Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen
Vein Healthcare Center
100 Foden Road, South Portland
Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen is one of only four phlebologists in Maine. It’s a growing specialty that treats diseases relating to the veins, which used to require surgery, with emerging technolgies such as laser therapy and radio wave ablation.
Asbjornsen, 40, opened her own practice less than a year ago. She was working at another vein center in the Portland area, but realized that she wanted to be able to spend more of her time doing research, quantifying data, and helping to train new practitioners in the field. Being her own boss, and having a “great team” supporting her, has made that dream a reality. She’s excited to report that her first peer review journal article will be published next month.
“It’s such a new field. It needs research to feed it and grow it,” she says. “We’re growing almost faster than we’re ready for, but it feels so good.”
Married with three daughters, ages 3, 4, and 5, Asbjornsen is an avid kayaker and all-around outdoorswoman. The family is in the process of moving from Brunswick back to Peaks Island, where they lived while she was in medical school at the University of New England.
“We moved to the mainland when I was pregnant with kid No. 2,” she says. “We are looking to get back to that community (and way of life) we loved.”
Q: What were your most important needs in getting started?
A: I think my most important need was building a team of business advisers. Although I had a strong grasp of the medical side of the practice, the business side remained a bit of a mystery. While I have a general understanding of the business, there’s no reason for me to have expertise in everything, not when there are people on my team who do that. Assembling a strong team, including bookkeepers and legal and financial experts, was critical in getting my practice off the ground, and they remain very important in running the practice, so I can focus on caring for patients.
Q: What was there about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
A: Obviously, my parents. My parents have always encouraged me to do what makes me happy and have provided unending support on any venture I’ve taken on. Even in my early days when I was a field biology researcher and traveling deep into the rain forest, they were always supportive and kept that party line of “whatever makes me happy.”
The Girl Scout program was also a huge part of my upbringing. My mom was very active in Girl Scouting and encouraged me to participate. I was fortunate enough to be of the generation when modern Girl Scouting really came of age a shift occurred in the Girl Scouts and it encouraged young women to be contributing citizens of the world. Girl Scouting introduced many gentle mentors in my life who showed me how to find a niche and how to contribute; I think that’s really stayed with me through all of my endeavors.
I recall when I was a senior, just before I earned the highest award in Girl Scouts, I earned a badge called “From Dreams to Reality.” That badge really laid the framework for so much of what I’ve done, in terms of having a dream, laying the groundwork, and then acting on my plan to make it happen. That’s exactly what I feel I’ve done with this practice. It was truly a dream of mine to provide great service, to do quality research, to contribute to the field of phlebology, and to provide education to other physicians. It’s becoming reality as I speak.
Q: What do you think the advantages are of being a female entrepreneur?
A: As a woman, I haven’t really felt an advantage or a disadvantage. I think the true advantage is being an entrepreneur, no matter your gender. Having the courage and strength to have an idea and see it through to completion – that’s where the advantage lies.
Q: What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
A: Again, my advice is universal for all entrepreneurs. When you have a dream project, you will hit many walls and the key is just don’t quit. There will be many times when you’ll feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do the work that’s needed, or the hurdle is just to big to overcome. Just keep plugging away and little by little you will get there. It’s just a long, hard process. So my advice is don’t quit, keep your eye on the goal, and go for it.
Q: If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
A: I would have done it sooner, because I’m so thrilled with my practice and the way things are going. But the truth is, I got so much valuable experience leading up to opening the practice the timing has been perfect.