Case Study: How a Rural Practice Translates to Financial Success & Community Impact

Why can rural or small-town practices be such a great option for dentists who want to own their own practice?

ADA Trustee Dr. Michael Medovic recently shared his story on the Dental Brief Podcast with host Patrick Chavoustie. The two talked about the benefits of purchasing a dental practice in a small town, including the financial and community advantages.

Watch the full episode for his story.

Dr. Medovic spent his career practicing in Wheeling, West Virginia (population 27,000), about halfway between Pittsburgh and Columbus. Over the years, the benefits became clear:

Financial: Lucrative living, fewer hours

A practice in a smaller town often costs far less than a comparable one in an urban area. Real estate is less expensive, and so is overhead. There’s typically less competition, which translates to lower marketing costs.

Combine those factors, and rural practices allow dentists to work fewer hours while making great money. The lower cost of living means that income goes further, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle.

This can be a huge advantage to a dentist early in their career when they’re still paying down student loans. (One doctor recently shared his story of paying off his loans by returning to work in his hometown, while a pair of doctors explained how they both work part-time while maintaining a debt-free lifestyle).

Lifestyle: short commutes, less traffic

While many younger dentists flock to cities for the lifestyle, Dr. Medovic points out that life can be better in a small town. His commute was never more than 15 minutes, and he lives just 50 minutes from Pittsburgh, allowing for easy access to a major airport, sports, concerts, and other entertainment.

“Being in a rural area, you’re still very connected,” he says. “I can probably be back [home] from a Steelers game before people in larger cities can get out of the city, because of the traffic.”

Chavoustie agreed, noting that it takes him more than an hour to get from his suburban Denver home to the airport or other destinations.

Plus, the local schools can be excellent, with public, private, and parochial options that make it a great place to raise a family.

And as Chavoustie noted, some small-town dentists choose to enjoy the best of both worlds, practicing in a small town while living a short drive away. That’s the case with Dr. Sara Stuefen, who loves practicing in Vinton, Iowa while living 40 minutes away in Cedar Rapids.

Other doctors even own two homes, one in each place.

Be a part of the community

One of Dr. Medivic’s favorite parts of small-town practice is being part of a community.

“You walk down the street, and everyone’s going to know you as ‘doctor,’” he says. That title garners respect, which makes it easy to get involved with the local school board or other community groups.

“A small-town practice is really like a family,” he says, “And you’re really part of the community.” He enjoys running into patients on the street or around town.

Finding the right fit

Since he was such a part of the community, Dr. Medovic worked hard to find the right person to replace him when he retired. He wanted to find a buyer who shared a similar philosophy of care so that he could be confident in turning over his practice.

And he did. Today, he says, “I run into my patients and they’ll say, 'Oh, Dr. Mike, we miss you so much… but we love [the new owner].’ And that’s exactly the reaction I want. I want them to understand I’m still looking out for them, that I found a good dentist, that it’s really a match for them.” 

He urges others looking to buy or sell a practice to make they share a philosophy of care with the other doctor or practice. Such similarities can ensure long-term success and satisfaction for doctors, staff, and patients alike. 

See also:

Dr. Kristen Sciolino’s story: How to Buy And Grow a Successful Practice

Want a Lucrative Practice with Great Work-Life Balance? Go Rural!

Finding (and Ensuring) the Right Practice Fit

Student Loans: Cut Your Debt in Half (Or More)

Dr. Sara Stuefen: The Best of Both Worlds: Rural Practice, Urban Lifestyle

Dr. Kala Foster: Living and Thriving in Vacationland