How would you like to fund your medical business but not have to use your own money or take out high interest loans? Then you need to take advantage of GRANTS! Today we break down and discuss the grant process that is available for physicians to fund their business ventures.
Here to help, is the founder of Melanin & Medicine and physician consultant Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH who is an expert of the entire grant application process and shares tips for successfully obtaining grants to grow your medical business. . This episode is an informative resource for physicians looking to fund their business ventures through grants.
And, who doesn’t love free money?
Dr. Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo’s Resources
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: Hey guys, this is Dr. Mike Woo-Ming. Welcome to another edition of BootstrapMD. We’ve been recently talking about starting up your own practice and medical practices, and obviously one subject that you can’t ignore is money.
I talk about how you bootstrap your way to doing it, but there are other ways that you can fund your clinic, fund your fund, your business. And of course you can borrow money and we all know about loans and we’ve had talked about getting loans from the federal government, from friends and family, but there’s also another way that you can get revenue for your business, and that’s through grants.
And I’m excited that on the program right now is we have an expert and who also happens to be a physician, which I love that! She’s a community health equity advocate, a physician and the co-founder of Strong Children Wellness, which is an award-winning, multi-practice healthcare company that partners with community organizations to deliver integrated healthcare to under-resourced communities and secure it over 1 million. That’s “M” 1 million in grants and contracts in less than two years. She’s the founder of Melanin and Medicine, which is a coaching and consulting firm to help mission-driven healthcare practices and organizations serving communities of color scale to ultimately create greater health. Justice, and we’ve just been talking on the program and I know you’re gonna enjoy this.
She’s gonna give us lots of information. Wanda, welcome to the program, Dr. Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo! Omolara, how are
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: I am well. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m super excited to talk about Money!
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: Awesome. Awesome. Yeah, and I know doctors speak can be weirded out with money. I think when it comes time to building your business, building your practice, I would much rather have other people’s money or other businesses, or other communities, money to help fund my dream.
So let’s talk about it. First, I wanna a little bit know more about your background, how you got started. Believe you st you, you’re a pediatrician by, by, by trade, right? Then how did you get, go from a pediatrician? To talking about securing money and grants for all of your all of your businesses and dreams that you built.
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: Yeah, so I’m a pediatrician by training and I wanted to be a pediatrician since I was five, so that happened and ultimately I ended up, one of the things that’s really important in my work has been health equity. And so a lot of times when I was working in different spaces, the places I worked at, they were very… hospitals that were focused on, under-resourced communities, but also very underfunded . And I think one of the issues as well was, I would realize there’s a gap here. And the, the administrators would say we don’t have money to fill that. And so me being the resourceful person, I am both from my background working not only in America, but also working in Africa and in Asia.
As a global health pediatrician, I was always really interested in how could we actually create the thing that we want rather than succumb to this is not possible. And that led me to develop building up my research chops, which that, which meant that. Basically I was able to do operational research, which said I could get funding for programs by just evaluating whether or not they actually work for the people that I’m interested in helping.
And so in academia I got a really good track record of I wanna do this. Let me see what places potentially are wanting to fund this, and let’s start developing relationships with those funders. And so ultimately over time within probably seven years or so, I pretty much was just continuing to get grants with my team members and it totalled to almost 2 million dollars by the time that I left academia.
But the real important thing was that all of the programs that we started were able to scale. And now one of the, one of the big places, the largest health system in New York actually scaled one of our programs that started with, a small grant. And so that’s the exciting thing. But I was also burnt out.
I was an MPH professor, a public health professor, seeing patients in Queens, which is the most diverse county in this in this country. Also, of course, running a global health program and teaching residents, and then in addition, running two large research programs and actually burn out. And in 2019, in May, I actually lost the ability to walk and developed multiple sclerosis.
