By Catie Staszak Media for Hollis Med
Like many equestrians, Michele Hollis wanted to find a way to combine her passion for horses with her career.
She didn’t expect the path would take her through the emergency room.
Hollis, a board certified Emergency Medicine physician, has been treating equestrians with concierge medicine since 2013, and she is now the sole practitioner for her own Hollis Med. Each winter, she migrates to Wellington, FL for the show season, where she serves a wide range of patients. Much of what she does relates to urgent care, and her ER background allows her to also treat less frequent needs, including wound care and laceration management. When she’s not in Wellington, she offers subscriptions for telemedicine consultation as an additional year-round service.
“My training allows me to do a little bit more than someone might feel comfortable [with] in an urgent care,” Hollis said. “It also allows me to know when something is significant and needs a higher level of care and when it doesn’t.”
Where she excels most is understanding the mind of equestrians, a niche community that most often prioritizes the health of their horses over their own medical needs. “[Equestrians] take great care of their horses, but they don’t always take great care of themselves,” Hollis said. “The thing for me that works is to draw analogies between what you would do for your horse [in a particular situation]. You have to take care of yourself to be able to take care of your horse.”
Hollis understands, because she’s a rider herself, though she got a later start in the sport than most. In fact, it wasn’t until she attended college at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, that she first gained access to horse shows. She rode on the school’s IHSA equestrian team while studying psychology, receiving her greatest lessons in horsemanship from trainer Holly Hugo-Vidal.
“I really wanted to be a horse show gypsy like everybody else, but I was a little late to the game. [Hugo-Vidal] said, ‘You need to find a way to support yourself,'” Hollis recalled. “We talked about things that I could do that I would be suited for, and she thought it would be a good idea for me to go to medical school.”
Hollis heeded her advice and got her medical degree from the University of Tennessee at Memphis. Her education became her priority, but at the conclusion of her residency, Hollis returned to the saddle, showing in the adult jumper divisions. Today, she frequents the horse show, mostly meeting with and treating patients. She prides herself in her relationships, individualized treatment plans and the open lines of communication she’s able to give her clients.
“How many doctors have you had in your life that answer the phone? [At Hollis Med], there’s no secretary. There’s no medical assistant. There’s no nurse practitioner. It’s just me,” Hollis said. “I want to make sure that when someone calls me, I’m taking the time to sit down and listen. I want to get to the heart of the problem and be as thorough as I can, which is not always possible in urgent care, due to the sheer volume of patients.”
In addition to her always-handy stethoscope and otoscope, Hollis can do point of care testing for a variety of illnesses, including strep throat, COVID-19, RSV and the flu. Hollis also has at her disposal a BrainScope®, the only FDA cleared non-invasive medical device that objectively assesses head injured patients for bothbrain bleeds and concussions at point of care.
As a rider, Hollis has always had a vested interest in concussion research, but that was magnified after her daughter Rachel suffered a significant head and neck injury in 2015. Rachel is now fully recovered, but the experience had a lasting impact. When Hollis learned about BrainScope®, she didn’t hesitate to add it to her toolkit.
“With the BrainScope®, you can rule out the likelihood of a structural brain injury—bleeding on the brain or skull fracture—and you can also determine whether, as a result of a head injury, there is evidence of a concussion,” Hollis said. “Once you determine whether there is or isn’t [a concussion], you can use the concussion score you are given to follow someone to recovery.
“It’s a quick way to get a quick look and decide whether you need a CT scan or not, so we’re also able to avoid unnecessary radiation and emergency room visits,” she added.
As Hollis Med continues to grow—almost solely by word of mouth—Hollis can look back and know she achieved her collegiate goal. Her place in the industry firmly in place, she loves keeping and returning riders to the tack. She’s happy to be there, too.
“I love feeling like I have a role in the industry,” she said. “I see myself as the riders’ advocate. I might not be Lee McKeever grooming Contagious or HH Azur, but I’m Dr. Hollis taking care of riders—of every age and level.”
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