Career paths: Expecting the unexpected

As new dentists, we both thought we would wind up in private practices, delivering ethical care of very high quality to our patients. Eric planned to create a high production, multi-specialty practice. Ivy envisioned more of a laid-back solo practice. Although neither career panned out quite as planned, there are lessons to be learned from both. And thankfully, both of our journeys, winding though they were, led us to just where we needed to be.

Ivy

My career path since dental school did not go as planned.

Drs. Eric Studley and Ivy Peltz

Drs. Eric Studley and Ivy Peltz

I graduated from dental school tired of school and ready to earn a living. But how? I had no plan, no resources, no prospects. For the first year after dental school, I was a serial job seeker. I would find a job, realize I was being asked to deliver care in a manner that I considered unethical, and promptly leave the job. Not very good for a resume. Nonetheless, I found a fairly stable associate position and simultaneously started a practice of my own. After several years, though, I found that I wasn’t feeling the kind of gratification that I had been hoping to get from patient care when I entered the profession. I wanted to teach. Both of my parents were educators. All the talk around the dinner table in my house was about education. It’s what I had always wanted to do. So I started teaching one day a week, and before I knew it, I was a full-time clinical associate professor with a Masters degree in higher education administration and a Ph.D. in higher education. I still have a dental practice, but if you ask me what I do now, sometimes I answer dentist, and sometimes I answer teacher. If I had planned exclusively on either, I might have been more successful by any standard measures. But by my measures, I have the laid-back solo practice that I desired after graduation and I also have the intense gratification that I derive from teaching.

My lesson? It’s good to have a plan, but don’t let the plan determine the journey.

 

Eric

My career path since dental school did not go as planned.

I graduated from dental school raring to go. Eager to line my ducks in a row, I met with an insurance agent who was referred to me by the dentists who had employed me. I took the easy route, and did not do any research on the disability insurance that I was purchasing. I simply signed on the dotted line. This decision turned out to be a hasty one, as I found out once I was diagnosed with a career-ending disability. After the fact, I learned that I was not properly insured for either the practice that I eventually created or for my personal needs. My decision wound up costing me disability benefit payments and creating extreme hardship for my family and me. Happily, my unfortunate and unexpected circumstance was a great incentive for me to become a full-time clinical associate professor and to develop the skills needed to become a nationally based insurance advisor specializing in the insurance needs of dentists.

My lesson? When choosing and working with advisors, listen and learn, but don’t relinquish your decision-making responsibilities, since you are the one who will have to live with the consequences.

Although both of us had a plan, neither plan was fully actualized. When plans don’t pan out as expected, flexibility and resilience are required. In both of our cases, the original plan was quickly replaced with a revised one. At this point, we have trained ourselves to have a plan B for every plan A. Instead of becoming derailed when things don’t go as planned, we have learned to expect the unexpected.

 

Dr. Ivy Peltz and Dr. Eric Studley are New Dentist Now guest bloggers and are both GP directors and clinical associate professors at New York University College of Dentistry, their alma mater. They are the co-founders of Doccupations, an algorithmic dental job matching website. Dr. Peltz and Dr. Studley live in New York City and Port Washington, NY. When they have free time, they enjoy traveling, listening to live music, and resting! They exercise daily, they try to eat healthfully, and they walk on the beach weekly.

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