Celebrating 30 Years – One Final Thank You!

We had a wonderful time celebrating our 30th anniversary during the month of November. Two “Thank You’s” still need to be addressed. The second of these involves the final details for the scholarship that we plan to sponsor for a graduating Hillsborough High School student this year. These final details will be completed in the beginning of January 2015. We are very excited by this opportunity to give back to our community in this way and look forward to sharing these details with you in the upcoming weeks.

So now it is time to get on with the single remaining item on our “30 Days of Thanks” list. This particular item has been saved for last, as it is arguably the single most important Thank You which must be expressed.  For those of you who know me fairly well, it will not be surprising to learn that I have reserved this key position of respect and gratitude for my wife and partner Elizabeth.

As I shared in an earlier article, I met Liz in 1984 (also 30 years ago). I had just begun working at a dental clinic in Wayne, New Jersey where I had the good fortune to be assigned to a specific dental operatory in that rather large facility. When I entered that operatory, I was greeted by this attractive 19-year-old brunette named Liz, who had been assigned as my dental assistant. I don’t really remember the particulars of how our first day unfolded, but I know that neither one of us could have been considered a “seasoned” dental practitioner. We worked together for a few months while I was absorbed in the process of opening my own dental practice in Hillsborough. Realizing that I would soon need a dental assistant at that office, I had the foresight and good sense to ask Liz if she would be interested in joining me there. And the rest is history.

thank youThose were very exciting times as we set about to build a practice from nothing.   It was basically a blank canvas, and we savored the opportunity to help people and make a difference as we grew both professionally and personally. Even from those very early days, Liz became my partner. As there were only two people in the office, we had a lot of shoes to fill. Of course, we were dentist and assistant. But we were also contractors, marketers, financial experts, janitors and decorators.  Thank you Liz for your 30 years of hard work in all of your capacities.

From the very beginning, having the ability to discuss with a trusted friend and partner all the many decisions which had to be made and all the issues which presented themselves was priceless. And, to this day I still count on Liz to help me work through problems and important decisions as they arise.  Thank you Liz for being my confidant, sounding board and business partner.

I have always felt the need to continue learning more about dentistry as well as the management of our practice.   As Liz would frequently attend classes with me, she and I grew together both professionally and personally. Over the years, we became closer and closer friends.   Eventually, we had the good sense to become not only best friends but also husband and wife. That was eleven years ago, and I count my blessings every day for having sealed the deal.  Thank you Liz for being my loving wife.

thank youFinally, it’s not always easy or fun to be the boss.  Liz reminds me every day that once the office door closes behind us, she is no longer my assistant.  As long as I remember that, our happy home stays happy.  More importantly, she just has a way of being and feeling that I admire and try to emulate.  In particular, she has three personality traits that make her special. First, she never worries about the small things nor is rattled by other people’s comments or actions or situations in day-to-day life. She’s generally calm and positive – traits I can only wish for.  Second, I have never heard her speak ill about any other person. She apparently took a lesson from the proverbial Aunt Martha who teaches us to “say nothing if you have nothing good to say.” This is an uncommon positive trait in this world. And third, she is a trusted, caring and uncomplicated friend to many. When I first met Liz, she was rather introverted.  Now she is the more outgoing one who has a natural way to attract the friendship of so many.  Thank you Liz for inspiring me by just being yourself.

I have thought about writing this Thank You article to Liz for some time and one line from  a movie has been stuck in my head as the perfect way to close this blog. In the movie “Jerry Maguire” there was a character named Dickie Fox who was the Tom Cruise character’s mentor.   Here is the perfect way he summed it up:

“Hey, I don’t have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.”

thank you

All the best to you in 2015!

Celebrating 30 Years- Thank You, Mentors!

I had wanted to complete all of our anniversary “Thank You’s” in November, but that was not meant to be.  Liz and I enjoyed a wonderful long Thanksgiving weekend with our family and I decided not to rush through the final couple of articles as the people to whom they are directed have been important mentors in our lives.

With that being said, I feel extremely fortunate during my career for having found the perfect mentors who I needed at the exact time when I needed them. Each of these mentors helped our office and me personally to grow and focus on what is important and point out and help eliminate our weaknesses. I firmly believe in the value that mentoring provides for people in every situation and in every decade of life. It is my sincere hope that at some point in the future, I may give back to younger dentists some of that which I took away from my mentors over the years.

mentorsI have already mentioned in an earlier thank you article the first mentor who had a significant impact on my career – Dr. Peter Dawson. Shortly after dental school, I knew that I did not want to be an “ordinary” dentist who filled teeth all day, every day. I had also come to believe that a thorough understanding of occlusion was mandatory if I was to be an excellent dentist. The reason is because occlusion has an impact on just about every condition in the mouth including gum disease, TMD, appearance and everything having to do with the longevity of dental health. Since Dr. Dawson wrote the most important modern book on the subject, I decided to take his course and began to learn about this most complex subject. As I mentioned in the previous article, I had the amazing luck to run into Dr. Dawson in the airport as I was coming home after his class. It was at that meeting when he recommended that I begin studying at the L. D. Pankey Institute which I did.

