By Catherine Newman ’90
Best friends since they were freshman roommates, two alumni founded a chain of urgent-care centers that see children—and children only. [Pediatrics] If you’ve ever spent an interminable evening in an ER waiting room with your feverish kid while adults staggered in psychedelically from the local Grateful Dead festival, you’ll wish Jeffrey Schor ’86 and Steven Katz ’86 would open a branch of PM Pediatrics in your town. (I live in Amherst, guys, just FYI.)
Schor and Katz, best friends since they were freshman roommates in Valentine, co-founded the chain of urgent-care centers in 2005. These centers see kids—and kids only—after hours and on weekends, in a friendly environment with pediatric specialists, on-site labs and imaging, and (sigh) wait times in single-digit minutes.
PM Pediatrics is not an alternative to primary care, and the centers handle no life-threatening emergencies, but for the routine injuries and illnesses that seem always to happen when doctors are off-duty—those weekend ear infections and broken ankles, the nighttime fevers and asthma—they offer a service-oriented alternative to miserable, terrifying ER visits.
Katz (left) and Schor in one of their kids-only urgent-care centers. Photo courtesy PM Pediatrics
The two friends conceived the idea in 2003, when Schor was directing the pediatric emergency department at New York Hospital Queens. “Even though I thought we gave good care, the delivery of it was terrible,” he says. “People had been waiting too long; they were in a stressful environment.”
It’s not in the PM press materials, but it turns out that Schor, with four young kids of his own, was also mildly weary of being the de facto ER doc for his entire neighborhood: “‘Can’t you take this bead out of his nose?’ I did so much of this stuff at home!”
Katz describes the same phenomenon from a different angle: “I had an 8-year-old, a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old. When you have kids that age, they’re always getting hurt and sick. And if anything happened to them at night, I would call Jeff. I’d go to his house, or he’d come to mine. But it turns out his goal was not to go house-to-house with his little doctor’s bag!”
Katz, who was enjoying a successful business career at the Topps trading-card company, served as a sounding board for Schor’s entrepreneurial ideas about care delivery. Schor got an MBA, the partners hatched a plan, and in 2005 they opened their doors. “When we first started, Jeff was seeing the patients, and I was doing everything else,” is how Katz remembers it. “I even held kids down while Jeff stitched them up. We were there for something like 136 of the first 140 days.”
It’s different now. PM Pediatrics has six locations in New York, two in New Jersey, more on the way and plenty to be proud of: they’ve seen 450,000 patients; they’ve won business and workplace awards; and, most importantly, they have happy patients. “From a practitioner standpoint, it’s incredibly gratifying,” Schor told me.
I could practically hear Katz beaming over the phone: “I love the company, the people on our team. I love that we’ve created something that really fills a need. Our goal—and it might sound ambitious—is to revolutionize the way health care is delivered. And we think we’re doing that in our little corner of the medical world.”
They’ve come a long way since freshman orientation. “I remember seeing this guy with a big blond afro,” is how Schor describes meeting Katz. “It almost seems like it was kismet. We were roommates, best friends. We took Lisa Raskin’s developmental psychobiology class together.”
Now they live three miles apart. “We see or talk to each other every day,” Schor says. “It’s like being in business with my brother.” It’s a classic Amherst fairy tale. As Schor mused, “It’s been a nice ride, and it really all started there.”
Catherine Newman ’90 blogs at benandbirdy.blogspot.com.