THE NEXTDDS Blog

University of Utah Graduate Alex Piedra Discusses His Dental School Experience & Post-Graduation Plans

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 @ 09:07 AM

24058800_1378101282300794_8764131376291630063_nAt this time of the year, dental school graduates are prepping themselves for the professional dental world. One of those students is Alex Piedra, who recently completed his 4th year at the University of Utah School of Dentistry. In this interview with THE NEXTDDS, he discusses his dental school experience, his post graduation plans, and what he plans to contribute to the profession.

THE NEXTDDS: What does the field of dentistry mean to you?

AP: Dentistry is a field where you can really change a life in many ways. One way is helping a patient smile. Also, proper dentistry is a way to fight one of the biggest infections that we have in the mouth, which is dental caries. It’s incredibly important for dentists to combat that infection.

THE NEXTDDS: Explain the difference between “fixing” and “prevention.”

AP: Prevention is key. Upon graduating from dental school, I will be going to a pediatric dental residency. As a pediatric dentist, I want to help kids have a positive dental experience and show them the proper ways to brush their teeth and take care of their mouth so they do not develop caries later in life.

THE NEXTDDS: What did you enjoy the most about dental school?

AP: I simply loved working toward a profession that has the ability to change the lives of others. I also greatly enjoyed developing relationships with my fellow students, as well as with patients and faculty. I realized the world is smaller than we think and that we can really make a change in our patient’s lives.

THE NEXTDDS: Very understandable! What role did social media or educational sites play in your dental education?

AP: I feel that a lot of us were able to visit certain social media platforms to watch procedures, just to see how they were exactly executed. I’ve read online articles and listened to audiobooks to find out about the business aspect of dentistry. The digital aspect of dentistry has helped students in several ways.

THE NEXTDDS: Absolutely! How do you see yourself improving the patient experience?

AP: I would focus on creating an amazing environment for them. If I were to own a private practice, I would make sure my hygienists, assistants, and front desk manager are all motivated to create an environment that’s inviting and friendly. I want my patients to look forward to follow-up visits. I want to make it a special experience for every patient who walks in to my office.

THE NEXTDDS: Great idea! During your tenure as a student, did you take advantage of dental outreach opportunities? 

AP: Of course! I grew up in an environment in Washington where we had a core community and I remember not seeing a dentist or doctor as a child growing up. Our community helped me and my family a great deal during this time. Dental outreach became very important to me and I feel inclined to give back to the community through education or clinical work to those who cannot afford treatment. I plan to continue giving back once I complete my residency.

THE NEXTDDS: That’s very honorable of you. What key challenges did you face as a dental student?

AP: During my first and second years of school, I felt there was a lot of material to learn in a short amount of time, which was very overwhelming. Managing my time adequately and balancing my personal and school life was very challenging. I was in school from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and would study from 6:00 PM until midnight, then wake up at 4:00 AM. It took a while for me to acclimate myself to that routine.

THE NEXTDDS: That’s definitely a challenge! What is your philosophy on how oral health relates to overall health?

AP: Oral health is the gateway to understanding your body’s overall health. There are a lot of research studies that link xerostomia, dental caries, and even cancer to poor oral health. Activity in the mouth in terms of poor oral health may be an early precursor or indicator of what is going on in the rest of the body.

THE NEXTDDS: What are your post-graduation plans?

AP: I plan to do a pediatric dental residency for 2 years. I hope to see a lot of children and give them the proper treatment they need, because they are our future. I’ll be speaking with them and figuring out how I may best serve them and give them the best oral health experience. I want to create an environment in which the kids look forward to returning for appointments and hopefully, they share their experience with others. Watching kids return one by one, over the years until they become adults with no cavities would be awesome!

THE NEXTDDS: It surely would be! What do you think you will contribute to the dentistry profession?

AP: I want to change the way we think about dentistry. Sometimes, I feel that we only focus on the teeth and oral cavity, but we need to remember that there is a person attached to those teeth. My goal is to constantly create a good experience for my patients. Also, I want other dentists to understand that every person in that chair has a life, goals, and aspirations as well, so we need to uplift them. I want every one of my patients, adult or child, to feel inspired when they leave that dental chair. We need to create that positive environment for them so they walk out with a smile.

THE NEXTDDS: What a great way to end this interview! Alex, thank you taking the time to speak with us and a special CONGRATULATIONS from all of us at THE NEXTDDS for completing dental school! We wish you much success in your future endeavors!

 

Tags: children, dentistry, outreach, graduate, children's health, dental caries, pediatric patients, patient trust, oral health, disease prevention, new dentists

Dr. Gerald E. Davis II Discusses His Dentistry and Education Journey and His 10 Under 10 Award

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 @ 12:00 PM

Davis_220The American Dental Association announced the recipients of its inaugural 10 Under 10 Awards which recognizes 10 new dentists who graduated less than 10 years ago. The winners were chosen because they are making a difference in their work, science, research & education, philanthropy, leadership & advocacy, and inspiring others. One of the 2017 10 Under 10 awards recipients is Dr. Gerald E. Davis II. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), he has demonstrated dedication to dental education through his work as the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and as an assistant professor at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and as a member of the ADA Test Construction Committee. At Meharry, he worked with Microsoft to make the college a development site for innovative new dental student training technologies.

