Becoming a Creative Retail Doctorpreneur from Scratch

In this Disrupting Doctors Careers podcast episode, Abeyna and Catherine talk about experiences on being a doctorpreneur and balancing motherhood and medicine.

In the world of medicine, doctors are often recognized for their clinical skills and knowledge, but not necessarily for their creativity in retail. However, Dr. Catherine Fernando, a GP and mother of four, is breaking the mould by creating her own line of stylish and functional doctor’s bags, called Iyasu. In a conversation with Abeyna Bubbers-Jones, Catherine shared the story of her journey from a junior doctor with Hodgkin’s lymphoma to a successful entrepreneur, and the inspiration behind Iyasu.

Catherine’s introduction to Abeyna happened through a Facebook group for Medics where Catherine announced the launch of her new product, Iyasu. Abeyna was immediately intrigued by the fact that not many doctors venture into the world of retail, let alone create a product specifically for other doctors.

The Virginia Iyasu bag

From GP to Doctorpreneur

Catherine’s path to becoming an entrepreneur was not a straightforward one. Initially, she trained in rheumatology and general medicine, but had to drop the latter when she moved to a new town. As a rheumatologist, she began to feel like she had lost her love for the job, which led her to explore other options. After doing some interviews, she landed a one-year general practice training scheme, which she found to be a much better fit for her.

However, her journey took a detour when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the end of her first year as a junior doctor. Despite the chemotherapy and radiation therapy that followed, Catherine decided not to freeze her eggs and instead focus on curing the cancer. Today, she is 20 years cancer-free and is grateful for the opportunity to have children and build a successful career.

From Idea to Reality

When Catherine was looking for a new doctor’s bag for herself, she noticed that everything on the market was very masculine in design. She wanted a bag that reflected her personality and style as a woman and a doctor.

She also wanted the bag to be functional and ergonomic, which meant having enough pockets to hold all the necessary tools. This led her to create Iyasu, which means “to heal” in Japanese, and the symbol for which is an iris flower that represents faith, hope, and wisdom.

Catherine’s focus on design and functionality also extends to her commitment to using vegan-friendly materials in her products. She recognizes that many doctors care about fashion and that the bags they carry should not only be practical but also reflect their personal style. Moreover, the bags should be kind to the environment and animals.

Catherine’s journey from a junior doctor to an entrepreneur is a testament to her resilience and creativity. She saw a problem in the lack of stylish and functional doctor’s bags for women and decided to solve it herself. Her success with Iyasu is proof that doctors can be more than just clinicians and that they can make a positive impact in the world of retail as well.

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