Medical physicians have been overworked more than ever this past year, and Dr. Margaret Towolawi took matters into her own hands when the burnout became too real.

Dr. Towolawi is a board certified family physician who has been practicing for over a decade in the Seattle area. She cares for children and adults through a variety of services including women’s health, gender affirming care and chronic disease management. Dr. Towolawi previously worked for a large medical group but she left to launch Nurture Wellness Center, her own direct primary care practice which officially opened for business last month.

“After close to eight years, I found myself burned out with over 2,000 patients assigned to my patient panel,” Dr. Towolawi told AfroTech in an interview. “Opening a direct primary care practice, with a focus on lifestyle medicine, has been my personal solution to addressing many of the problems within the traditional healthcare setting for physicians and patients alike.”

While it played a part, Dr. Towolawi didn’t open her own practice — the first Black-owned direct primary care practice in Washington — just because she was feeling overworked. She did it to provide better care for patients and to address gaps in the healthcare system.

“Doctors are overworked with not enough time to care for their patients or themselves frankly. You simply cannot pour from an empty cup,” she said. “I specifically opened up Nurture Wellness Center for anyone who has felt let down by the traditional healthcare system.”

Dr. Towolawi said she was very intentional about not calling the center a “clinic,” so she spent a lot of time coming up with a fitting name for her practice. Above all, she wants to help her patients develop plans to succeed in all areas of their health and create an atmosphere where people feel grounded and centered. All of that starts with a welcoming name, she said.

Dr. Towolawi provides conventional primary care services at the center. Standard appointment times are one hour instead of the traditional 15 minutes. Plus, patients are offered a monthly wellness newsletter, discounted relaxation massages, wellness webinars, and a walking program. Dr. Towolawi said she hopes to eventually launch virtual exercise classes as well.

“Things have been going well,” Dr. Towolawi said. “The biggest hurdle is teaching potential patients about what direct primary care is as it is a new model of medicine where patients pay a low, monthly membership fee for direct access to the provider and unlimited visits without copays.”

Aside from Nurture Wellness Center, Dr. Towolawi launched another practice in July 2020 called SkinStatMD, which focuses on treating acne, eczema, fungal infections, hyperpigmentation, and hair loss in Black and Brown patients.

While she didn’t disclose employee count, Dr. Towolawi said the center’s team is growing. She also said she’s most looking forward to gaining more patients in the next year, though she’s not looking to take on more than 200 at a time.

“The plan is to get to a full panel so that we can have our core members and shift to provide more programming,” she said. “Ultimately with a full panel, we can spend less time on marketing and even more time on patient care which is always the main goal.”