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Life as a New Dentist

Dentistry at a Crossroads

The 28th New Dentist Conference has kicked off with a full day of leadership programming.

ADA Chief Economist, Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., discussed the future dental care system and the key changes on the horizon due to the Affordable Care Act, increased consumerism, shifts in demand for dental care and other factors.

The presentation was informed by an environmental scan the ADA completed that identified these changes. You can read the full document here (PDF) or an executive summary here (PDF).

Tried it — Didn’t Like It

Dr LarryToday is a guest post from one of a pair of married dentists, Dr. Larry Dougherty and Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty.

Tried it — Didn’t Like It

by Dr. Larry Dougherty:

Owning a dental practice is rewarding. Understatement alert: it can also be stressful. This isn’t unique to dentistry; it’s just part of owning a small business. If only there was a perfect cookbook on how to handle every situation, it would be so easy.

There’s no cookbook — we learn as much as we can, we measure and analyze, and we try to course-correct after mistakes. What worked in year one might not continue to work in years two and three.

Here are a few things we used to do – maybe they will work for you, but they didn’t work for us:

  • Stay open late The evening slots were booked weeks in      advance, but the no-show rate was terrible compared to our normal hours.      And our after-hours patients were more interested in emergency/patch up      treatment, not in becoming regular patients to our practice. We also didn’t      enjoy being in the office so late and our productivity declined.
  • Maintain Multiple Vendors When our practice was small, it didn’t seem      like a bad idea to comparison shop between numerous suppliers of the same      products. As we grew, we didn’t have time for all of that. Worse, managing      inventory became confusing. 
  • Micro-manage the Office At first we didn’t have an office manager or a bookkeeper. I tried to do it all myself and realized I was in way over my head. Sure, I’m smart enough to get up to speed, but is that the best use of my time and skills? It made sense in the beginning to do it myself, but the busier we became, the more it made sense to hire professionals and maintain oversight.

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Dr. Larry Dougherty and Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty are the owners of Rolling Oaks Dental in San Antonio, TX.

Practice Ownership — Buy or Build?

Dr LarryJust over 88% of dentists are practice owners, either as solo practitioners or partners. For almost every dentist, ownership becomes a consideration at some point in his or her career.

Does it make more sense to buy an existing practice or start from scratch? ADA New Dentist Now has been asking new dentists what choice they made and why.

Today is a guest post from one of a pair of married dentists, Dr. Larry Dougherty and Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty.

We Built by Dr. Larry Dougherty:

My wife and I chose to do a startup rather than buy an existing practice. Here’s why:

Our Vision: I wanted to start a practice that was built on the vision we had for a dental practice, not shape someone else’s vision into what we wanted.

MBA on the Fly: Supplies, insurance, managing staff – I knew next to nothing about the business side of dentistry even after working several years as an associate. We knew we wanted to develop business systems, not inherit the systems of another dentist, and the slow rhythm of a startup’s early days were an ideal time to understand everything at a deep level.

Pick Your Unknowns: We got advice about what numbers to look for when assessing practices, but I didn’t know what any of that all really meant. Plus, I’d heard enough horror stories of dentists not getting what they expected from practice purchases. Psychologically, you need to decide for yourself: which set of complete unknowns am I more comfortable with?

I’d Do it all Again. Our colleagues that purchased practices probably made more money than we did during those first years of ownership. On the other hand we learned lessons that will serve us well in the long run. There’s a lot of pride that comes with building something from scratch, and that experience can’t be purchased.

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Dr. Larry Dougherty and Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty are the owners of Rolling Oaks Dental in San Antonio, TX.

Life as a New Dentist — Practice Owners

Dentists posing with dog

Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty, Dr. Larry Dougherty and Emma

The ADA is made up of individuals — here’s one two of them.

ADA New Dentist Now: Who are you?

Ana: I’m Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty, a proud member of Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine class of 2008. I’m the co-owner of a dental practice in San Antonio, Texas with my husband, Dr. Larry Dougherty.

Larry: That’s me, Dr. Larry Dougherty, also Nova 2008. In addition to our practice, which we started from scratch about 2 ½ years ago, I teach dental anatomy one morning every week at the dental school here in San Antonio.

ADA NDN: Is this part one of your master plan or is this “happily ever after?”

Larry: Eventually I’d like to own the building rather than leasing space for the practice. I’d like for us to be known for having one excellent practice, rather than having multiple locations.