In this interview, Dr. Davis discusses his transition from student to professional, the importance of lifelong education, and offers good advice for this year’s graduating class.

THE NEXTDDS: What exactly led you down the dentistry route to begin with?

Dr. Davis: I stumbled into this field. When I was in the 8th grade, I attended programs at Baylor College of Dentistry, where we had the opportunity to conduct dental research. The research programs were meant for high school students, but they allowed me to participate. Being exposed to the field of dental research at that age gave me the initial spark. From there, I went on to other programs they had, such as the dental admission program, post baccalaureate programs, etc. At some point along the line, I applied to dental school at Meharry. When I was in college, dentistry became a full-fledged commitment.

THE NEXTDDS: Great! What did you learn in dental school that you’ve carried on through your professional career?

Dr. Davis: There were so many golden nuggets I would say. The main lesson I learned was the realization that I chose a field in which every day was a final exam, and each one of those exams were gatekeepers. There are many gatekeeper moments for the educational pathway. I remember thinking to myself, “If I don’t pass this course or exam, everything will be on the line.” You must acclimate yourself to this testing lifestyle. One thing occurred to me one day. I realized even after graduating from dental school and becoming a licensed dentist, when I see a patient on a given day, I can make a poor decision right then and there that results in the same outcome, whether it be a lawsuit or malpractice. You can still be back at square one. It’s the reality check of knowing that this is a perpetual way of life. Bottom line, you are always being tested to make sure you stay on your toes at all times.

THE NEXTDDS: Very important! The ADA states that the award recipients are “making a difference and inspiring their colleagues through their work.” Was the idea of “making a difference” a reason why you pursued this field initially? Discuss the importance of having an impact on the profession.

Dr. Davis: My passion is education. I’ve always been in love with knowledge and helping another person understand something. I’ve seen so many cases where I’ve been in classrooms with professors who would belittle students by saying, “You don’t get this.” Or “You should’ve learned this last year.”  One of the main areas of impact I wanted to have was the ability to relay information in such a fashion so that anyone who wants to pursue this field can do so successfully. That was really my desire. Getting into dental school or the field itself was hard and very selective. Only the people who knew someone in the field were guaranteed entry, so I wanted to find a way to extend this to anybody who isn’t connected. Basically, my passion is to help others become successful in this field. I want learning and teaching to be relayed in a fashion people can understand. I’ve been pursing that goal actively.

THE NEXTDDS: Fantastic! What steps did you take to prepare yourself for the transition from student to professional?

Dr. Davis: Whatever you want to be; I believe you already are. An oak tree is still an oak tree as a seed. All the elements for it to be an oak tree are housed in that seed. I’ve been preparing myself for this transition for years. In dental school, I carried myself a certain way. My peers would joke about me carrying a briefcase to school or in clinic when I was seeing patients, as well as humorous acts that showcased my professionalism. The point I’d like to drive home is this: If you are passionate about something, rather than abandon it and go in a completely different direction, find a way to marry what you are doing with the field that you’re pursuing. In my case, I was a biology major, but took all the prerequisite courses for education, so I tried to find a way to incorporate the dental and educational field in my profession. Some people see the way others do something and believe that’s the only way to do it, as opposed to realizing what they have is a uniqueness that will diversify the field and make an impact. If you want dentistry to propagate to the field that it can, you must diversify and bring in researchers, teachers, computer scientists, etc., not solely clinicians.

THE NEXTDDS: Wonderful insight! Are there a few things you know now as an established dental professional that you wish you learned as a D1 student?

Dr. Davis: I was doing better than I thought I was. There were times where I would think the world is coming to an end if I failed an exam. I used to be very hard on myself. I later realized that I was progressing just fine. As an academic dean, I have access to my own dental records and I saw my class rank and realized that I was not doing as bad as I thought I was. I was too critical on myself. A part of me is glad that I had that mind state because it pushed me to go forward. However, I do think to myself, “If I had known this, where would I be today?”

THE NEXTDDS: Discuss the importance of continuing education. How do you continue learning?

Dr. Davis: For me, it’s not good enough to have…for lack of a better term, if you have a gun, but no bullets, it doesn’t serve a purpose. I’d like to think that having the ability to teach and articulate information in a way others can understand is beautiful. However, if you don’t have any information to articulate then you don’t have anything to say. By default, I need to have enough information that’s worth relaying and a need to address. I focus on these 3 areas: lifelong testing, lifelong service, and lifelong learning. I’ve been involved with organized dentistry with the American Dental Association. I’ve attended programs such as UC San Diego’s Faculty Development for the Underserved, as well as free clinics for dental services. I also obtained my master’s degree in dental education at University of the Pacific. Now I’m enrolled in USC’s Oral Facial Pain and Oral Medicine program. Clearly, I’m not a stranger to continuing education, and I would encourage everyone to try to learn and to gain more information, so they can be better clinicians and simply be better the field.

