Important Questions to Ask When Considering Practice Opportunities

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 @ 10:45 AM

dentist-and-practitioners.jpgHave you been searching for your associateship? There might seem like several options, and so many things to consider before landing your first position on your way to becoming a practice owner. Before you take that dive into interviews and do your necessary preparations, it’s important to reevaluate what you’re hoping to get out of the experience, and vet the practice to make sure your philosophies and ideals match up with the game plan or mission statement of the owner dentist.

Without asking yourself some important intrapersonal questions, you might wind up feeling like you’re in the wrong practice, and wish you took the time to get a sense of your future. The interview process is set up both as a way for the employer dentist to get a better idea of who you are, but also for you to find out more about the practice, so ask questions! They will help you get a better idea of what the practice owner has in mind for you when you begin, and how he or she is looking to grow with your talents and philosophies.

Courtesy of Dr. Jere Gillan’s recent presentation on the subject, here are some of the most valuable questions to ask for yourself and during the interview when considering becoming a part of a practice:

How many patients does the practice see? Are they new or recurring? What type of patient am I seeing?

The success of a dental practice depends on its recurring patients, as well as its ability to attract new ones. Fewer patients result in diminished production, which translates into less collections and compensation. Practices that are focused on oral hygiene might see hundreds of patients in any given week with three to four dental hygienists on-hand. Keeping a full schedule means marketing the practice to ensure new patients, whether that’s your responsibility (i.e., in a private practice) or the role of the DSO (i.e., in a DSO-supported practice). If you prefer to focus on patient care and allow others to manage the marketing activities, then the DSO practice may be more appropriate for you.

The type of patient you’re seeing has several implications. If you’re not comfortable caring for adolescent patients, a pediatric practice is not your move. If you lack experience or skills in removable prosthodontics, that has a bearing on a practice with an older patient base (which can be very financially rewarding, too). A fee-for-service practice will have a different compensation model from a Medicaid practice, and knowing your projected patient base provides telling information not only about the procedures you’ll provide daily but also your collections and production. Therefore, it is important for future dentists to understand how many of these different patients they’ll be seeing in any given workday.

What does the typical schedule look like for me?

Are you seeing one patient every hour? Three hygiene checks? One or two new patients each day? Getting a good idea of what your day-to-day workload will look like can give you an idea of how much production you’ll be generating in any given day, and how you’ll be compensated as a result. Whether in a private practice, large group practice, or federal dentistry setting, get a grasp on what the daily work life is like.

What types of procedures or care is the practice providing?

You probably won’t be tasked with full-mouth reconstructions as an associate, but maybe you’ll find yourself responsible for single-unit crowns and Class I and II fillings. It’s a start! Being exposed to these procedures (while also building your knowledge through continuing education [CE] courses) can help you develop the necessary experience, improving your skills and confidence as you approach leadership roles within the practice.

What is the opportunity for professional growth or practice ownership?

Your development as a professional is important, and the training and mentorship you receive as an associate dentist are directly related. It's the way you gain exposure to and familiarity with diagnoses, treatment planning, and procedures in which you are not fully versed during your dental school training. Understanding if the practice supports the dentists and staff in these opportunities (including CE) is key, so be sure to ask during the interview process.

Additionally, many dental students dream of one day owning their own practices, so see if this opportunity will present itself. Practice ownership can be achieved through either a traditional private practice model or a dental support organization practice model, and it is healthy to understand if this is an option as you first discuss the associateship role. Both DSO and private practices offer the potential for professional growth, but ownership needs to be negotiated and talked about extensively at certain times before the eventual shift, and both pathways don’t always lead down this road. This is why it’s important to get a sense of the vision the owner dentist has in store for the practice to see where you fit. If ownership is the end goal for you, figure out if it’s available to you.

The best thing you can do for yourself prior to graduating dental school is figuring out what career path is right for you. If you are searching for your first associateship, understand what any given practice is all about and see where you fit within it. Your dental school education will help you establish yourself and your abilities, creating your practice philosophy and your strengths on the way to becoming an established dentist.
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Tags: Interview, questions to ask, practice opportunities

Exploring Pathways into the Dental Profession at Chicagoland Speedway

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 @ 09:17 AM

Left to Right: Alex Mitchell (Temple), Tabitha Dunham (Oklahoma), John Murphy (Aspen Dental), Kyle Coghlan (Tennessee), Aaron Henderson (Minnesota), and Ami Pandya (Indiana, THE NEXTDDS Regional Delegate)

Ten short days ago, an exclusive group of associate dentists, dental students, and practice owners gathered in Chicago, IL, for a weekend of fellowship, recreation, and enlightening discussion among peers. Ami Pandya, DDS candidate at Indiana University School of Dentistry, 2016, and Regional Delegate for THE NEXTDDS, was one of just five dental students in attendance. Ami had a great opportunity to connect with fellow student leaders from Temple University, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Minnesota, to network with several recent graduates now working in DSO-supported practices—and to meet NASCAR driver Danica Patrick.

