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New Dentist Conference prepares practitioners for success

July 29, 2014

By Kimber Solana

Photo of group at NDC
Q&A: Attendees stepped up to the microphone to ask ADA President Charles Norman and Executive Director Kathleen O'Loughlin during the Leadership General Session at the 2014 New Dentist Conference held July 17-19 in Kansas City, Missouri. Topics raised during the session included diversity in dentistry, how the ADA utilizes social media to communicate and concerns over student loans.
Kansas City, Mo. — Dr. Jennifer Sarsland practices in Bowman, North Dakota, where she is one of three ADA member dentists in a town of about 1,600 people.

She is three years out of dental school while her two other colleagues are older and more experienced.

So when Dr. Sarsland attended her first New Dentist Conference this year, she found it not only helpful and educational, but also plain fun.

Photo of Dr. Riordan
Dr. Danielle Riordan
"As new dentists, we have different needs and interests with those who have been practicing for 20 years or more," she said. "Because I live in a really small town, it was good for me to come and to meet other people just starting out and see what they are doing in their practices."

Dr. Sarsland was among the more than 375 registrants of the ADA 28th New Dentist Conference, held July 17-19 in Kansas City, where attendees were encouraged to take on leadership roles, introduced to new dentist resources, network with colleagues, attend continuing education courses and exchange ideas and stories — all with the goal of helping new dentists succeed in their professional and personal lives.

"Success is not an accident. People don't accidentally become successful," said keynote speaker and best-selling author Weldon Long.

Mr. Long, who shared his story on how he went from being a former convict and being homeless to a successful business owner and author, told the new dentists that success comes through simplifying your life, focusing on what you have to do and executing in a consistent basis.

Mr. Long encouraged the dentists to simplify their lives by focusing on three key life goals: financial stability, fostering relationships and maintaining good mental and physical health.

Photo of Dr. Frederickson
Dr. Waynerd Frederickson
"What else is there?" he said. "Instead of having all these various things, simplify it to a few simple goals. We don't want you to get overwhelmed."

During the three-day conference, new dentists were able to attend sessions, courses and networking opportunities that may help them reach those key goals and address issues faced by practitioners less than 10 years out of dental school.

For Dr. Joe Moon, of Kansas City, Missouri, the biggest takeaway from the conference came from the lectures that discussed how to balance one's life with dentistry.

"Early on as a new dentists, there's a lot of stress related to work," said Dr. Moon, a 2007 graduate. "I found the advice on how to handle that stress and balancing the business and personal aspect of dentistry most beneficial. I learned that there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Dr. Moon singled out two sessions he attended as most helpful — dental practice coach and author Kirk Behrendt's "Being All That We Can Be: Changing Perspective to Change Reality," which helped attendees identify and correct specific areas of the practice that suppress production and limit new patient growth, and how to inspire the dental team to stay fully engaged with patients; and "Peak or Valley? Where is Your Production Headed? How Better Business Systems Will Increase Production and Profit," a continuing education course by Dr. Roger Levin that taught dentists about systems that increase production and profit, drive growth and reduce stress.

Photo of Dr. Sato
Dr. Wesley Sato
These sessions were among the continuing education opportunities at the conference, which included hands-on endodontic and implant courses at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry.

"This conference is great for new dentists because it provides a lot of resources and good information on running a business and handling student loans that you don't get when you're in dental school," Dr. Moon said.

When it comes to financial stability, student debt was a common concern for many of the new dentists.

Dr. Edgar Radjabli, of Baltimore asked Dr. Charles Norman, ADA president, and Dr. Kathleen O'Loughlin, ADA executive director, how the ADA is addressing the issue of student debt during the Leadership General Session.

Dr. O'Loughlin pointed new dentists to ADA resources, such as the Center for Professional Success, which includes a financial calculator to help new dentists figure out loan payments and other expenditures.
 
Meanwhile, Dr. Norman said that although the ADA has no direct control on student tuition and loans, he encouraged the new dentists take on leadership roles in organized dentistry so that their voices can be heard when the ADA, which is working with the American Dental Education Association, advocates to Congress to keep student interest rates low and push for reform regarding student debt.

"Our great leaders are getting older and going into retirement, and as new dentists, if we don't take charge of the future of our profession, someone else will and we may not like what we see," said Dr. Robin Nguyen, of Trinity, Florida.

The first day of the conference focused on leadership development, such as mentorship, volunteerism and leadership roles in organized dentistry. The new dentists also engaged members of the ADA New Dentist Committee, the ADA Board of Trustees and leaders from state and local dental societies in small group discussions.

"Fostering leaders is a big part of what the New Dentist Committee does. We always believe that the voice of the new dentist is extremely important as new dentists make up roughly one-quarter of practicing dentists in the country," said Dr. Brian Schwab, ADA New Dentist Committee chair.

Furthermore, new dentists shared and exchanged ideas on how to reach out to other young dentists and encouraging them to joining organized dentistry.

Ideas ranged from hosting events targeting women with young children, weekends dedicated to continuing education and networking, ambassador-type programs to more rural areas and other recruitment and retention events.

In Hawaii, Dr. Scott Morita, the Hawaii Dental Association's New Dentist Committee co-chair, shared how they hosted a social event involving test-driving exotic cars where dentists can interact and network.

"We do not have a dental school in Hawaii, so it's hard for us to recruit dental students or new dentists," Dr. Morita said. "It's what we're trying to do to network in Hawaii with our young and new dentists and get them involved with the Hawaii Dental Association."

Likewise, the New Dentist Conference also provided ample opportunities for attendees to network and interact with their colleagues.

"What makes the conference unique is that you are with your peers, you are going through the same experiences and struggles," said Dr. Moon. "The conference gives a certain type of comfort as oppose to going to a lecture at another conference where you have no idea what they're talking about."

Networking opportunities included an opening reception, the New Dentist Committee Awards luncheon and a social event at Kansas City's Power & Light District, among others.

"We're all just getting started with our businesses, with families," said Dr. Sarsland. "When you're just with people who are so like yourself, you just can't not have fun."