 THE NEXTDDS: Very motivating! What is your best recommendation for a student who is beginning this transition?

Dr. Davis: My best recommendation would be to marry your passion with the field. If you were originally an engineer or whatever your previous background was before dentistry, understand that that makes you an expert in that regard, and unique in this field. My mother used to tell me, “If you want to make an impact, you must find a need to fill it.” As a recent graduate, take the time to find a need and figure out how you can be a solution to that need. It will be hard because we all have mountains of student loans to pay back, but I believe that if God provides you a vision, He will also provide the provision. If you have the vision to follow a path, the provision to do so will come. I am a living witness of that story and belief. I would encourage any dental school graduate to try to do that same pursuit.

THE NEXTDDS: What a great message for this year’s graduating class! Dr. Davis, thank you for taking the time to share your dentistry journey with us! Congratulations on making the ADA’s 10 Under 10 List!

 

Tags: dental education, continuing education, networking after dental school, new dentists

How New Dentists Build Relationships with Team Members

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Dec 06, 2017 @ 01:00 PM

pds3.jpgMany dental school graduates will soon be finding themselves in the practice setting, and despite being an associate dentist, there is a lot of responsibility required in the position. From the onset, associate dentists are given many opportunities to be more than just a supporting team member. As one grows in the position both clinically and as an employee of the office staff, associates will soon be looked to as leaders. In this bigger role, managing a team requires gaining the trust and respect of peers. Once promoted to a senior dentist or becoming a practice owner in the future, how can this connection be sustained?

Courtesy of Dr. Cody Mugleston, THE NEXTDDS virtual training event entitled “3 Proven Ways to Find Mentors & Build Leadership Skills” discusses topics such as the importance of mentorship, how to develop leadership skills, building relationships, and pursuing clinical excellence. Below are several key points outlined in the Mugleston presentation.

Developing into a Leader

It’s important to become accustomed to the responsibilities of a leader in a modern practice setting. Creating an open communication channel between you and your staff, being an active listener to their feedback and concerns, and showing appreciation and care for those who are working effectively—these are all tools that will impact you, your team, and the patients you treat. Once you get to a spot where you can delegate responsibilities to your staff and cultivate a “group pride” feeling in your practice, you will soon be seen as a collaborator who works well with others, many of whom welcome the added mentorship and guidance.

Form a quick, 15-minute daily huddle every morning as the workday begins: start by going over how you will handle the day’s tasks, review the schedule and collectively making a plan with your team. Go back to yesterday’s workday: What were the successes? What were some of the missed opportunities that you can work on in the future? Garner feedback on these issues and other topics of the day. When necessary, troubleshoot problems with your team altogether so you’re not hung up on past mistakes during the day. Create a tight-knit group.

During these interactive staff meetings, reiterate your practice’s mission statement. Allow everyone to contribute equally, and rotate the team meeting leaders, allowing each person to run the ship and improve their own leadership skills. Make sure that everyone contributes and no one’s voice is unheard. Over time, you’ll have a clear vision, and your team will truly believe in the culture of the practice. Champion a company of “ours” rather than “mine” or “yours.”

Being Open with Your Staff

How are you as a listener? Your ability to respond to feedback and course-correct when necessary depends on your role as a listener. For your patients and staff members to feel like their opinions matter in decision making, being open to these responses is vital.

Effective communication requires the two-way exchange of information. Interpret what is being said, repeat back your understanding of what was said, consider the implications of what you hear, ask if your take is correct, and dig deeper with more details. As a psychological tool, active listening can be a good way to provide good communication to your patients and staff. Whenever possible, you should get the entire picture before setting off towards potential solutions.

Showing Appreciation

It’s imperative to show appreciation to your staff. Even something as simple as a positive affirmation at the end of the day could mean the world to a member of your staff who, despite a rough day, plowed through and still did a great job. Will you recognize these achievements on an individual or team level? In a public or private manner? You should certainly show your team that they matter, as the need to feel appreciated is one of the most important things to display to coworkers. These small comments can improve the overall morale of the practice, preserving a collaborative team that increases practice production.

 

With just a small investment of your time, you can be better positioned to lead your team to a positive experience on a daily basis. When you make connections with your team members, they know that they can trust you and that you have their best interests at heart. Being an effective leader means using all of the tools at your disposal to engage staff and patients alike in moving the practice towards success, creating a unified team that is proud to work alongside you.

 Watch Now

Suggested Readings

The Truth About Staff Training

Communicating Your Practice

Advice from Dr. Aldridge: Building Your Practice (Part I)

Attitude is Everything

Tags: mentorship, mentoring, teamwork, relationship building, new dentists

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