As Dr. Jennifer Lickteig examines patients at the Linn Community Care Health Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she’s also earning money from a second career that has nothing to do with medicine.
Lickteig runs a clothing store on eBay, where she’s a “Gold PowerSeller,” ranking among the top 1 percent of merchants on the online marketplace. The 35-year-old family practitioner says she earned $120,000 last year on eBay, more than she did practicing medicine. “It’s just kind of this thrill,” she said. “It think it’s the thrill of having built up this business and just done it myself. I don’t have to get an MBA. I don’t have to have a storefront.” As health care reform threatens to shake up the business of medicine, recruiting firms promote alternatives for doctors at pharmaceutical, biotechnology, insurance and investment banking firms. But eBay Lickteig was juggling medicine with mothering her two boys when she became pregnant with twin girls. Once Natalie and Melanie arrived, Lickteig had to take time out from her practice. Between feeding and changing her genetically identical daughters, Lickteig was online, discovering that she had the genes of a businesswoman — a trait that had been hiding behind her medical degree. Pursuing alternatives beyond medicine is a growing trend among doctors, according to Robert Priddy, president of Third Evolution, which helps physicians find careers outside traditional medical practice. “I tell doctors they can pretty much do whatever they want,” Priddy said. “They’re enormously driven, intelligent and fast learners.” Lickteig orders merchandise from apparel wholesalers and uses much of her home as a warehouse. The floor of an entire bedroom is covered with inventory, and boxes are piled in her garage. While at home with the girls, Lickteig regularly checks her laptop to mind the store and answer questions from consumers. She packs and labels shipments at night once the kids are asleep.
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The twins are now 3, and her sons, Tim, 9, and Matt, 7, are in school, allowing Lickteig to practice medicine part time. But she won’t give up eBay, though she admits that a doctor selling clothing online seems unusual, even crazy. “It sort of is. But it’s a business, a successful business,” she said. Her husband, Larry, has a good job as an actuary, so it’s not as if she needs a second career. But even as a doctor, she feels, it’s a good idea to have a Plan B. “I think it’s really important. You look at the recession and people losing their job; if you have something to fall back on, it’s your insurance,” she said. Medicine still has its rewards for Lickteig. But like many doctors, she’s frustrated that insurance companies and malpractice lawyers have so much influence on the practice of medicine. “If you had looked into a crystal ball and someone told you that you were going to have four children someday, and given all the hassles of medicine, would you have done it Then I would have said, ‘Heck, no,’ ” she admitted. Even so, super-mom Jennifer Lickteig is trying to do it all: juggling two sons, twin girls and twin careers, the ultimate balancing act for a doctor who believes in having a little money-making fun on the side.