Pennsylvania Dental Journal March April 2017 - Page 21

My life has changed drastically since dental school. When I think back to those days, I remember countless hours in the library, studying for exams, and in the faculty lounge, chasing signatures for graduation. My time and energy was focused on meeting those requirements and checking off all my boxes. When I left dental school I quickly realized there were no more checklists or set rules to follow. The real world is far too variable. Such a change can be incredibly overwhelming for a new grad. If you add on the responsibility of your first full-time job, student loan repayment and trying to understand how people plan for retirement, it may leave you feeling like you want to bury your head in the sand. The thing that got me through the challenges of those first few years (a nd beyond) were a group of caring individuals to took the time to help me navigate my way. Teachers, advisors, friends. You can call them what you want to call them, but for me I think the best word would be mentor. It started with my professors at my AEGD at Temple University. I would not be where I am now without them. That one year was the perfect blend of autonomy in practice with the safety net of eight or nine well-trained experienced dentists who knew dentistry in the real world. One of the best things they taught me was how to talk to patients; how to really understand their wants and then how to explain to them the realistic expectations of what we could achieve in their mouth. This lesson saved me so much heartache at the end of very complicated cases and gave me the confidence to win my patients’ trust. One of my professors at Temple stands out as a true example of what a mentor should be. He engaged us six residents on the clinical floor, but he also took the time to get to know us outside of school. He had us out to his private practice in Narberth, out for drinks and even hosted us at his house for a barbecue. He gave us his personal email and encouraged us to pester him with questions (advice I maybe took too literally.) He is the first person I went to when I was thinking about buying my own practice and I can happily say he is the reason I found the practice I am at today. This particular dentist was described to me as someone “who still considers being a dentist to be a privilege,” and I am fortunate I have had the privilege to get to know him. After school, my mentors came in varying forms: my boss at my first associateship, lab techs that took the time to go over cases with me, my seasoned assistants and EFDAs. In April 2015, I purchased an existing practice from a retiring dentist, and that’s when my learning went into hyper drive. I found myself in a position, as owner, that I had never expected to be in and quite overwhelmed by all there was to do. What surprised me the most was how willing other dentists were to help me. I had always been a member of PDA, but that was almost entirely just because I like getting mail in my mailbox. I had never been to a meeting and was very confused about districts and counties and exactly where I would fit in or what it all meant. Becoming an actual contributing member has opened the door for me to meet even more amazing dentists and specialists. This past year alone, because of the connections I made through organized dentistry, I had the opportunity to moderate a lecture and have lunch with someone whose articles basically made up the curriculum of all my implantology courses in school, share in the joy of Give Kids a Smile Day, understand some of the challenges our profession is facing and make new friends. That last benefit might be my favorite of all. I joined a few of these new friends at a PDA speed mentoring event for Pennsylvania dental students at The Inn at Penn in September. This event marked my first time on the other side of the table: the mentor side. I was worried I might not be able to answer all the students’ questions, but by the time the night was over my voice was hoarse. It was invigorating to connect with all the bright eyed students who expressed some of the same fears I myself had just a few years ago. Connections Mentoring Program Looking for a mentor or want to become a mentor? Through PDA’s Connections mentoring program, dental students or new dentists can request mentors based on criteria such as practice location, practice type and specialty. Mentors are contacted if they are a suitable match based on a mentee’s request. Enroll now at by signing in to the website and submitting an enrollment form. Please contact Andrea Hoover at with questions about Connections. Mentee testimonial “I loved my experiences with my mentor. I felt like I had a friend in him from the beginning. He really is an outside source of inspiration and guidance for me. I am thankful I can go to him with successes, concerns, questions, and not feel judged or belittled. It is really freeing.” – Travis Tucker, DMD, Chambersburg Mentor testimonial “Through the PDA’s mentoring program, I was able to meet a recent grad and help her start her journey into private practice. It was a pleasure interacting with a young colleague, and as a result, we both have made a new friend. I would strongly encourage all seasoned dentists to reach out and do the same. It was a rewarding experience.” –Shari Leavitt, DMD, Philadelphia The passion for our profession connects us all. I hope that I can continue share with the next generation of dentists what my mentors taught me. It is a privilege to treat the patients we see. It is a privilege to be part of a profession that tests us and pushes us to be better than the day before. Simply, it is an honor to be a dentist. MARCH / AP RIL 2017 | P EN N SYLVAN IA DEN TAL JOURNAL 19