’t too difficult and only took about three or four months. I said goodbye to me patients, dissolved my practice into Dr. Diamonds and I was off. The 950-square-foot condo my father and I had bought in Santa Monica had appreciated considerably during my time there, and with the proceeds from the sale I was able to buy two homes in Arizona. My new home is 2,700 square feet and sits right on the border of the Tonto National Forest. Every morning, I walk out my door and just about straight into the desert with my two dogs. Backed by my home, I was able to take out a small loan and start my own practice!
I was finally living my dream of practicing the way I always envisioned. No long weekends (although I still enjoy conducting screenings on the occasional weekend). I only spend about 15 hours a week in the office. My patients are often athletic, energetic and excited to participate in their own health. Within six months of opening my office, I was profitable and within one year I had paid off all of the credit card debt I had accrued in my 10 years of living in LA, including what I had accumulated in chiropractic college.
I love the people and beauty and serenity of Mesa, and the life I have here now. It is a great fit for me and although I miss parts of LA I wouldn’t change a thing.
Dr. Michone has been serving the needs of patients through chiropractic care since 1999, after graduating in the top 10 percent of her class at Los Angeles College of Chiropractic. Since 2004, she has owned and operated Alta Mesa Chiropractic where she has been a trusted Chiropractor in Mesa, Arizona and treats her patients through a variety of chiropractic methods, based upon the specific needs of the patient. Dr. Michone is also a BodyFlow instructor, which incorporates Yoga, Tai-Chi and Pilates all in one class.
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