Stand by Your Core Audience. I wish someone told me that my instincts about my core group and demographic were spot on! A lot of my friends questioned why I was heavily invested in African American women. They pondered, “Why not try to tap into the majority?” I had moments of doubt, but ultimately, I stood my ground and said no. What I realized was that my core group was the majority for my particular focus. Even though I knew this before I started, a lot of doctors do not think of who their core group or demographic is. The more specialized one is in what they do, the more in demand they will be. Don’t try to be pretty good at being everything to everyone — get perfect or next-to-perfect, focusing on a select market.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Yolanda Ragland. As Founder and CEO of Fix Your Feet, Inc., Dr. Yolanda Ragland transforms feet and lives because women should walk with confidence. Her mantra, “providing medically necessary surgery with a cosmetic result®,” is synonymous with her surgical practice and its outcome in keeping with her patients’ concerns. Dr. Ragland is pleased to share everything she has learned with readers that made her the #1 female foot doctor in the northeast.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
As an ambitious, African American woman, I had many career choices, but my first real illness led to my “aha” moment to choose my profession. I was suffering tremendous pain and didn’t know what was wrong with me, so I went to many doctors for a diagnosis. For years, each doctor told me something different, but that I should “tough it out” overall. It turned out I had a hernia! I realized that there is a perception of African American women being stronger than most, and it stood in the way of me receiving proper medical care.
I was inspired to go to medical school so that I could support African American women with the care that they deserve. As a self-made person, I worked my way through college and podiatry school on my own, starting the process at 30 years old. While I knew I wanted to support the demographic I was part of, I was not sure what would be my focus of studies. However, ladies in my dorm kept asking me if there was a cosmetic procedure to remove their corns, and they did so every day! Their feet had pain, a medical problem I could solve. They also wanted proper treatment without major scarring, maintaining their beauty. One woman never stopped asking me, so Fix Your Feet was born!
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
● If high heels are a must, bring a pair of safety shoes. The best way to preserve foot health is to wear comfortable shoes. Shoes should never hurt, so if they do, don’t wear them. Wear heels that are comfortable and walk with a pair of reasonable safety shoes, like sneakers or flip flops.
● Always groom your feet, including moisturizing your feet two times per day, morning and evening, medical-grade pedicures in salons or by your podiatrist. Grooming your feet will prevent ingrown nails, the build-up of hard skin like calluses and corns, and will ensure your feet feel great so you do too!
● Buy your correct shoe size! Often, we want the shoe despite it not fitting right because we love fashion. Whether too big or too small, either way is a recipe for foot disaster. I’ve seen ankle sprains, corn formations, exacerbation of bunion deformities, blisters, and even ulcers — put your feet first, literally!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I can remember the first time I took off bandages from a patient I operated on, and the patient started crying and sobbing. I didn’t know what was wrong and why she started crying and I started crying too. When I asked what was wrong, she sobbed that her husband had never seen her feet without shoes or socks ever! She couldn’t have been more than 30 years old. I was perplexed and wondered how long she had been married. I found out they dated for five years and were married for five years. Amazed, I asked how she kept her feet from her husband for all these years. She told me she wears socks to bed, they never showered together, and she wears water shoes at the pool. I knew I was doing life-changing work, but I didn’t realize to what extent. I knew then that I had to make sure to perform the surgeries these women deserve because I know it means so much to them. Some people need a therapist to make them feel better, but some others just need a podiatrist!
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Many business owners do not think to retain a line of credit when the business is thriving. If you wait until you need the line of credit, you are less likely to get it. Banks will only give you money when you’re making money. When you get a business line of credit, you don’t have to use it, but if you need it, you have the capital.
I initially was denied a business line of credit. I learned not to take “no” for an answer from my business coach. He told me to go back to the bank and get the money. I went back and insisted there was a way to get money. I said to the banker, “You can give a loan right now for $50,000 for a car. Why can’t you give me money for my business that has been running successfully for 10 years, but has suddenly slowed?”
The banks view a car as collateral. In my mind, this collateral is depreciating. Because I was using a small bank, I convinced the lender that my practice is not only collateral but appreciating collateral. The result was that I received twice that amount in credit than I originally requested!
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I focus on the under-served market of African American women. Due to foot ailments, these women have limited income opportunities, decreased job performance, lower personal confidence, and countless social issues more than any other demographic. In the African American culture, foot health and beauty is a real thing. Some women have extremely low self-confidence and believe they will not get married. My work helps women feel more confident, which can have a greater impact on their lives in many ways: psychologically, financially, and physically. I believe you are more comfortable when your feet are at your best.
