Thank you to all the members of the 4th District Dental Society for the privilege being President. My sincere appreciation goes to all the family members that support us. It is so nice to be associated with the many people who have helped create wonderful memories of my long association with the dental society.
Today I just want to say one word to all of you, and it is “OPEN.” “Open” is one of the most important words in the practice of dentistry. You will probably say “open” to your patients more than 150,000 times over the course of your career. Can you imagine saying any other word 150,000 times?
But even more important than asking your patients to “open” is the needs to keep your mind “open” as a dentist, because every day of our careers we need to keep our minds OPEN.
Over 25 years ago, when I joined the dental family, dentistry was a very different profession from what it is today. Twenty five years ago can you imagine trying to convince a dentist that he or she would be using CAD-CAM crown and bridge milling; dental lasers; digital imaging; integrated practice management systems, as well as electronic charting and patient records that tie everything together instantly; Also Internet connectivity; a Web site; Twitter; Linked In; Facebook;. But that is exactly what has happened.
And the astonishing thing to realize is that the advancements that we have seen over the past 25 years will pale in comparison to what we will see in the next half a decade.
Because you will play this pivotal role, keeping your mind “open” will be one of the most important qualities that you will bring to the chair side each day. So what does it mean to have an “open” mind? It means being “open” to sharing best practices and applying that knowledge to benefit patients in your practices. With the Internet and social media, the opportunity to collaborate globally now exists, all day, every day, through handheld wireless devices or laptop computers, and we cannot imagine where technology will take us next.
Being a successful dentist requires us to have an open mind about leadership. In our offices the dental team will be looking to you as the CEO of your practice for direction, professional development, motivation, reassurance, and, in many cases, for a continued sense of job security in unstable economic times.
While we cannot predict with certainty what technology advances may occur in the future, we do know that a digital highway links all of the developed world, and much of the developing world. This digital highway extends into the dental profession, linking dental clinics with other dental and health care professionals; linking patient homes; dental labs; insurance providers; dental manufacturers and distributors; dental educators; professional associations; and dental advocacy groups. It will be up to each of us to be “open” to successfully navigate this new highway.
Additionally, with social media, a patient’s experience in your office – whether positive or negative – can and will easily be instantly communicated via Facebook or Twitter to hundreds of their friends – while they are still in your chair! The impact of social media is only going to intensify in the future, and it will be something that every successful dentist must be “open” to mastering.
On a personal note, please “open” your mind to giving back to society in a way that will help expand access to oral health care in underserved communities, both locally and around the world. The opportunities for a dentist to continue giving back are wide-ranging: donate your time at a health center clinic; contribute a portion of your fees for a week to a charity; volunteer to go on a dental mission to Africa, the Caribbean or South America; participate in Give Kids A Smile each year. With Mission of Mercy coming to our own community we will all have an opportunity to help give something back. Without exception, the dentists who have done these things have told me that the experience has enriched them as dental professionals.
Next, “open” your mind to the importance of partnership. You will need to choose long- term partners who can help build your practice: including other dental practitioners; a broader allied dental team; dental manufacturers, dental distributors and others from private sector that will support your practice. Seek and be “open” to finding partners who understand your vision and share your commitment – partners who can add true value to your practice, bring benefits to your patients and build your success.
Finally, always keep an “open” mind about finding the right balance between your life as a dentist and your life outside of the clinic. This is a balance between professional lives, family and “the other things in life,” Finding this balance reminds us why we are working so hard in the first place, and it enables us to enjoy our careers longer.
Douglas A. Sandmann, DDS