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Executive Management Program a hit with dentists seeking business expertise

As he worked toward completion of the ADA/Kellogg Executive Management Program for Dentists last year, Dr. Robert B. Ettleman of Tampa, Fla., was in the process of launching a career as a nonprofit executive.

Dr. John Blake was five years into his post as dental director of Children's Dental Health Clinic at Miller Children's Hospital, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, California, and recently assumed additional responsibilities as the clinic's executive director.

Dr. Vipul Singhal, dental director at St. Bernard's Hospital in Chicago, was seeking to expand his management and leadership skills as he worked to establish a new community dental clinic. 

Drs. Ettleman, Blake and Singhal are three of 12 dentists who in 2007 received certificates from the Kellogg School of Management for successful completion of the ADA Executive Management Program for Dentists.

Dentists in the program—also known as ADAKEMP—come from varied backgrounds with diverse personal and professional goals, but with a common interest in expanding their business and management expertise. Those completing the program have come from private practice, specialty groups, hospital and health organizations, the insurance industry, organized dentistry, nonprofit organizations, dental education, research and numerous business interests outside of dentistry.

The ADA/Kellogg Executive Management Program for Dentists is back for a fourth year.

Having left dental practice four years ago after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Dr. Ettleman registered for the Executive Management Program to acquire knowledge that would help him launch a nonprofit system to provide dental care to adults with no dental safety net in the Tampa area.

Almost 250,000 people in Pinellas County, Fla., are considered to be low income. Dr. Ettleman's organization, Gulf Coast Dental Outreach Inc., utilizes volunteer dentists who treat patients referred by area public assistance programs.

"The inspiration for this project came from discussions I had with class members of the Executive Management Program. The confidence to go for it came from the class," said Dr. Ettleman. He began working toward his goal after the first Kellogg session by securing funds, developing a schedule and determining locations where treatment could be delivered. Next he hired a hygienist and a dental assistant, solicited additional workforce from Central Florida Institute, which trains dental assistants, and worked with the Florida dental board to authorize Gulf Coast to award continuing education credit to volunteers.

"The Kellogg course content gave me the confidence to pull the project off," said Dr. Ettleman. "Another part of it is the networking that took place among my classmates. We were a very diverse group, and I feel that experience gave me the skills to be a better manager and leader. We will see how good a negotiator I am when I go after grants and other donations."

As dental director and executive director of the Children's Dental Health Clinic, Dr. John Blake manages 50 employees in a 15-operatory hospital-based dental clinic. "We treat children of low-income families and children and young adults with special needs, and provide clinical training to three University of Southern California pediatric dental residents," said Dr. Blake. The clinic also maintains two satellite programs and offers community care through a mobile clinic.

"My primary goal in signing up for ADAKEMP was to enhance my nonprofit management skills, but I knew the courses and principles would help at the association level or even if I wanted to start a business outside of dentistry," said Dr. Blake, who recognized there were other management programs available closer to home.

"I chose ADAKEMP after a thorough search of appropriate programs. Kellogg's curriculum was more in line with the type of additional business training that I was looking for," he said. "I look at production, accounting reports and statistics almost every day, and wanted an enhanced foundation on which to interpret the data and make critical decisions.

"The Executive Management Program was intense but enjoyable," Dr. Blake continued. "The professors and staff exceeded my expectations. To date, I continue to digest and apply the many concepts gained from the course. The Kellogg School of Management has long attracted our nation's top business educators. They were able to start with very basic management and accounting principles and patiently guide us to an MBA-level of understanding."

As director of dental services at St. Bernard Hospital in Chicago, Dr. Vipul Singhal was involved with both patient treatment, administration and the establishment of a new community dental clinic.

 "Initially, my role was to bring the clinic up to speed and make it operational as a state-of-the-art facility, working with vendors and suppliers to create a functioning facility," said Dr. Singhal. "Today, we have increased our staff to include a second dentist plus support staff, allowing me to focus on enhancing the clinic through planning, establishing community relationships and seeking out ways to better meet the needs of an underserved community through marketing and policymaking."

Dr. Singhal enrolled in the Executive Management Program to "acquire knowledge from the business world and translate it into a valuable asset for dental public health," he said.

"I believe that the execution of dental public health programs needs a solid business strategy to make it successful," Dr. Singhal said. "My goal is to make our clinic a leader in providing quality and comprehensive care to underserved populations."

Dr. Singhal recently returned from India, where he was invited by his former dental school dean to deliver a presentation on ethics, dental practice and the ADA/Kellogg Executive Management Program for Dentists.

Today, Dr. Ettleman is one of three co-founders and the executive director of Gulf Coast Dental Outreach Inc. The organization has started out by providing basic dental care but has plans to involve specialists to provide additional care.

"Since I can't practice dentistry, I now do it vicariously through the hands of over 20 volunteer dentists who participate in Gulf Coast Dental Outreach," said Dr. Ettleman. "We opened with a full schedule on Nov. 16, 2007. I think I have been busier in my retirement than when I practiced as a dentist."