As an African American doctor, I am aware of the importance of foot health among women of color. By focusing on women from my culture, which is my core patient group, I am now recognized as a multicultural influencer. I have learned a great deal when it comes to spreading awareness about this critical health issue. I am passionate about making a positive impact on a woman’s life with each foot I fix, and there are countless.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mom was the one person who believed I could pull this ultimate career off later in life — I started medical school at the age of 30. Her support and belief in me have been the ultimate influencer. She has always been there for me, but it was not easy for people to understand the importance of my career choice. My mother would tell people I was going to medical school, and some would say, “podiatry is not really medicine.” Now, these naysayers see that I have a national impact on my profession, and they realize how real the medicine is since I am also a surgeon.
As a black, 30-year-old unmarried woman, I had many obstacles to overcome to build my career at a later stage than most. Despite my circumstances, my mother instilled confidence in me. Simply, whenever I told her I wanted to achieve something, she always responded, “I know you can do that.” She never doubted or questioned me.
My mother was also a positive role model in my life. She worked for the federal government at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), regulating applicants and collecting license fees. But nothing made me more proud than when she retired, working with me for a few years doing administrative work and supporting my day-to-day operations!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
We always think about shoe drives and coat drives, but when you ask individuals suffering from homelessness or poverty what they need, they say they need socks! I would love to start a sock-collecting movement to give back to those who need them most. Socks are essential — they can prevent infection and frostbite, and can help with overall foot hygiene. There are so many different kinds of people in need, from homeless veterans, impoverished citizens, the mentally ill, to young, defenseless children everywhere. Some sock companies have implemented a system where you can buy a pair and give a pair, but there are still millions of people in need.
At food and clothing drives, we need to have a sock box or call to action for people to donate these items as well. I believe in starting with something simple that many people take for granted. Wearing socks is part of our everyday behavior. If we can get people to think of others when they do something as simple as put on clothing in the morning, we can make a real change! For any readers who want to join me, please DM me as this interview has inspired me to make this idea a reality.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I thought I could do it all on my own, but in reality, I needed support. I wish someone told me to hire staff because you can’t do it all yourself. Don’t try to be the doctor, biller, coder and the manager — that’s a recipe for overworking! Working too much can take a toll on your presence with patients, your energy for operations, and your mindset for spending time with family. I learned to bring in a team to support me and my practice. If you put in the hours and spend quality time with patients, it will eventually result in a thriving practice. I learned it’s better to pay people who can do things you may be able to do yourself, but that is not your expertise. It’s best to focus on your core skills instead of juggling multiple skillsets beyond your training. If you try to do everything yourself, this can lead to the loss of time, which means money, and it’s just not worth it.
2. Run Your Private Practice Like a Startup
3. Stand by Your Core Audience
I wish someone told me that my instincts about my core group and demographic were spot on! A lot of my friends questioned why I was heavily invested in African American women. They pondered, “Why not try to tap into the majority?” I had moments of doubt, but ultimately, I stood my ground and said no. What I realized was that my core group was the majority for my particular focus. Even though I knew this before I started, a lot of doctors do not think of who their core group or demographic is. The more specialized one is in what they do, the more in demand they will be. Don’t try to be pretty good at being everything to everyone — get perfect or next-to-perfect, focusing on a select market.
Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be? (Let another “woman in wellness” know that you respect her as a teacher and guide! )
Dr. Susan Levine is the first person who took podiatry to the limelight of glamour. She was a true businesswoman, carving the path for this niche area of the health industry. Dr. Levine authored books like My Feet Are Killing Me and coined the phrase “foot facial.” Shehad the Rolodex of New York socialite insiders, giving her recognition from patients and peers alike. It’s not easy to make feet sexy, but Dr. Levine used to come into the operating room in four-inch heels and perform surgery. She knew how to market herself with a product line and understood how to draw in the patients that wanted podiatric care without a geriatric mentality. If I could take her to brunch, I would ask her for the keys to the kingdom. Together, we could elevate podiatry even further on a global scale, offering infinite female-foot transformations!
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Veganism! Being a vegan is a healthier way to eat for your body and positively impacts you from head to toe. There is no reason for us to consume meat any longer. I would be a full-time vegan if it were easier, so I want more people to join the movement so that options keep expanding. Being a vegan has foot-health benefits too. Veganism helps to maintain a healthy weight, which is one of the basic fundamentals for good foot care and pain-free feet. Being lighter on your feet means feeling lighter in your heart as well.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.