Dr. Carlos Barba Exclusive Interview

Dr. Carlos Barba is a Board-Certified General Surgeon and weight loss specialist in Harlingen and Brownsville, Texas. After graduating from the University of Montreal and the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Barba completed a fellowship program in trauma and critical care. Following this, he relocated to Hartford, Connecticut, where he noticed a demand for bariatric surgeons. He quickly became a member of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons (ASMBS) and helped develop the first ASMBS Center of Excellence in Connecticut in 2005. To achieve this designation, the surgeon and hospital must deliver the highest quality of patient care and meet several criteria, including an on-site evaluation. In 2013, Barba moved to Texas, where he now permanently resides. Today, he has two practises in Rio Grande Valley and has performed more than 7000 weight loss procedures throughout his career.

1. How did you get started in this business?
“I was inspired by my father, who wished to pursue a career in healthcare. He would always go out of his way to help others without looking for any praise or recognition. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to do the same. As a healthcare professional, I have the satisfaction of serving people around-the-clock, and I can’t think of anything better than that. I chose to work in Cameron County specifically because it is a particularly underserved area with few bariatric specialists, so I felt I could make the biggest difference here.”

2. How do you make money?
“Running a private medical practice is just like any other business, except our product is healthcare. On a daily basis, I tend to many patients with help from my medical assistants. We then bill patients or their insurance companies for the services rendered. Like all business owners, I receive compensation once all of the business expenses are paid, including rent, salaries, and supplies. While it is important to make a decent living, I believe doctors should put excellent service above and beyond financial gain, which is why I continue to invest in modern technologies that will further benefit patient outcomes.”

3. How long did it take for you to become profitable?
“A doctor’s office will not become profitable overnight. Setting up a new business requires substantial financial risk and effective decision-making in the beginning stages. In my case, it took about two years to break-even, which is pretty average for most new practices.”

4. When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
“I think many doctors believe working for a hospital is the next logical step after completing their residency. After all, grad school teaches you how to be a good doctor, but it doesn’t teach you the skills you need to run a profitable business. As a result, I read many business books to better understand my responsibilities outside of patient care, like marketing, HR, and budgeting. While it hasn’t come without challenges, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made, as it allows me to customize care and maintain control over day-to-day operations.”

5. How did you get your first customer?
“Setting up my website and doing some initial marketing to raise awareness for my services was critical to landing my first client. I also already had several positive reviews online from my previous work experience, which I believe played an important role in getting the practice off the ground. Today, most of my new customers come from referrals. Actually, I just read that about 72% of patients consider online ratings and reviews when searching for a new doctor, which is why I always encourage my current patients to leave honest reviews after undergoing treatment with me.”

6. What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
“I recently started leveraging social media, including Facebook and Instagram marketing. I have noticed that a growing number of physicians are turning to social media platforms to interact with patients and share meaningful content with a wider audience. We post a lot of educational information that raises awareness for our services while also enhancing patient care. Lately, we have been sharing more COVID-19 information, before and after pictures of our patients, valuable infographics, and other informative images encouraging people to take better care of their health.”

7. What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
“In my line of work, I am used to making difficult decisions. If I am in the operating room and surgery is not going as planned, it’s up to me to make the right call and move forward as I see fit. However, in the past three months, the hardest decisions I’ve made relate to COVID-19. Unfortunately, I have had to postpone many surgeries that I didn’t consider urgent to reduce the risk of transmission and preserve key resources. At this time, patients must face longer wait times given the possibility of another surge in cases.”

8. What do you think it is that makes you successful?
“I have more than 20 years of experience working in the O.R., a highly complex and fast-paced environment. Fortunately, I have always been a natural leader, which is a chief characteristic all surgeons must-have. Being an effective leader is critical as any mistakes can result in adverse patient outcomes, injury, or even death. Consequently, I consider each surgery an opportunity to hone my leadership skills. As the frontrunner, my expert guidance will have a direct impact on the group’s success. In general, I strive to improve interactions with my team to inspire performance beyond expectations and improve patients’ results.”

9. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
“I have had so many outstanding moments that it’s hard to choose just one. However, the launch of my practice has been one of my greatest milestones because it has provided me with so much freedom to run things a certain way.”

10. What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
“At the moment, I am just excited to get back to normal and take on more patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the healthcare industry at large and has made it increasingly difficult for surgeons to do their jobs safely. I am looking forward to the smooth rollout of vaccinations so we can continue serving patients that need our help.”

11. What business books have inspired you?
“The White Coat Investor by Dr. James M. Dahle is a must-read for individuals in my field. This book will teach you about personal finance and investment so you can better protect your wealth and reduce the burden of student loans. I wish I had read this sooner rather than later, and I recommend it to any highly skilled professional.”

12. What advice would you give to your younger self?
“The advice I would give to my younger self is: you can plan ahead but don’t be too surprised if your plan changes along the way. Planning is helpful because it can help you understand your goals and work towards them. However, it’s important not to get too fixated on the plan because there’s a good chance your ambitions may evolve. For instance, I originally thought I would one day return to Panama, but instead, I have settled in Texas for some unforeseen reasons.”

13. Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
“Mentorships are extremely important in a variety of fields but particularly healthcare. For mentorship opportunities, you can contact me through my website or by booking an appointment with reception. I look forward to meeting you!”