I found out it was multiple sclerosis, so I had to take a leave. And unfortunately when I finished that four month leave, I came back and I had to reposition my job to not be so stressful. And unfortunately the organization, the workplace that I was at, was not able to accommodate some of the supports and things I needed.
So now I was in a place where I was like, okay, you have to figure out can you stay in a workplace or do you need to create the place that you would want to work at? And that. When I started thinking about strong children wellness, which is the practice, and thinking about what would a practice that I wanted to work at look like?
Like what would be the things that I would put in it? And ultimately one of the community partners that I had worked with for a while, I shared the idea of this is what I think we can do. We can actually, how about we take physical healthcare and we actually bring it into your organization rather than the other way around.
And see how that happens. And we, they love the idea of course. And we said, okay, but we have no capital or money. And they said, we don’t either. so luckily I was used to that. And we actually decided to write it up and we got 125,000 from a funder to basically pilot the project and using that funding partnership model.
Allow me to see, oh, this is something that’s repeatable. And so ultimately we were able to find different nonprofits, different organizations that we could partner with, get access to grant funding, and do some, use some model called fiscal sponsorship to basically have them subcontract us to deliver services not only to their clients, but to the community at large.
And that’s how we’ve built it! I’ll talk a little bit about the steps on how we do that, but that’s the story. And then once I started doing that, other people were like, “how are you doing that again?” And I transitioned to a company called Melanin Medicine and Motherhood, which was really born out of the fact as a black woman and the weathering that I had about like, how do you manage work life integration?
And ultimately the way I did it was through entrepreneurship. And so then those who were coming along that I was coaching were yeah, but we need money. And so then they wanted to learn how I did that. And so that’s how Melanin and Medicine really morphed to really just supporting the funding part of developing your practice.
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: This is a subject where it’s really difficult, that I see… To find out really good information. I’ve had a little bit of experience with grants, my wife, who was a special needs teacher, and it was an aside, Hey, we need to get grants and you need to figure this out.
And she remembers, just. The teachers are all like sighing, like I don’t even know where to begin. And they go to, grants.gov and they start looking at all of these different grants and they can’t figure it out. And then by the end it’s just give it up. Let’s just try to get a loan somewhere.
I know that kind of rings true but I know that’s. That rings true with, a lot of people who are listening. So what are some like misnomers or mistakes that you see when people actually start this process? I never got taught any of this, I wasn’t in academia. Perhaps you’ve got better experience than I have. Where do how did you get through all of this?
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: I think the biggest mistake that I would say people do is… Not utilizing their network and not looking at who’s around them. So a lot of, I think the first thing that we had to do was to recognize the fact that yes, the majority of grants that are available don’t go to for-profits.
They go to non-for-profits. And we were, and we were like, oh okay, that excludes us. But then. We through this model, we actually, I think it came up through conversation where we talked with this nonprofit. They were like “how about we just bring you guys in?” And so we thought this was a really novel concept. Look, it actually, when you look at it, there’s a process called fiscal sponsorship that was built for that purpose. It was built to actually support small nonprofits or individuals who were waiting to get their nonprofit status and to fall under an established large nonprofits to still get access to grant funds.
However, when you look at it, most people use it for nonprofits, but you can actually use it for-profits too. And that was a game changer. There’s like a whole directory of fiscal sponsors, of actual organizations that’s all they do for-profit and non and small nonprofits. So once I think the myth of “Hey, we cant actually access these dollars” left. Then all bets were off. We started to identify, okay, who’s a nonprofit who I think is more established because both of you can’t be on the struggle bus, right? So one person, you can’t go to a nonprofit. Also I don’t know, I want grant funding too.
You need to, of course, find an established nonprofit that actually has, gravitas has a funding track record. And that really is aligned. This is the most important thing. We’re not just using nonprofits to, get money, but they actually have to be aligned. And what we do is we support are they aligned in terms of their target population?
