Making it work in a small town
Richfield chiropractor nears 30 years serving area patients

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

June 21, 2017

Dr. Michelle Defere works with a patient Tuesday morning at Hubertus Chiropractor Clinic in Richfield. Defere has owned the clinic for nearly 30 years and knows the trials and tribulations of operating a long-time small business.
Joe VanDeLaarschot/Daily News

RICHFIELD — Dr. Michelle Defer believes her chiropractic practice has been in existence for nearly 30 years because of her honesty with patients and because she helps them overcome whatever problems bring them into her office at the Hubertus Chiropractor Clinic.

“We see patients as an individual with a unique set of needs, and we see chiropractic as a system of health care that is different from tradition medical care,” Defere said. “Without drugs or surgery, chiropractic health care helps retrain your body to take care of itself. If your body structure is unbalanced, you may feel pain, become ill or tire more easily.”

According to Defere’s website, a bad fall when she was young left her with an injured back, and two broken wrists and elbows. That pointed her toward a new future.

Learning the benefits of this surgery and drug-free health care first hand, she decided to pursue a career in the field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she spent four years studying at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. DeFere also took part in more detailed post-education classes in related topics, including nutrition, radiology, chiropractic technique and business.

“I always wanted to be a country doctor,” Defere said. “I didn’t want to be a city doctor and that’s what I am here.”

Defere has lived in the same house for 46 years and after she finished her education, she came back to her hometown.

“We moved here when I was going into fourth grade. I went to Richfield School and HUHS (Hartford Union High School),” Defere said. “I just loved it here and when the practice was available and it was so close to home, I knew I had to take it. The minute I walked in the door here it just felt right.”

 

Dr. Michelle Defere poses Tuesday morning outside of Hubertus Chiropractor Clinic in Richfield which she has owned for nearly 30 years.
Joe VanDeLaarschot/Daily News

The practice she acquired nearly 30 years ago was “very small.”

“When I started it I was pretty much starting from scratch,” she said. “I’ve had thousands and thousands of patients since then. Right now, I have about 1,000 active patients.”

Defere said she has two children, but her practice feels almost like her first baby and she treats it with as much respect and care as she does her children.

“My practice is very important to me. I truly feel it is not my right to treat patients, but it is my privilege,” she said. “And when somebody comes here for care, whether it be chiropractic or nutrition, it is my job to do my absolute best for them.”

Defere said her practice is a personality-based business and gives a lot of herself.

“Everybody knows that I care. I do everything based on whether it feels right to me, whether it’s honest and ethical and moral. I don’t overcharge. I don’t see people more or less than is necessary,” Defere said. “I’m always honest. If I honestly think I can take care of you I will. If if can’t I will tell you and send you to someone who I think can. I think it’s just honesty.”

Defere said there are several reasons her practice has flourished, but she believes she has continued to grow personally and she’s become a better doctor over the nearly three decades she’s operated her practice.

“Obviously experience has made me a much better doctor. I have continued to grow myself so I’m not just a chiropractor now,” Defere said. “I do nutrition. I’m working on a functional medical degree right now. So by continually trying to improve myself, my patient care has improved.”

Defere does not see her retirement anytime soon.

“My kids are 13 and 15 so I have a long time before I will start thinking about that. I don’t feel any particular need to retire. I love it here,” she said.

Longevity can also be seen in other ways at Hubertus Chiropractor Clinic. For example, Janis Braden, has been the massage therapist at the business for 19 years. Karen Holpfer of Menomonee Falls has been a patient for 30 years.

“I feel like I’m part of a family here. Any issues I have here and the doctor helps me,” Holpfer said. “I wouldn’t have come here for 30 years unless I was very pleased with Dr. Defere.”

Denise Steffen has worked for Defere for seven years as receptionist and office manager.

“It really does feel like a family here,” Steffen said. “The first day I walked in the door it felt like I was part of a family right away.”

The philosophy Defere uses in practice is one of open patient/doctor relationships.

“I think that patients should be comfortable with their doctor,” Defere said.

Her office is friendly and comfortable. Though it appears to be small from the outside, the center extends a long way back on the inside. It includes separate rooms for x-ray, examinations, adjustments and massage therapy.

Hubertus Chiropractor Clinic is located in the Richfield Square Shopping Center along Highway 175 and near the Piggly Wiggly store.