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.
I 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.
To 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.
Finally, 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!