Are they aligned in terms of the mission of what they’re doing, and is it complimentary? And once we’re doing that allows for these to be easy connections. I think the hard part for people is the time and is like trying to understand how do I, who do I find out? How do I find out who these people are?
And that’s, Actually what our company does, because we did realize it took a long time to figure that out. But they’re actually databases where you can find out foundations, you can find out grant opportunities outside of grants.gov that are more from private foundations. And I love private foundations just because it’s faster to get the money and there’s less red tape around it.
And the nice thing about it is that your nonprofit partner is actually going to write the proposal and do the work. You just have to do your work. And so it’s a really nice connection and the nonprofit’s extremely excited because now they have a new service that their board will be extremely excited about, and we’ll garner even more funding for them.
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: So one of the ways, at least I know my wife was frustrated, is like when we sees all of these different grants, and then you just” okay, this is what they want.” And then you’re I think we could do that. Even though it’s it almost feels like you’re now changing your business, right?
Because you’re trying to like, “wow they’re giving away a lot of money, but if we integrate, this. protocol to it.” Do you ever experience that? Is that something that comes up often where it feels like you’re almost like having to change your business to, to meet what they’re asking for?
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: Yeah, so this is really important cuz that’s the first part of our like six P process. But it’s positioning your practice. And what I try to say is the goal is not to change your business, but to find the niches inside of your business. And what I mean by that is to say, I’m a pediatrician, right? But what social problem, what group is having health inequities that is actually within my population.
For example, asthmatics, one of our clients was a pediatric pulmonologist, right? And they take care of all sorts of kids. But the asthmatics were a really, especially those that were very severe. And what she was finding was she could do a lot of the treatment, but what they needed was follow up in the home, but she can’t do that. And so we actually connected with her nonprofit that has community health workers and who couldn’t take care of kids that were that severe because they didn’t have the pulmonologist, like being able to support it. So it’s about find, finding out what’s the mission that sits inside of your practice.
If I’m an oncologist, we have people from all over. We have a dermatologist and she’s focusing on alopecia and health inequity. Like you can find what that group is, and then what is the unique model of care. So I talk about the mission. Then what is the model of care that. Helps you solve this problem differently from the competition.
So how are you doing it differently? Are you more responsive, like because of cultural diversity? Are you more robust? Are you more in depth and rigorous? And then the next part is not thinking so huge, but say, “okay, in the next 12 months, what could I achieve for this population?” So we call. A minimum viable practice, the M VP , but what is the minimum viable practice?
And being clear on the leanest version of the team, the tools and the tech that you need. And then our money plan. So it’s mission, model of care and minimum viable PR practice. And then your money plan, which just basically is how much do we need to actually do this, and how much can your nonprofit put in?
So a lot of times nonprofits actually help with space. So they, so we did that in the beginning where we had space, we had a space issue, we didn’t have space. And they were like how about you provide the services inside of our space? And that was a great thing that took off a lot, a lot of money for us.
And then we were able to do that. And the last thing is messaging, which is how do you make sure. that you are able in the writing process, sharing what the value is for the nonprofit that you’re partnering with, and then what is the value and the impact for the population that both of you are serving.
And that’s your value proposition and then the results. So when you have all five of those things, you’re able to position it. Now as not just the regular practice, but now a social enterprise that really can get some funding. And then the process is now looking for who wants to fund that. And trust me, there are over 130,000 foundations.
No matter how small you think your problem is, there is a foundation that is that’s exactly what we do. And and that’s the work of us trying to uncover where those people. Excuse me, where those people are and what their, and what they, what their funding priorities are.
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: At the time we’re recording this, we’re still uneasy in the economy. They say we’re in inflation. We are in an inflation. But, I’ve heard the, this, the statistic that, there’s a lot of these grants that, that. Never get filled. Is that true Or is it, is money still tight or is there money still plentiful and we just have to go out and find it?
