BY :: HEIDI STUKKIE
PHOTOGRAPHER TIM MOTLEY
A second-generation primary care physician recently took a bold risk and started his own internal medicine and pediatrics practice in Grand Rapids. The office has only been open for six weeks, but so far, that risk seems to be paying off in a big way.
Dr. Michael J. App opened his new practice, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics of West Michigan, on December 3 and he’s been “shocked” by the positive response from the community. On the first day that his northeast side office was open, almost 200 people stopped by to say hello. He has also received more than 700 cards and letters and nearly 50 plants since then.
“The love and support from the patients is unbelievable,” says App.
Nearly 80 percent of the patients he has seen so far are former patients and the rest heard about the practice through word of mouth. He has yet to advertise. App says he knows these people can go anywhere so he’s grateful they have chosen to come to his new practice.
App is not the only Dr. App in town. His father, Dr. Peter App, has served patients at his own family practice office, the Creston Medical Center, for 47 years. App says his father “provided a great example” of how a doctor should treat patients. He always seemed to like what he did, too, and it was this enthusiasm that inspired App to go to medical school.
After graduating from Wayne State University in 1996, App went to the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak for his residencies in internal medicine and pediatrics and is now board certified in both.
He is what’s known as a “Med-Peds Physician” for this reason, meaning that he’s qualified to care for patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. Only 300 medical students nationwide complete residencies in both internal medicine and pediatrics each year.
“Because you have to pursue and pass boards in two specialties, that makes it a challenge,” says App.
His motivation for becoming a Med-Ped primary care physician is that he “loves children” and he wanted to be able to care for his patients throughout their entire lives. A few of the families who now see him include three different generations –– the grandparents, parents, and the children.
After completing his residencies, App worked in his father’s practice for a while. He later went to MMPC, which was acquired by the Spectrum Health Medical Group. And while he liked Spectrum, his partners, and the practice they had, after 12 years, he wanted to start his own practice “to provide a small, family oriented, personalized care environment.”
App has retained some ties to the Spectrum Health System by becoming a member of the Spectrum Health Physicians Alliance. Independent physicians pay dues to be a member of this subsidiary organization and get benefits such as having access to their electronic medical record system and more.
Before he left the Spectrum Health Medical Group in August 2012 to pursue his private practice, App says his wife Colleen encouraged him in his decision.
“She is my absolute greatest cheerleader,” he says.
Colleen is a breast cancer surgeon with the Spectrum Health Medical Group and the two met in an anatomy class in college. App says his wife’s cadaver was right next to his and during their first year of school, they spent a lot of time dissecting. They studied together for a year before they went on a date.
“I was a committed, serious student and it took that long for me to come to my senses,” says App.
Now, after 15 years of marriage, the couple has three children –– Michael (7), Maria (5), and Peter (4).
One of App’s goals for the new practice is to make sure he and his staff knows every patient by name. He plans to offer high quality care, in a more personalized environment, and with a limited number of patients. Just like his father, he wants to put the people first and treat each person in a friendly, caring, compassionate way.
While App had the big picture vision for his new practice, he needed some help getting it started so he hired a startup practice company this fall to assist with all of the details. They gave him a comprehensive task list and he admits it was a bit scary at first, as he didn’t know what half of the items on the list meant. And when App posted job openings, a whopping 250 people applied in five days for the six open positions he has now filled.
Internal Medicine and Pediatrics of West Michigan’s current location at 1787 Grand Ridge Court N.E. is a temporary location while a permanent office is being remodeled. The new location will be at 1959 East Paris Avenue S.E. and App expects to move in around March 1.
With his new practice starting out “better than expected” so far, App says, “The thing I am so appreciative of is that the relationships I had with patients, in many respects, have been validated.”
He feels fortunate that so many of his former patients sought him out and want to become his patients again at the new office, and that they are telling their friends about him as well. App knows he still has a lot to learn about having his own practice, but six weeks in, he’s already really enjoying the experience.
“So far, so good,” he says.
For more information about Internal Medicine and Pediatrics of West Michigan, visit Michaelappmd.com or the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-App-MD/548652135148493)
Heidi Stukkie is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and marketing consultant. She recently finished her B.A. in Professional Writing and Journalism at Grand Valley State University and advises everyone to finish college when young because doing it in your forties is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Whenever Heidi has extra cash and can find a sitter for her two spoiled dogs, she visits Santa Fe, New Mexico to recharge. She hopes to write a best-selling novel someday so she can afford to live there permanently. Heidi also has a global news obsession and you can find her on Twitter at @HeidiSocial.