Founder, Interlachen Pediatrics
MAITLAND - When Brenda Holson started her practice in 1985, she and her business partner had two patients: “Her kid and my kid,” Holson said. “We were in a strip mall in Casselberry next to a bar that had lingerie nights on Thursdays. The dads loved to bring the kids in on that night!” joked Holson.
“We moved, bought our own building in Maitland, merged with another group and changed the name,” she said. In the 30 years since, Interlachen Pediatrics has flourished as an independent practice with nine physicians, three nurse practitioners, supporting staff and an additional office in Oviedo. “But I’m the only one who has been here 30 years,” said the easy-going 63-year-old.
For Holson, that is no small accomplishment when she considers how the climate of the medical business has changed so dramatically. “Medicine has gone from house calls to what I call the bogeymen of medicine – the health companies and then the insurance companies trying to take us over. Now we’ve got the HMOs and the retail clinics that have been a real threat to private practice. And now the hospital acquisitions. It’s really been a change in the business of medicine,” said Holson. “But if you’re in an independent practice you can sort of change with the time, and that has been one of the funnest parts, figuring out how to change and have a better widget. That’s what it’s really all about. It’s really going to take a lot of ingenuity to figure out where we fit in.”
Holson is in an opportune position to begin a dialogue with her colleagues about these circumstances. As president of the Orange County Medical Society, she hopes to increase membership by being more inclusive of all physicians. “The problem physicians have now is the hospitals’ acquisitions of the doctors. I would bet that a majority of the physicians in the county are owned by the hospitals or the insurance companies. There are very few independent doctors left,” she said. “Sometimes there is some conflict between the hospitals’ interests and the doctors’ interests, but because the doctors are hired by the hospital, they really don’t have much of a say. This is just what I’ve heard.”
Holson explained that she would like “to try to have the county medical society be inclusive of all doctors – ones employed by government, independents, and the medical schools” at the University of Central Florida and Florida State University. “I would like to have a situation where all doctors from all areas can get together,” she said. Increasing physician membership and voice “is not just an Orange County issue, or a Florida issue, it’s a national issue,” said Holson.
At the same time, Holson intends to advance the legislative agenda of the OCMS in the state capitol. “We are very closely aligned with the agenda of the Florida Medical Association, adding that she and others from OCMS were in Tallahassee recently.
It is no surprise that Holson knows her way around Florida. She grew up in Orlando the second of five children born to Jerry and Caroline Brown. “My dad was in citrus, as was my maternal grandfather, in Winter Garden and Eustis. Two of my brothers now run dad’s company, but it is no longer citrus, thanks to all of the freezes,” Holson said. She remembers going into the orange groves with her dad as he lit smudge pots to fight the frosts. The freeze of 1989 was particularly devastating, she said, “and now the Brazilian competition makes it really hard to survive in the citrus industry in Florida,” she said. Now, Florida Food Products in Eustis is more of a food processing operation than a citrus-growing operation, she said. Still, it is “one of the largest family-owned companies in Lake County,” she said.
After graduating from Edgewater High School in Orlando in 1970, Holson went to Nashville, where she earned a nursing degree at Vanderbilt University. “I didn’t really know I wanted to be a physician, but I really liked school and I preferred it to working, and dad was paying,” she laughed, so she decided to give medical school a whirl. “I just kind of fell into it, to be perfectly honest.”
She remained at Vanderbilt to obtain her MD and then moved north to The Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago to pursue her specialty. “I chose pediatrics because kids almost always get better and their illness is not self-induced… And you get to watch the child evolve over time,” she said.
Holson spent the next five years completing her internship, residency and a fellowship in pediatric allergy/clinical immunology – and giving birth to her son, Rush, in 1981. She separated from her husband in 1985 and that’s when she moved back to Orlando and received some life-shaping advice from her father. “You need to be your own boss. Why work for someone else and make them money,” she recalled. The seed he planted is what Holson cultivated into Interlachen Pediatrics.
Holson said she “definitely has plans for retirement.” Just last year she married Yates Rumbley, an attorney she met on a blind date that was set up by her live-in nanny – in 1989! “We dated for 18 years. He married for the first time at age 59,” but because it was “husband number two for me, I figured I’d better be cautious,” she said.
“I’ve done everything I can (professionally) and I think I have other interests I’d like to pursue,” she said. “One of those is volunteer medicine, possibly overseas. I think I’d like that.”
Holson is no stranger to globetrotting. As an accomplished Himalayan mountain climber she “has been up to base camp of the three highest mountains in the world: Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga,” she said, and made it to the top of Kilimanjaro in Africa. She has marveled at silverback gorillas in Uganda, hunted eagles in western Mongolia, dog-sledded in Finland, and in New Guinea she roasted pigs with tribesmen adorned in penis gourds. She is going to India again in November.
“Climbing is hard work, and it’s cold. But I love it,” said Holson, who also works hard at home to prepare for those adventures. “I go to the gym every day, and I go to boot camp (training) every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 a.m. I’ve done that for 10 years,” said Holson. “I’m an outdoors person and fitness is my hobby.”