Life as a new dentist — Pediatric dentist

Dentistry is made up of individuals. Here’s one of them.

Dr. Colleen Greene

Dr. Colleen Greene

Who are you?

I’m Dr. Colleen Greene, a second year resident in pediatric dentistry at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In 2013 I graduated from the Harvard Schools of Dental Medicine and Public Health with DMD and MPH degrees, respectively. I remain actively involved in ASDA as a past president and, most recently, co-chaired the National Leadership Conference in Chicago. This summer I will transition from resident to full-time attending in our hospital-based residency program. Fun fact: My husband was also my senior prom date in high school.

How did you get into dentistry?

My high school chemistry teacher encouraged me to consider aiming for medical school. I’ll never forget coming home and telling my mom about this exciting encouragement. Her response:  “Well, you could, but you’d be in school until you’re 30!” We laugh now at the accuracy of her prediction, since I am now exactly 30 years old and almost done with residency. Her larger point was to consider the work-life balance between a traditional career in medicine and other rigorous health care professions. To me, dentistry combined the community impact of working as a physician with the joys of working with my hands, business responsibilities and work-life flexibility.

Dr. Green (far left) celebrates her 30th birthday with coworkers.

Dr. Greene (far right) celebrates her 30th birthday with coworkers.

What attracted you to pediatric dentistry?

Growing up in a low-income family covered by Medicaid, my parents struggled to find a dental home for us. I remain really concerned about the limited access to pediatric dental care. These frustrations still fuel my drive to minimize barriers to care and I’m really optimistic about the growing public health consciousness of dental school graduates. Whether in a pediatric or general practice, there is a critical need for enthusiastic providers for children from low-income families. I want to fill that gap.

What do you say to new dentists who may be interested, but will rule out a position in working at a hospital, as oppose to working at or starting a practice?

It’s hard to balance out an interest in public health with the competing need to avoid personal bankruptcy! Student debt is a giant factor for many dental students, myself included. The benefit of pursuing hospital dentistry is that large health care systems tend to be financially more stable than independent community health clinics and therefore compensate very fairly while handling lower reimbursements. I’m impressed with the comprehensive benefits package at my hospital and thrilled to help fill a big need for more dental providers in our state. It’s the best of all worlds at this point in my career.

Any advice for someone wanting to follow your career path?

Remain as open-minded as possible to every opportunity that comes your way. Get involved in activities you enjoy that you believe will make a meaningful impact in your community, for patients and colleagues. Take it one year, one semester or one day at a time. Avoid the regret of playing it safe and not exploring the chances to serve that will come your way.

If you could have any job other than dentistry, what would it be? Why?

It’s honestly hard to think of a different job that would better blend all of the things I love to do: talk, write, educate, comprehensively manage cases, surgically restore health, etc. It’s a great gig! I love the varied responsibilities. You’ve stumped me.

Dr. Greene recently participated in the new ADA Practical Guide to Internet Marketing, co-authoring a chapter on blogging. Interested in sharing your experience as a new dentist? If you are fewer than 10 years out of dental school we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at newdentist@ada.org

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