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: Yeah. Money is still plentiful, actually, I will say, right? The people who donate to foundations during the pandemic got a lot richer and , we see that, and ultimately we see that endowed economies, actually the people who are the usual suspects to fund and provide philanthropic dollars actually end up having even more disposable income.
What I will say is that during 2021 and 2022, the amount of money that was dispersed was even higher than it had been for three years before that, and the amount that was focused on health was higher! And you can imagine that was due to covid and now racial inequities and other inequities.
So there’s this moment, I’m not sure how long it’s gonna last, but health is very much a hot place, and a hot button for us. So while that is an issue, what we found is that for us, that hasn’t been an issue as long as you, you’re developing relationships and not. Looking for what’s available right now.
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: Yeah, I have a little bit of experience on grants. My practice was, as many other practice were, was affected during the pandemic. And I just found. A grant for Asian Pacific owners and go” I’m Asian. I’ll figure out I’ll apply.” And I found it on YouTube and I got a $25,000 grant, which was really excited about, it didn’t take much work at all, but then when it came down to okay, how can I get more of this, I was stuck. I didn’t know, really know where to go. There are people who are listening to this who maybe have their own practice. Maybe they wanna have to start up their own practice and they’re looking for funding. Maybe you could walk us through a process of how to even get started with something like this.
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: Yeah. So the first thing I talked about was position, and that’s more of your inner work, right? Of what you have to do and think about, okay, what is my, what do I want my practice to do? What’s the potential social mission that my practice can solve? So not shifting your whole business, but identifying that piece in it.
The next thing that we have to do is package it. And that’s the problem that I think a lot of people don’t do, and that’s why they’re like, oh, I gotta… Now do all of this to apply, instead of it being oh, we can apply here now we can apply here and now we can apply here. And what it is creating reusable assets.
And so we help people to create a master grant proposal basically. And we have both a done for you service or if you want help doing it. But then that allows for now us to have everything in there, your statement of need, what the problem is, what the value proposition is, and literally we just, I just submitted something last week for 280,000 and it was not a, it was just like, oh, this is available. Okay. And that’s the problem cuz most times we find grants, it’s like the deadline is next week and people are like, oh, always happens. always. But if your packaged, then it’s not an issue.
And you need to have an executive summary. You need to have those kind of things. And a elevator pitch, which I’ll share why that’s important. That’s about pipeline development. So what you wanna do is also start having somebody, and we’ll talk about that, but it can be you or your EA or VA… start to go to the doing just research on foundations in your state.
So you can just look up California Foundation’s Health, right? Just Google that. You’ll start to see what foundations come up. And what you wanna do is you wanna look at which ones are your ideal funding organizations, and then you wanna look at who’s on their portfolio, who have they funded, because. When you look at that tells you the nonprofits who are doing well, cuz they’re getting funding from them and also the nonprofits that they’re likely to fund.
Again, because the, it’s less risky to fund a funded organization that you’ve funded before. And then you can go on certain grant sites. There’s Grant Watch, which is not grants.gov. It’s what is it? An open source and you can start looking for it. Those have, those are much cheaper. The databases that we use are more robust, but they also cost a lot per month.
And you can find those funding opportunities or your VA can do. We have people who have their VAs do it so that they have that list and they can run through it. So we talked about position, we talked about packaging and developing a pipeline of resources and then presenting the opportunity.
That’s where people, I don’t know why. As physicians we get, we like, I don’t know what it is. We minimize our impact. We’re like ” I don’t know if I should reach out.” And it’s like it’s, you have this amazing service. You are a physician. They will really enjoy the fact that you’ve reached out to them.
And we help people develop an elevator pitch so they can connect. Then we help them with giving them our guide to doing a discovery call with that organization to collect information and then they can use that master proposal and tweak it to basically curate what it is that you know now for this organization, how they could curate what they’re doing.