Patrick and her #10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS have been supporting an initiative termed the Healthy Mouth Movement, where dentists in the Aspen Dental network are delivering free care to many veterans who have served our nation. To date these dentists, through the Healthy Mouth Movement, have donated over $3 million in dentistry!

Attendees of the Aspen Dental VIBE Session had a chance to mingle with Patrick after a day spent in discussion of the way that dental service organizations enable new graduates to enter the profession. Here is a brief Q&A session THE NEXTDDS recently completed with Ami regarding the event:

Q. What is next for your dental career after graduation?
I have all my options open and am looking for the best opportunity. While I’m planning on practicing in the Chicago area after graduation, I plan on relocating to the south after a short time—Georgia’s home for me. Right now I’m considering both private practice and DSO (dental service organization) practice options.

Q. What’s the most important consideration for your next step?
I’ll need to be working, and I know it’ll be important to improve my skill set. I would like to continue learning about the business of dentistry and will hopefully have a practice of my own one day.

Left to Right:  Tabitha Dunham (Oklahoma), Aaron Henderson (Minnesota), Kyle Coghlan (Tennessee), Danica Patrick, Bob Fontana (Aspen Dental), Ami Pandya, and Alex Mitchell (Temple)

Q. That’s great! How did you become involved with this Chicago event?
I’ve been very involved in student affairs throughout my time at Indiana, serving most recently as President of our American Student Dental Association chapter at IU. Because I’ve been involved in ASDA since practically day one, I’ve had a chance to take on a leadership role with my colleagues and also to build relationships with many of the different companies and service organizations that conduct activities at the school. Aspen Dental is one of these organizations and their representative contacted me about the VIBE Session. I felt quite fortunate to be asked; it sounded like a great opportunity and I had a great time in Chicago—even met Danica Patrick—learning about Aspen as an organization and the DSO practice model.

Q. It sounds like the DSO practice model could be a good opportunity to achieve your long-term goals—is this a common view among your classmates?
I’m glad you touched on this; we as ASDA students had essentially the same conversation in Chicago. A lot of younger dentists that I talk to, who are now in private practice, have used their experiences in a DSO practice as a stepping stone to further their careers and are very grateful for those opportunities. My colleagues and I are open to the concept. We see it more as an opportunity to get better and be better as dentists—and one day have our own practices.

Q. Some of the operational efficiencies you see in a DSO-supported practice make sense based on sheer volume. But their ability to impact patient access to care is important too. Did you cover that in Chicago in this discussion?
Yes, and it’s something I didn’t fully understand before. I didn’t realize that Aspen, for example, works in areas where there aren’t many dentists, helping create access for those in need. It was nice to understand their mission, their purpose, and the objectives of their practice model. That brought about some helpful clarification that we don’t often get at school, where our exposure in a lunch-and-learn, for example, is just 45 minutes. Here, we had a chance to talk candidly to dentists practicing in this type of setting. It was nice to get clarity. As students we want the truth, the clarity—and it was great to get that here.

aspen-dental-danica-patrickQ. The open dialogue sounded very valuable. Were any IU students part of the panel of practicing dentists?
Yes. One recent IU grad was there; he had recently become the lead dentist in his Tennessee-based Aspen Dental practice. We have a lot of students that go that route. It’s happening—it’s a good salary, a good opportunity to focus on your skill development, and Aspen has a mentorship program to help there. This model can be very appealing to students like me who have a lot of school loan debt to handle before opening our own practices. Our decisions are a little different from dentists graduating a few decades ago because of this substantial loan debt.

Q. What’s the most important take-away you had from this weekend that you’d want to convey to the 14,000+ dental students of THE NEXTDDS user community? What was most meaningful for you?
Since I don’t know what’s next for me, I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind, listen, and explore every opportunity that you have. Dentistry as we know it is changing, and if you close your mind off to any option you could miss a really valuable opportunity. I think it’s best to educate yourself, and make decisions based on what’s best for you as an individual. That’s probably my biggest take-back. I learned so much just from going to the meeting and keeping an open mind and taking it all in rather than coming with any preconceived ideas. I was appreciative of the invitation.

Thanks so much to you, Ami. We appreciate you taking moments between patient responsibilities today to share this discussion with us!

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Tags: Student Ambassadors, Regional Delegate, Interview

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