It was on a gorgeous day in the summer of 1987 or thereabouts that I sat in my lounge chair with an occlusion textbook (which had been recommended as adjunct reading) on the beach at Spring Lake. That day was a turning point in my life as that was the day when occlusion began to make sense to me. To this day, whenever I choose to improve my understanding of any subject, I find no better place to do it than in a chaise lounge on a beach.  Now, some 25 years later, I am still studying occlusion and have attended the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies where I learned another philosophy on the same subject.  Thank you very much Dr. Dawson for helping me to begin on the right path.

Then, a few years later, as the office was getting busier, it became apparent that our lack of business management savvy was becoming an issue. My experience and reading had taught me that most businesses go through a progression of plateaus and the best businesses do what is necessary to face and address challenges as they arise. Common challenges include time management, team building, financial controls and the myriad of systems which make a business work.

mentorsTo that end, I was extremely fortunate to have met Dr. Michael Schuster. He and I shared a similar practice philosophy as he, too, practiced Pankey style dentistry and had a school called the Center for Professional Development (now called the Schuster Center) where a philosophy of practice management and the tools necessary to run a dental practice were taught. My team and I studied in this center in Scottsdale, Arizona for two years; and, during that time, traveled there on several occasions to learn how to better manage our office. In addition to the meetings in Arizona, there were monthly phone conferences, many books to be read and book reports to write. This course of study was like an MBA for dentists. After the first year, I clearly remember feeling so positive that I had recurring dreams about being able to fly –  seriously!

This course of study helped me to organize my entire life as well as our dental practice that eventually began to run like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, along with the process of self-discovery and success with the dental practice came the end of my marriage. I believe that if it were not for Dr. Schuster I would not be as successful as I feel today both professionally and personally. There, I was taught the value of setting goals and looking inward to take control of my life in a positive way. Thank you Dr. Schuster. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to you for providing exactly what I needed at that time in my life.

mentorsFinally, I’d like to thank Dr. Charlie Martin who is a dentist in Richmond Virginia and who ran conferences four times each year and facilitated a “mastermind” of like-minded dentists. Charlie is a passionate and hard-working dentist who has the ability to engage others with his point of view and extensive knowledge on various subjects. He was most helpful to me in helping to decide the most current direction in our dental practice. He provided what I needed to know,  and, as a result moved to the next level of my career. Unfortunately, Charlie has retired, but the effects of his efforts on all of our mastermind members will be felt for years to come.   Thank you Dr. Martin! This course of study helped me to organize my entire life, as well as our dental practice, which eventually began to run like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, along with the process of self-discovery and success with the dental practice, came the end of my marriage.

I am also grateful to Dr. Charlie Martin for having introduced me to a wonderful group of dentists who are equally passionate, hard working, intelligent and an absolute pleasure to share time with. I miss them and the conferences in Richmond, and I wish each of these friends much health, happiness and success for years to come!

Celebrating 30 Years- Thank You, Maria and Our Hygienists

In today’s installment of our Thirty Days of Thanks, I have the pleasure of expressing my gratitude to Maria Slavinsky and all of our dental hygienists. Maria has been an important member of our team for the last eleven years! During that time, anyone who has been a “regular” in our office knows that Maria was married, had a baby and has become a most caring and involved mother. One reason that patients like her so much is that she begins every visit by “catching up” on the past six months and sharing the most recent pictures of her family. She has that natural gift of being able to bond with people and show her true interest in everyone for whom she provides care, not to mention her coworkers, friends and family.


Patients also appreciate the fact that she is gentle and yet very thorough in her treatment. She provides a complete explanation of what is happening in each patient’s mouth, and has the knowledge to offer solutions for patients’ various issues and concerns.

As a team member, all of us appreciate Maria’s dependability, enthusiasm and cooperation. She has only missed being in the office on two extended occasions.  One of those occurred six years ago just after one of our office holiday parties. Apparently, Italian food jump started Maria’s contractions and she gave birth to her daughter Veronica within a day or so. The other occasion followed an incident in Maria’s kitchen when she was attempting to remove an avocado pit.   Without getting into too much detail, that incident resulted in surgery to properly reattach one of Maria’s fingers. She is no longer allowed to carve up avocados! I guess the only other time she regularly places herself in jeopardy is when she and her husband Dmitri and daughter Veronica go skiing, which I believe is as often as possible.

There is one trait which Maria has that you may not be aware of. It is a trait which I have come to share with her. We have both become rather germophobic over the years, so none of our patients needs to be too concerned about cleanliness around Maria. She and I wash our hands constantly after any questionable contact, and she is always cleaning up to get rid of any potential hazard.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Karen Cummins  I have known Karen for as long as I have been in Hillsborough, as her son Marty and my daughter Meredith were an item at one time. More importantly, Karen has been a part time hygienist in our office for many, many years; and, has a very loyal following of patients who want to be seen only by her. She has been a good friend to us over the years and we truly appreciate all her help.

Similarly, there have been other hygienists in our first two decades who were wonderful members of our team and provided excellent care for our patients. The work that hygienists do is not easy and requires dedication and skill to be done with proficiency.

Thank you to Maria, Karen and all the hygienists for your professionalism and friendship over the past thirty years.