The last thing, the easy stuff, pretty much compared to that is partnering, which means you guys have to talk, okay, what are the terms of agreement? Are we gonna, are you gonna hire that person? Am I gonna hire, are you gonna do space? So we talk through that. You get your lawyers, create the templates and stuff, which we have templates of that and then get people. Once you get that, then you just want people, like interns, we use a lot of interns and they help us with our community outreach, community engagement interns. And they’re basically helping source schedule more meetings with funders or with or organizations. And that way you can just show up and share your model.
And that’s how we’ve been able to get these grants. And then also contracts because. A lot of times the organizations who are really robust are like, we don’t even wanna wait for the grant. We actually wanna subcontract you and we can look for the grant in the meantime. So we’ve gotten contracts by way of looking for grants.
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: That’s wonderful. How many grants, proposals do you think you’ve or your team have written in the last few years?
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: Gosh, that is… I should know that question. , I would say in the last few years, or since inception, we’ve probably done maybe 12. Yeah, it’s not bad. But the reason is that we don’t need a lot of quantity because we focus on a hundred thousand dollars or more.
Grants usually 50 sometimes, but they’re usually average is 150. Our largest one that we got was 250,000 and at one time. But then they just once you can reuse and repackage, then that’s how come it’s been so many that we were able, so much money that we’re able to accrue in such a short time.
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: Sounds like you have it down to a science. Yeah. This has been amazing. Oh. Where can they go to get more information and tell us about your your firm.
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: Yeah, so Melanin and Medicine is a healthcare funding consultancy and we’ve worked with both healthcare prof I should say for-profit healthcare practices that are mission-driven, I like to say, and nonprofits as well, and that are focused on, both focused on health equity.
And so our work primarily, we’ve initially started with women of color, but we’ve had men, we’ve had other people who are like, please help. And so we’re able to provide v i p services. We have both a Mastermind and done for you services that we provide and you can find out more about us. We don’t like show, we don’t send our investment guide or anything, but we have people apply and we can do intakes.
And then we also have classes and webinars. So you can go to https://bit.ly/melaninandmedicine you can also find us on Instagram or LinkedIn. And actually at the end of the month I posted this, that we have a workshop that I’m a high introvert Mike. I don’t like doing live anything, but we have, I’m doing a live workshop just for Women’s History Month.
You can actually apply if you text us and like I’m interested in a workshop we will send you the application and then we’re inviting people to that three hour workshop where we’re gonna go through the, these processes. But yeah, and I’m, and you can go to Bitly Forward slash Melanoma Medicine and you can see everything.
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: Awesome, awesome. This is obviously, we’re just kind, scratching the surface and your knowledge and what you have on there. But any last minute thoughts or advice that you have for someone who is thinking about getting to the process or maybe we’re in the middle of the process right now and of feeling stuck?
What advice can you give them?
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: I think. Don’t put it all on yourself. I think that was the best thing that we did, which was identifying like, who else can help you? And I think a lot of us have these ideas of an intern or a family member or somebody connected who says, Hey, can this person work at your practice or do something in your practice?
And that is such an opportunity. So I think a lot of times this gets overwhelming when we think that we’re doing it all by ourselves, but literally, , you can go through this process and you can have someone doing that research for you so that we can start and just think about one, like what is, what one grant would do for you, right?
How it would help you. And then we, then we can think about pipelines, but just focusing on one and looking around, looking at your network and. Who else would I love to work with that is serving the population that I really wanna make a dent in and those I think are really helpful.
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: Thank you Omolara again. Her site is Melanin and Medicine. We’ll have the link in the show notes where you can go find out more information. Like you said, money is everywhere, so who better to have it than you and your organization. If you have a dream and you wanna get that accomplished, money can allow you to do this.
Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, MPH: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Mike. I’m glad to be able to, And
Dr. Mike Woo-Ming: Thank you for listening. And as always guys, if you get stuck in your business, there’s always people out there knowledgeable who can help. There’s always a way out. Don’t always remember. You can always keep moving forward.