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Through our Dental Spotlight Series we are taking the time to highlight successful professionals in the dental industry. If you’re an aspiring practice owner, or a current dentist looking for your next big move, we hope you gain some valuable advice from these successful individuals and their stories.
I grew up in Greensboro, NC. It’s a beautiful place to live, raise a family and be a dentist. My grandfather came over from Lithuania in 1905 and settled here. Greensboro was the home of Cone Mills which made all the denim for Levi-Strauss Jeans. It was also home to the Sit-In Movement at the Woolworth’s Department Store, which launched the Civil Rights push for integrated lunch counters in the South.
I first became interested in dentistry during a health section training in Boy Scouts. I enjoyed working with my hands and wanted to be part of something special. Role models were key in this decision. My best friend’s dad was an MD. All the dental people I met were really cool, had all these neat instruments, seemed to love their work and made me feel welcome.
I graduated from the UNC School of Dentistry in December 1983. I joined The American Volunteers For Israel and worked as a volunteer dentist on Kibbutz Gadot in the Upper Galilee. I then completed the two year Oral Medicine/General Practice Residency at the UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC.
My mentor was Dr Ron Strauss, an amazing clinician and better man, who now serves as the Associate Vice-Provost and Chief International Officer at The University of North Carolina. He was one of the few positive role models back in the day and actually kept me from quitting school when I felt I’d never succeed as a dentist.
My favorite dental equipment, hands down, is my Digi Doc Intraoral camera. I have bought four versions of this technology since 2000. If we had eight operatories, we would have eight Digi Docs. The rule was to take photos on every patient and before, during and after every procedure.
How do I relax? I don’t yet! I love teaching at UNC, lecturing at national seminars, spending time with my family and working out. I also enjoy screaming during Carolina basketball games as we defeat the Evil Empire aka Duke University.
My greatest achievement hands down are my three children and staying married for 33 years to a very understanding wife.
The biggest change in dentistry since I started is the continued erosion of the doctor/patient relationship. Our physician friends have been relegated to “Providers of Commodities” instead of doctors in a relationship with our patients.
The biggest challenges facing dentistry are the encroachment of who dictates and delivers dental care, the insurance companies limiting care and altering treatment plans, and the concept of do you even need a dental degree to treat patients (i.e.-Do It Yourself orthodontics and tooth whitening).
The best advice I ever received was in the form of a question from my coach and hero Dr Cathy Jameson. She asked the question, “How do you create the sense of urgency?” If we ask this question of ourselves and our teams every morning, focus on this and use our cameras, then great things will happen.
Practicing dentistry is a privilege, joy and tons of fun because of the amazing team I have, my relationship with my long time patients and the thrill of making a difference in people’s lives. I try to model passion, enthusiasm, hard work and humor for everyone in my life.
If you are looking to purchase your first practice, do your homework! Spend time with the senior doctor, get to know the team, shadow in the practice several times, talk to other local dentists about the reputation of the practice and invest small dollars on expert advice and guidance from Watson Brown! This was the best investment I ever made!