Leadership after graduation


In April 2012, I emptied my class locker, turned in my required department signatures and stood in line with half a dozen classmates to terminate clinic privileges as a graduating dental student. Maybe I was expecting confetti or balloons. A parade for all of us seemed appropriate. But instead, there was just some paperwork to be completed and the return of my student ID and ASDA office key.

Was that it? Where was the marching band? We were leaving! We had worked hard! We stayed involved! And yet, no confetti.

A few months later, I thought back to that time and realized how foolishly misguided my expectations had been. My biggest achievements lie ahead. My diploma was my biggest reward for those four years, and being involved in ASDA was a gift that I could not have understood at the time. Never mind how hard you think it might feel to graduate, move someplace new, make new friends, be a real-life dentist for the first time and manage debt. The truth is that all of that can feel too heavy a burden to bear if you don’t look for peers once on the other side.

Going to dental society meetings became my new ASDA-adjacent salvation. Thanks to ASDA, I knew parliamentary procedure. I recognized ADA leaders and appreciated their sacrifices to represent our profession. I wasn’t afraid to articulate that I’d be happy to help and learn wherever greater minds felt I could further a cause. And ASDA had given me a track record of being a leader and hard worker, so it wasn’t long before people started counting on me.

I worked as hard as we all do in ASDA, doing what I knew best: bringing people together. As a new dentist, this helped me make friends and adjust to my life as “Dr. Thakkar.” As a volunteer, I felt at home and relished the time I spent with friends to implement strategies to improve this profession. Before I knew it, and very surprisingly, I was celebrated.

In 2015, I was the inaugural recipient of the ADA Foundation Henry Schein Cares David Whiston Leadership Award. Through that award, I received funding to take Franklin Covey’s course, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I must say that, generally, I avoid anything related to “self-help.” I used to believe personal growth could only be organic, and I was, admittedly, judging the program before it began. I figured, however, that it would be best to keep my ears open and absorb some pearls if they should come my way, especially since the ADA Foundation and Henry Schein had invested in this educational opportunity for me.

I developed my life’s vision over the course of that training. The personal growth wasn’t forced; in fact, the class reinforced some of my behaviors and gave me strategies to be a better leader in organized dentistry and as a practicing dentist.

The truth is that you cannot be a leader, regardless of how capable you are, if you don’t have people who have enough faith to follow you. Being effective means impacting change and facilitating excellence in those around us. As dentists, we are leaders in our communities, offices, professions, families and anywhere else in life where people are prepared to follow us. As such, it is our responsibility to collect pearls as we go to be our best versions of leaders and influence positive change.

I have come to realize that there isn’t always a parade to celebrate hard work and that leadership sometimes just looks like confetti of paperwork. Our mightiest victories as leaders are usually out in the horizon, and every opportunity to change dentistry for ourselves and future generations is a celebration all on its own.

~Dr. Nipa Thakkar, Temple ’12, Thakkar Dental

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About Dr. Nipa Thakkar

Dr. Nipa Thakkar is a private-practice dentist at Thakkar Dental, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She graduated Summa Cum Laude at Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry in 2012.

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