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Colonoscopy Clinic’s vision for the future

Associate Professors Dan Worthley and David Hewett of Colonoscopy Clinic want a future where no Australian dies of bowel cancer.

  9 minutes


Logically, the middle of the pandemic should have been a perfect time to find a new commercial property, but Associate Professors Dan Worthley and David Hewett of Brisbane’s Colonoscopy Clinic weren’t finding it easy. “With people working at home during COVID, I thought that it might have been quite a good time to buy commercial real estate,” says A/Prof Worthley. “However, at the time we were looking, we found it to be a very competitive market, with a very small supply. The lease on our existing rooms was coming to an end though and we had outgrown them, so our hand was forced.”

When A/Prof Worthley and A/Prof Hewett took over the Colonoscopy Clinic in July 2019, it had already been serving Brisbane, as Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, for over 35 years. Together, they rapidly grew the practice to eight doctors working across nine sites in metropolitan Brisbane. “Because we were looking at consultation, following up patients and managing patients across such a large footprint, we wanted to have a more central location so that we could be more convenient for people across that broad geography,”
A/Prof Worthley adds.

After about a year of looking, he says, “we were about four months out from deciding to just rent again. Really, we were in two minds about it. Luckily, the perfect building presented itself just in time.” Of course, then the hard work really started.

Community focus

A/Profs Worthley and Hewett met at the University of Queensland in 2007, sharing a supervisor when carrying out their PhDs. When they were completed, A/Prof Worthley went to New York for five years, while A/Prof Hewett went for further training to Indianapolis. They both decided to return to Australia, A/Prof Worthley to Adelaide, where he was born, and A/Prof Hewett to his native Brisbane.

“We both got to a point where we realised that bowel cancer prevention is something that is not delivered in a tertiary hospital or a laboratory. It’s delivered in the community,” says A/Prof Worthley. “Bowel cancer is prevented in suburbs and general practices and pharmacies and homes. So, this is something you need to go out in the community to deliver.”

They were ruminating on how they could work together when the opportunity came up to buy into “one of Australia’s oldest and best gastroenterology practices that had been so innovative for over 35 years and had a huge footprint already. This type of practice is one that comes up rarely.”

The energy and focus of the new owners saw it grow rapidly, so the search began for a new space. “It was very challenging,” says
A/Prof Worthley. “We identified patient parking and a central location to be the key parts. We also wanted to put the footprint of our business on the whole building, so we could create a great environment for our team and our patients.”

The first site they identified that met all those criteria was in Spring Hill, right next to Roma Street Parkland and close to the CBD with plenty of parking. The location was perfect, but the building needed a moderate amount of work to get the interior ready to be a clinic.

“Not only were there challenges in acquiring a place, but there have been pretty sizeable challenges in building and construction in Brisbane so we’ve had some delays.”

The construction finally finished this month—a long wait, but worth it according to A/Prof Worthley. “It’s been enormously fun working with David, our team and all of our partners. It’s been a bit of a journey to get there, but all of those experiences build who you are as a person and a practice, as well as build your own perspectives and how you might be able to help,” he says.

One of those partners has been Justin Cureton and the team at BOQ Specialist. “We’d previously had excellent dealings with BOQ Specialist and Justin has been an incredible partner in helping us with several aspects of our business. We are not in this simply for a building and we are not in this for one deal. Our practice, in its various forms, has been around for 35 years and we are looking at building partnerships that are going to be around for another 35.

“BOQ Specialist has been really helpful to us since we took over so that partnership, and the strength of the personal connection with Justin, was a very strong consideration. It’s a matrix of the financial realities as well as just the accommodating nature of BOQ Specialist in terms of getting this and getting us over the line on a range of different projects.”

Looking ahead

Those partnerships will become more important as the future of Colonoscopy Clinic plays out. “One thing that David and I are wedded to is bringing our academic perspectives into a busy private practice that has scale. When you have scale, you can all of a sudden run important trials in bowel cancer prevention from devices to colonoscopy, to cutting-edge science.

“Once we have everything as we want it—we have our new building, we have our processes—we’ll be looking at the research component of that mission, which other large medical practices have also done. Our academic work has inspired the clinical work but also the reverse, our patients continue to inspire our research.”

“It’s also all about our team, our doctors, nurses, patient services and management,” adds A/Prof Dan Worthley. Colonoscopy Clinic recently recruited Andrew Saunders as their new Managing Director. Andrew brings a wealth of experience from his time at GenesisCare. He shares and will help execute the team’s vision.

What Colonoscopy Clinic is striving for, quite simply, is “a future where no Australian dies of bowel cancer”, A/Prof Worthley says. “Colonoscopy is such a superb means of identifying and preventing or diagnosing early bowel cancer, and early bowel cancer is utterly curable. The fact that it is not reliably delivered in a convenient, affordable and excellent way is an incredible shame. We are a Brisbane-based practice and have been now for 35 years, but this is not a Brisbane-based problem.

“Queensland is both blessed and cursed with magnificent, large regional centres that are beautiful but poorly serviced so we see that as an area and a focus where we can really help. Then we will look more broadly to other sites that are poorly serviced for bowel cancer prevention, colonoscopy and all digestive healthcare. Yes it’s a long arc, but we have a real focus on contribution and preventing bowel cancer. We’ll be led wherever the needs are greatest.”

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Ready to take the next step? Contact us to find out how we can tailor a practice finance solution for you, or call us on 1300 131 141.

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