The Power of Mentorship
Every year, approximately 5,200 dental students graduate from 66 programs across the country. Some enter residencies, others join family members in their practices, and handful commit to community health programs. Of course, many enter the general dental workforce as part one of the various models available, ready to take on the world. We all remember that feeling on graduation day, basking in the accomplishment of surviving the rigors of dental school, and gaining a doctorate in one of the world’s great professions.
However, the first year out can often be quite humbling. We realize quickly that we don’t have all the answers, and that there is a lot more to practicing dentistry than what we learned in those four fast years. This is not to diminish the efforts of our faculty, but there is only so much you can pack into two years of classes, and two years of supervised practice. Most of us graduate with little knowledge of practice management, investing, budgeting, human resources, taxes, and of course the insurance industry. There is also the incredible amount of advanced clinical skills and knowledge required to practice at a high level, which takes years to acquire and refine.
It is my firm belief that the majority of those in our profession are committed to excellence at their craft, no matter the practice model or specialty. We all feel the unique satisfaction of healing our patients, many of whom choose us to be their doctor for the rest of their life. Dentistry is a truly special field, one in which we still have the ability to develop genuine relationships with our patients and staff, while being able to enjoy evenings and weekends with our friends and families.
That being said, none of us can achieve our goals alone. This takes a lifetime of learning from our teachers and mentors, who pass along their knowledge and skills acquired from a combination of their own experience and information gleaned from their own predecessors. These people may be instructors in residencies & continuums, community leaders, colleagues, or even those non-doctors who have supported the dental industry. We can make some progress on our own, but it is through sharing ideas and staying humble students that we can really thrive as practitioners.
Here at the Capital Area Dental Society, we are working on facilitating these relationships within our new Mentorship Program. We have developed a section within our website devoted to this program, with volunteer mentor profiles and contact information available to all members looking for guidance. Additionally, we will be organizing various events in the coming years to allow for face-to-face interaction among members who are hoping to learn and share knowledge with their colleagues. I encourage all those interested in becoming a part of this new initiative to attend the first Mentorship Mixer of 2017, which will be held on March 23rd at the Flying Saucer. Thank you to all those mentors out there who give back to those who are still finding their way, and for those who are in need of that guidance – please reach out to the Society, we are all in this together!
By Matthew J. Heck, DDS
CADS President, 2016-2017