Career Compass

How owning a practice is like being a renaissance (wo)man


The “Renaissance Men” were sublime combinations of artist, engineer, and scientist.  They were masters of each discipline, and are considered the most well-rounded talents to ever draw breath.  Truth be told, owning a practice is more like being a “Renaissance (Wo)Man” than you might think. In contrast to the masters, though, we receive highly specialized training in treating dental disease and very little about the “other stuff.” Every dental office is full of protocols and contraptions that are not covered in school. That is not a reason to exclude owning from the menu of options open to you after graduation! Here are five keys to unlocking the mysteries of the non-clinical aspects of private practice.

  1. You will not know everything. Deal with it.
    You are a dental expert, not a plumbing and heating guru. We are trained to plan for every contingency with teeth. When the furnace breaks down for the the first time, you might not know how to handle it right away, and that is OK.
  2. You will have “your people” to help you.
    In the height of summer, the air conditioner at my office stopped working. One phone call to our “cooling guy” had him out to the office and solving the problem. When bad things happen (and they will happen), a team of people who actually know what to do will help you through. Your plumber, IT technician, accountant and many others are all ready to help you. It’s their job!
  3. Time makes you wiser
    Suction systems fail, amalgam separator reservoirs need to be changed, and the autoclave may fail a test strip. After you navigate these things the first time, you will know what to do in the future. When your handpiece makes that strange sound two years from now, you will know how to handle it.
  4. Take courses
    There are many CE courses available about topics like OSHA compliance, HIPAA protocols and maintenance tips for your equipment. Chances are your staff has attended many of these courses. Just like your extraction techniques improved with experience, you will become more knowledgeable about how the office functions with time.
  5. Tap into your peers
    You will meet other dentists through lectures or meetings. They have been through all of the ups and downs of owning an office. These professional contacts can be very helpful in guiding you through the early days of “being the boss”. Whether it is updating your fee schedule or leading your team, there are people who want to see new owners succeed and are willing to offer tips they have picked up over the years.

While most owners are no DaVinci, they still wear many hats around their offices as dental Renaissance women and men. If you are thinking about owning, don’t let the fear of encountering things you don’t understand keep you away. Owning early in your career can be extremely rewarding. Just like dentistry eventually becomes second nature, these little aspects of practice also get easier with time.

~Dr. Gabe Holdwick, Detroit Mercy ’14, 2016 chair, National Leadership Conference Planning Committee

Gabe Holdwick

Dr. Holdwick served as the 2013-14 Speaker of the House, and currently is the Chair of the NLC Planning Committee. Upon graduation from the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry in 2014, he completed a General Practice Residency at Palmetto Health-Richland in Columbia, South Carolina. Dr. Holdwick purchased a general dental practice in his hometown of Harbor Beach, Michigan in 2015.

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