It really is kind of cool how we all turn out so different. We’re all taught the same basic principles of dentistry after we take and master core health science curriculum and yet we quickly turn into very individualized and different doctors. How do you identify your core values and practice philosophy? Thinking back, a lot of what I’d consider my core values were shaped long before I started dental school. Through school and early in my career I guess what you’d call my practice philosophy developed also.
I’ve identified my core values throughout my life based on experiences that shaped who I am as a person. My most basic core value is that everyone has value. My family moved a number of times due to my father’s military service. I developed an appreciation of different types of people and cultures and the recognition that though we’re all so different, we’re really not that different. We all have needs, we all have different abilities and talents. The way that I see people due to my personal experiences is obviously a giant contributor to my core values.
Also, everyone is different right? Some of us have our behavior influenced by one core value that is a feeling so strong it shapes and affects everything, while other behavior may be molded by a combination of values that are working together to influence choices. Your instincts should tell you when something is going along with or against your core values, and it’s important — especially early in your career — to act on those feelings. Identify your core values based on your knowledge, experiences and individual instinctive feelings that make you who you are.
On to practice philosophy. I make hundreds of decisions daily, maybe thousands. You do too. You know, 20 or 30 teeth on a pano, four areas or so on each tooth to evaluate and decide whether treatment is needed. Yeah, easily thousands of decisions. We decide who to treat and who not to treat. How to treat different needs and how to perform each step of every phase of treatment. I’ve identified my practice philosophy as one that values every individual and their needs, and wants to deliver treatment based on my talents, interests and resources such that as many patients as possible can benefit as much as possible from the services I can provide.
I also believe it’s important — especially for new dentists — to understand you don’t have to be good at EVERYTHING, and it is okay for your practice philosophy to result in implementation of a referral policy such that some treatment is better accomplished by another provider! For example, even though the closest endodontist is two hours away, I do not typically perform molar endo. It is just one of many decisions that reflects my core values and practice philosophy. I can help four other patients in the time it would take me to perform the endodontic treatment. Somewhere, there is someone whose core values, practice philosophy and talents will result in a better endodontic treatment outcome for that patient.
You identify your core values as you develop as dentist. Follow your instincts. Seek good mentors. Your core values can adapt over time as you grow in your career. Implement a practice philosophy that supports your core values consistently, and you’ll find going to work doesn’t feel so much like work.
Dr. Brenden Moon is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and currently serves as Chair of the Illinois State Dental Society New Dentist Committee and sits on the Board of the Illinois Academy of General Dentistry. He is a member of the ADA, Illinois State Dental Society and TL Gilmer Society. He began practicing in western Illinois after completing dental school at the University of Mississippi in 2007, and enjoys participating in organized dentistry on the state and national level. Dr. Moon practices in both Public Health and Private Practice settings and is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, American College of Dentists, International College of Dentists, Academy of Dentistry International, and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.