Ana: I don’t know that I’ll ever be in a “happily ever after” phase professionally. I have too much to accomplish.

ADA NDN: If you could have any job OTHER THAN dentistry, what would it be?

Ana: I’d be an actress living in Paris. This almost happened!

Larry: I would either be composing music for children’s television shows or working one of those jobs like in MONEYBALL where I analyze statistics to help professional sporting team make personnel decisions.

ADA NDN: Biggest surprise since leaving dental school?

Ana: I thought life would get a lot easier after dental school, but mostly it has just been a new set of challenges. I’m completing my teacher certification in yoga and I hope to teach some of what I’ve learned to my fellow dentists.

ADA NDN: Any advice for someone wanting to follow your career path?

Larry: Get involved with organized dentistry. After school there isn’t that built in group of peers and advisors, and that’s what I get out of being a member.

Interested in sharing your experience as a new dentist? If you are fewer than ten years out of dental school we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at newdentist@ada.org

One simple trick to improve your experience at networking events

LeadershipWe are well underway with plans for the ADA 28th New Dentist Conference taking place in Kansas City, Missouri July 17-19, 2014 at Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center (registration is open now!)

One of the great benefits of the conference is the ability to network with new dentists from across the country, as well as with key ADA leaders. But we know that not everyone is immediately comfortable in a networking environment.

We came across this great list at The Daily Muse of 21 Ways to Make Networking Less Scary and More Fun. Here’s one tip that stood out for us:

Approach Pairs, Not Singles

“If you see a pair of people talking, the chances are that they arrived together and know they should be mingling. Or else they’ve just met and are, in the back of their minds, worried that they’re going to end up talking to this one person all night. (You’ve just made it easier for one of them to exit.) Either way, they’re relieved to see you. And your chances of having a decent conversation are better, because now you’re talking to two people, not just one.”

What about you — do you have any strategies that work well in a networking event? Leave your answers in the comments.

Working on the Weekend?

Pocket watches in a bunchWhen it comes to work/life balance, one common piece of advice is to avoid working on the weekends whenever possible. But productivity writer and blogger Laura Vanderkam, writing on the Fast Company blog, suggests that work on the weekends might just be the key to a successful work/life balance.

Working on weekends is the flipside of having flexibility during the week, notes Vanderkam. Taking the time during the week to have dinner with your family or attend a child’s event might create a deficit in your number of working hours, and it makes sense to fill that gap over the weekend.

Of course not everyone uses Saturday and Sunday as days off — we’ve chatted with numerous dentists who see patients on one or both of those days. What about you — do you ever take time on your days off to catch up on paperwork or address other work obligations? Leave your answers in the comments.

What is the Accountability System for your Goals?

Pocket watches in a bunchBig dreams are great, but if you don’t create space in your life for making progress toward them, then they’re fantasies, not goals.

That’s a quote from productivity expert Laura Vanderkam who goes on to write:

Build an accountability system–a friend, a group, an app–that will make failure uncomfortable. If you’ve got a run scheduled for Tuesday morning, and on Tuesday morning it’s 25 degrees out and your warm bed seems pretty enticing, what is going to motivate you to get your shoes on and go?

Here’s the thing — if you are a new dentist, chances are you’ve already aced this skill. We continue to be amazed at the level of not just ambition but bona fide accomplishment that new dentists bring to their lives.

So what’s your secret? What kind of system do you have in place so that when the going gets tough you persevere? Give us your answer in the comments.

Life as a New Dentist — Transitioning to Ownership

Dr. Tyler Scott

Dr. Tyler Scott

The ADA is made up of individuals—here’s one of them.

Who are you? I’m Dr. Tyler Scott. I’m a proud member of the Class of 2009 of the Ohio State University College of Dentistry. Currently I’m working as an employee in my father’s dental practice, and we are working with advisors to transfer ownership from him to me.

If you could have any job OTHER THAN dentistry, what would it be? That’s a tough one—this has been my dream ever since I was a kid, so I didn’t ever focus on a plan B that wasn’t dentistry. Although the thought of being a PGA teaching professional or a pro photographer has some appeal.

Biggest surprise so far about this career path? Practice management is such an underlying key to success. I’m working to learn the science of running a dental practice.

What’s your schedule like? I’m working in the office four days a week. For fun I like spending time with my family. I also officiate high school wrestling.

