Pathways to dentistry: Large group practice associate

When Dr. Sneha Patel started looking for a job after graduating in 2015 from the University of Oklahoma School of Dentistry, she knew she wanted to be close to her Yukon, Oklahoma, home.

Dr. Patel

Dr. Sneha Patel

So when she was offered a position with a dental service organization, Heartland Dental, in Yukon, it was an easy choice to say yes.

Beyond the convenience of the location, her decision to join the dental service organization has been a good fit for her, she said.

“I appreciate Heartland’s model of being doctor-led,” Dr. Patel said. “I like that I lead my office, but still have the support I need as a new dentist in the areas I feel weakest in.

I have easy access to a large network of more experienced dentists who are always willing to advise and mentor me both with clinical questions and leadership challenges.”

Dr. Patel said she and another dentist lead her office team. She works four days a week and sees around 15-20 patients each day, completing a wide range of procedures, including root canals, restorations and dentures, she said.

“I have control in how I want my schedule to look, and I work with my team to implement my scheduling guidelines so that I can decrease the stress and maximize my time with my patients,” Dr. Patel said.

Dr. Patel said experiences with dental service organizations can vary, and recommends researching and visiting offices before taking a job at one.

She acknowledges that coming out of dental school and staring down all the different pathways within dentistry can be “overwhelming.”

“My advice is to just pick something,” she said. “Start somewhere. You never know what experiences you might have or what you might learn. If it’s a bad experience, then fine. Check it off your list and move on to the next opportunity.”

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