The right stuff

Oct. 1, 2000
It`s hard not to judge a book by its cover. It`s easy to believe that the best dentistry is only done in shiny offices in cool places like St. Petersburg or Hollywood. Not so! I`ve seen overwhelming evidence of superb clinical quality and financial success in offices that will never be nominated for dental office design of the year. Sometimes, the "right stuff" can come in a plain package.

Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."

"Who`s there?"

"Max"

"Max who?"

"Max no difference if you don`t have the right stuff."

It`s hard not to judge a book by its cover. It`s easy to believe that the best dentistry is only done in shiny offices in cool places like St. Petersburg or Hollywood. Not so! I`ve seen overwhelming evidence of superb clinical quality and financial success in offices that will never be nominated for dental office design of the year. Sometimes, the "right stuff" can come in a plain package.

Here`s one of many examples. Dr. Jacques Doueck, a general dentist practicing in Brooklyn, N.Y., asked me to work with his staff on case acceptance for complete dentistry. The cab dumped me out in front of his office on King`s Highway. Its traffic was an inner-city shoving match. Every-thing made noise. It was hot, it was garbage day, and it wasn`t pretty. Street-level store fronts crowded each other, hundreds of them stretching as far as I could see. There were laundromats with open doors and dryers spinning, old men near newsstands, steaming street-food carts, and store signs painted on windows in Hebrew. Squeezed between a three-aisle pharmacy and a grocery with tomatoes on sale was a dental-office sign on frosted glass - Dr. Jacques Doueck, General and Cosmetic Dentistry. I had this sense that I was in the wrong place.

Jacques, wearing a big grin, met me at the door and offered a brisk handshake. His office is a single, long hallway, with operatories and hygiene rooms off each side.

"Nothing fancy here," I thought. "No thousand-gallon aquariums or sexy, indirect lighting." What did earn my attention, though, was Jacques` snappy attitude and a sense of pride in his step as he gave me the tour. Over a salmon dinner at a neighborhood diner five doors down, Jacques talked about quality care, financial independence, and taking care of the generations of families in his care. I began to see the "right stuff."

For the next two days, I coached Jacques and members of his staff. They spoke in rich Syrian and Russian accents. They treated a patient base with broad cultural diversity and conducted their business in various languages - all in the heart of a neighborhood where most dentists, at first glance, would be afraid to get out of the car.

The coaching was challenging for them and for me. They questioned everything. They argued with me and each other, like a family with one too many attitudes at the dinner table. But embroidered in the process, I would catch glimpses of a wonderful golden thread of love for each other and a joy in their work. It`s this thread that forms the "right stuff" I see in every dental office that shines, regardless of how plain the package is.

Jacques doesn`t confuse the "right stuff" with the "shiny stuff" - i.e., high-tech goodies and million-dollar offices. Yes, he`s got the lasers, cameras, and computers, but what`s launched him to the level of a highly successful dentist, community leader, and mentor is his charm and abundant relationship skills.

I asked Jacques, "What`s the right stuff for being successful for 20 years in a challenging urban, and culturally-diverse practice?"

Jacques said, "I remind myself constantly that it`s a privilege that people entrust us with their health care. It`s not enough that we are successful. You`ve got to pass it on to your community. Success gains momentum when you give back. I believe the bedrock of an excellent practice is a sincere compassion for the needs and situation of the other person. That`s an attitude that translates in any culture, language, or circumstance."

I`d bet it would translate into the culture, language, and circumstances that surround your practice.

Dr. Homoly coaches dental teams to implement reconstructive dentistry through his continuing-education workshops, private consulting, and seminars. This column is an excerpt from his new book, Isn`t It Wonderful When Patients Say Yes? - Case Acceptance for Complete Dentistry. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via e-mail at [email protected]. Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.

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