Life as a New Dentist — Private Practice
The ADA is made up of individuals—here’s one of them.
Who are you? I’m Dr. Vivian Burk. I’m a proud member of the Class of 2011 of the Oregon Health and Science University School of Dentistry, and I am working for my family’s general dentistry practice in Anchorage, Alaska.
My brother graduated from dental school, and he bought our dad’s dental practice, then hired me after my graduation. Our big joke is that now my older brother really is the boss of me!
If you could have any job OTHER THAN dentistry, what would it be? When I was in dental school I had the opportunity to work on some films on the production side, and it turns out I have some talent! I like the idea of becoming a Director of Photography on some cool projects. That said I wouldn’t trade my job for the world!
Why did you choose working for this practice? My dream was to be a dentist, not to be a business owner. I see a wide variety of cases, from complicated procedures to cosmetic work, and I have a lot of autonomy. I like that I don’t have someone second-guessing the treatment plans I develop.
Biggest surprise since leaving school? I was anxious about feeling like getting the training wheels ripped off, but it turns out my education prepared me very well. In school that first restoration takes a long time but with practice you gain speed and confidence. I was concerned about speed, but working with an assistant and not having to wait for an instructor to sign off on procedures makes everything go much faster.
What’s your schedule like? I work Monday through Friday, 8:00-4:00. I used to work until five, but now I work through lunch so I can go home an hour earlier. The day flies by, and it means I’m not going home in the dark during winter.
What are you doing for fun? I bought a house and adopted two lab-husky mixes so all of that keeps me busy. I also travel often, especially to see live music.
Any advice for someone considering this path after graduation? In talking with my classmates from school, it’s clear that going to work for your brother isn’t an option for most! I’m very fortunate. Having said that, just because you get along with family outside of work, doesn’t mean you will automatically mesh while you are at work. That’s a dance that takes a little time to finesse.
What are your plans for the future? I’m already where I want to be, in terms of location and practice. I like seeing my confidence grow with experience. My production keeps improving. My family is a real support—we’ve had some big changes and health scares and seeing how everyone helps each other while powering through gives me a lot of confidence in facing the unknown.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.