Paul Homoly, DDS
"Disguise the limit when you love what you do."
I`ve always wanted to be a rhythm and blues guitar player, doing the big shows, playing on a 90-foot-long stage standing 10-feet high, with power cords everywhere as thick as your arm. I envisioned myself attacking my audiences with incendiary blues riffs, with a groove so deep it would take a week to catch your breath. My leads would ignite a frenzy, like a hurricane blowing over a gasoline fire. Women - lots of them - would scream as I walked toward the mike, knowing that my sad love songs about broken hearts were just for them. At every show, I would make history.
But instead of becoming a blues guitarist, I became a dentist. Why? Because I don`t have any real talent as a guitar player. Oh, I can keep up with some high-school garage bands, but on the big show of music, I`d be sweeping the stage. I left music because it wasn`t right for me. So I put down the guitar and picked up a handpiece.The magic never happened on stage; it happened in the operatory.
Some dentists never make magic in an operatory, others are bored or unchallenged by dentistry, and still others have found greater interests. The premise of Dental Economics is to support and advance the economic success of its readers. Well, if you`re not happy with dentistry anymore, it might be that the best economic and mental-health opportunity for you is not in private practice. It might be time for a new gig!
The practice of dentistry trains us in many areas that provide us with "golden" skills in the world outside dentistry. Your experience in building relationships under difficult circumstances, your attention to details, and your cognitive competencies cross over into many other occupations.
Dr. Houck Medford, a third-generation general dentist from Winston- Salem, N.C., is an excellent example of someone who`s using the skills from dentistry in a new occupation. Houck successfully practiced dentistry for 20 years. In 1993, he began to feel unchallenged by his practice.
"I need a challenge to stay passionate about what I do," Dr. Medford explained. "For me, dentistry has only so many challenges. A broken cusp, a perio pocket, and a loose denture after 20 years all begin to look the same. Same problems, same solutions. I needed a change."
The doctor sold his practice and became the founding executive director of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. He and his wife love the outdoors, so the jump to running the Blue Ridge Parkway put them in an environment they loved and provided the next "mountain-top challenge."
"Dentistry taught me a lot that helps me every day in my new adventure," he says. "To be successful raising money means I have to be successful cultivating relationships. To be successful cultivating relationships, I have to precisely identify my clients` needs and figure out a way to meet those needs in the context of their personal philanthropy with our nation`s most visited national park. Does that sound familiar?"
I asked Dr. Medford what advice he`d give to a dentist who is thinking about a career change.
"Well, first, make sure you have enough financial resources to make the jump. Next, be sure you have the support of your family. I`d been incubating the thought of making a switch. Having the support of my wife and retired-dentist-father gave me a kind of permission to move ahead. And maybe the most important thing is to have a great mentor to coach you in the transition. Some of the best moves I have made in my career came from a mentor`s advice."
If the magic in your career is gone - or never was there - chances are you would be better off putting yourself in a position where your talent has a future. Practicing dentistry is punishing if you don`t love it or are unchallenged by it.
One of my favorite rock groups, Three Dog Night, sings, "... dreamin` isn`t good for you unless you do the things they tell you to." It might be time for a new gig.
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@example.com. Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.