Any advice for someone considering your career path? My biggest influence has been my father. I would encourage everyone to find a mentor to help guide you and increase your chances for success at making your dream become reality.

Interested in sharing your experience as a new dentist? If you are fewer than ten years out of dental school we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at newdentist@ada.org.

Life as a New Dentist — Active Duty – Army

Dr. Keri Jamison

Dr. Keri Jamison

The ADA is made up of individuals—here’s one of them.

Who are you? I’m Dr. Keri Jamison. I’m a proud member of the Class of 2013 of the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, and I am practicing general dentistry at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia before I start my prosthodontics residency in July 2014.

If you could have any job OTHER THAN dentistry, what would it be? My family says I’m the C.E.O. type and my friends think I’m a frustrated interior designer, so maybe I could be the C.E.O. of an interior design firm.

How did you choose this career path? The military paid for my four years of dental school, in addition to providing a stipend, and in return I owe four years on active duty. My prosthodontics residency will be an additional three years so it’s a total active duty commitment of seven years.

Biggest surprise so far about this career path? I should mention that our clinic has 46 chairs with 13 doctors. We mainly see young soldiers right out of basic training and it was a big surprise to find out how many of them had never seen a dentist or had any dental education. We spend a lot of time educating them about oral health.

What’s your schedule like? We see patients Monday-Friday from 7:30 to 4:30. Tuesdays are entirely devoted to new-soldier exams and each doctor will see around 30 patients on a Tuesday. Friday mornings we have physical training starting at 5:45 a.m., and there are classes and CE courses during the month.

What are you doing for fun? I play tennis a few times each week, and since I miss my horses in Kentucky so much I am learning to play polo!

Any advice for someone considering your career path? Be passionate about whatever you choose to do. That way your enthusiasm and drive will be noticeable, whether you are writing a letter-of-intent, or interviewing with a program director.

Future Plans? I believe in always pushing myself and never staying stagnant. I have a lot to accomplish!

Interested in sharing your experience as a new dentist? If you are fewer than ten years out of dental school we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at newdentist@ada.org.

Life as a New Dentist — Veterans Administration

Dr. Rebecca Berry

Dr. Rebecca Berry

The ADA is made up of individuals — here’s one of them.

Who are you? I’m Dr. Rebecca Berry. I’m a proud member of the Class of 2011 of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and I work for the Veterans Administration health care system in a community-based outpatient clinic in Bangor, Maine.

If you could have any job OTHER THAN dentistry, what would it be? Well it would definitely involve living in London. I spent a month there during undergrad, and I fell in love with the city. Moving there was my fallback plan if I didn’t get into dental school. Who knows what adventures would happen if I moved abroad?

Why did you choose working for the VA? I completed an AEGD at the main dental clinic in Augusta, Maine and I had a lot of encouragement to apply for this position. Some of that time there was a second dentist, but often it’s just been me. I meet up with my dentist colleagues once a week to discuss cases, and I always have someone I can call if I have a question. Being in the clinic on my own really helped me to grow as a dentist.

Biggest surprise so far about this position? I’m the first dentist in my family, so I didn’t have a lot of pre-conceived ideas. Definitely the best surprise has been all the gifts of food from my patients. Homemade pumpkin chocolate chip whoopee pies, 50 pounds of potatoes, moose meat — I really do have the best patients.

What’s your schedule like? I have a four-day week, and each day lasts ten hours. I really like this kind of schedule! I start and end my day with something straightforward, like a denture step or an exam. Then the rest of the day is a mix of surgery, operative, prosthetics and endo. We get a lot of emergency patients as well. It’s never dull!

What are you doing for fun? I enjoy cooking and I’m happy to make an effort to put together a good meal. Fitness is important but I get bored easily. I just did the Tough Mudder obstacle course and I also go to aquafit where I am easily the youngest person by 25 years. And it turns out that I miss academia, so I’ve been taking free, online courses just for fun.

Any advice for someone considering this career path? Do a residency with the VA to see if you like it. It’s very different from private practice. For me it’s a good fit.

What are your plans for the future? I’m very happy at VA. I love working with the veterans; they are very appreciative of the care we provide. I have a great team and my direct supervisor is very supportive so I feel lucky in that regard. My plan is to stay for at least 20 years. If I decide to explore other interests then I’ll still have plenty of time to go down a new path before I hit my 50th birthday!

Interested in sharing your experience as a new dentist? If you are fewer than ten years out of dental school we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at newdentist@ada.org.