Classic style for all aspects of McKinney practice

This is a reprint of a front page article appearing in the McKinney Courier Gazette.

Operating out of his historic McKinney home puts restrictions on how Dr. Daniel Chartrand, MD, can advertise his practice. With city regulations limiting sign usage in residential neighborhoods, he came up with a creative solution: Put an ambulance there instead.

Parked at Harmony Family Health is a classic ambulance that serves to both draw attention and give an impression of how the office is run.

Before ending up in Dr. Chartrand’s driveway, the ambulance was owned by Errol Burdick of Burdick Auto Solutions. He inherited the car when he bought his business as the previous owner had abandoned it on the lot, and Burdick got it running again.

Dr. Chartrand said at the time the ambulance was orange and rust colored with a hole in the floorboard big enough to give the driver room to push the car with their feet Flintstones style. Burdick was thinking of using the vehicle in junk yard derbies because of its size, but Dr. Chartrand convinced the mechanic to sell it to him.

From there he fixed the car up, doing the interior work himself.

“That’s my sign,” Dr. Chartrand said.

The doctor drives the ambulance at least once a week, usually Sunday, to maintain it. While he said for the most part it runs there are exceptions, like when it was ready and prepped for the Fourth of July parade in McKinney before giving up at the starting line.

“We had it all decorated,” Dr. Chartrand said. “We were in the procession to get into the parade, and just as it was our turn to go it died and I couldn’t get it running again.”

On one of its more reliable days, the ambulance won Allen’s 2009 Christmas parade with a Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer theme. A sign on top read that grandma got run over and went to Dr. Chartrand in Downtown McKinney.

Before opening his practice, the doctor worked is the ER for five years.

“I just kind of got tired of staying up all night,” he said. “I got tired of gunshot wounds.”

Also prior to opening his office/home in McKinney, Dr. Chartrand worked out of a single room at the Allen Birthing Center. One day a patient of his from France, under the impression that he worked and lived in the same place as do some European doctors, asked Dr. Chartrand if one of the midwifes working there was his wife.

That got him thinking, and when his practice grew to the point where he needed more space, he decided to move into a multi-story home at 404 North Church St. and use two rooms on the bottom floor for his office.

“There are very few houses in Collin County that I could do it in,” he said. “This is one of them.”

This atypical approach to business extends to Dr. Chartrand’s use of holistic medicine to work with his patients. He explained his approach, for example, in dealing with a patient with high cholesterol who hasn’t had a heart attack, is in his 50s and has risk factors for heart disease. Besides prescribing a drug such as Lipitor–which Dr. Chartrand, as an MD, could do–treatment could consist of a vegetarian diet, cutting back on red meat consumption or taking supplements.

“A lot of people are scared to take drugs,” Dr. Chartrand said. “They don’t want to take a drug all their life, and they want to have some control over their health. One way to have control is to be in charge. So if you can fix your cholesterol through lifestyle changes it empowers you. What does holistic mean: Trying to treat people more naturally, but still being responsible for their health.”

He added that if a doctor can get people interested in their own health, they tend to take better care of themselves and may prevent further problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that have unhealthy habits as contributing factors.

“But if you can’t do that, I’ll put you on the drug,” Dr. Chartrand said.

This approach has led to Harmony Family Health’s popularity. There’s a waiting list to see Dr. Chartrand, though that applies mostly to new patients, who he sees only in the morning to keep his schedule open for return patients in the afternoon. That way, he can see people the same day they call in.

Dr. Chartrand said that working out of his home has its perks, such as a 10-second commute, but that drawbacks are right alongside. For one, he’s always at the office and when he’s done for the day he doesn’t hang up a closed sign outside.

Emergency situations can lead to an uncomfortable mix.

“People show up bleeding,” Dr. Chartrand said. “They just knock on the door.”

And while this lessening of boundaries can be problematic, he adds that it’s also part of what’s neat about being a community doctor. It also leads to a more comfortable setting for patients, as his office looks and sounds far more homey then a typical doctor’s office. Dr. Chartrand said that leads to a lessening of what the profession calls white-coat hypertension: elevated blood pressure caused by being in a medical environment.

Fitting that a city renowned for its small-town feel should have an aspiring small-town doctor.

By Andrew Snyder, asnyder@acnpapers.com – Originally published on McKinney Courier Gazette.

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