Last August, my business partner and I welcomed our first associate into our practice. There’s an old saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I frequently heard that expression many years ago when I was an associate myself. When I didn’t follow a system correctly or if there was an issue with a patient, the senior dentists in the practice would politely remind me that I shouldn’t be too upset with myself...I didn’t know what I didn’t know. After several months of employing a young dentist, I now realize that sentiment equally applies to the employer dentist as well. I often don’t know what I need to teach.
In this issue, I’ve invited such luminaries as William Prescott and Allen Schiff to help us understand our options for associate employment and compensation. We are always able to avail ourselves of the legal and financial expertise of attorneys, accountants, financial planners, and other professionals who serve dentistry. But there is one element of associate onboarding that remains elusive for many of us: mentorship.
I’ve had the honor of having many outstanding mentors in my career, and I’ve met many of them through organized dentistry. My local component, the Suffolk County Dental Society, is an unusually rich breeding ground for talent. The New York State Dental Association is overflowing with sharp minds and inspirational leaders. And at the national level, I have met the cream of the crop at the American Dental Association headquarters building and at conferences around the country. So, I’ve had ample opportunity to observe superb mentors and reflect on what has made them great.
There is one mentor in particular I’d like to tell you about. All three levels of ADA tripartite leadership felt their hearts break late last year when we learned of the passing of Mark Bauman, DDS. Mark would easily make the Mount Rushmore of mentors for many of us who knew him. He was always generous with his time and would offer the advice you needed to hear. He was the kind of gentleman who would go out of his way to make the new face in the room feel welcome. I’m sure many of us would help a young dentist when asked, but Mark taught me that a great mentor anticipates the needs of the mentee. He did know what we didn’t know.
The associate working in my practice is full of positive energy and enthusiasm. I’m working on becoming a better mentor for her. The most inspiring leaders I’ve met, like Mark Bauman, showed me that I should try to put myself in her mindset. I should routinely check in with her rather than wait for her to come to me with her challenges. Mentorship is proactive, not reactive.
In loving memory of our mentors...
Chris Salierno, DDS