Your greatest legacy!

Imagine that today is your last day in practice. You're sitting by your fireplace watching the flames dance and you're thinking back through the years. Which do your remember more - the teeth or the people? I bet it's the people! And when you really think it through, it's probably staff members, rather than patients, who stand out in your memory.

Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Howard."
"Howard who?"
"Howard you like to leave a legacy?"

Imagine that today is your last day in practice. You're sitting by your fireplace watching the flames dance and you're thinking back through the years. Which do your remember more - the teeth or the people? I bet it's the people! And when you really think it through, it's probably staff members, rather than patients, who stand out in your memory.

There's lots of talk about how dentistry can change patients' lives. But have you thought about how dentistry changes the lives of the people who work for you? I'm convinced that it's staff members, not patients, who experience the greatest transformations that occur in the dental office.

Connie Story is a great example of how dentistry transforms those who help deliver it. Connie worked in a dental office right out of high school, is retiring from dentistry this month, and is moving to the wide-open spaces to build a home and play with her animals. What's special about Connie is that she worked with Dr. Peter Dawson, Dr. Hilt Tatum, and Dr. Mark Davis. Here's what she learned from working with three world-class dentists.

"Working with Dr. Dawson was an incredible experience," says Connie. "When I first was hired, I didn't know he was famous. I started as his chairside assistant when he was practicing by himself. Soon, I began to realize what I was part of. I assisted him in his seminars and eventually worked the front desk. I learned confidence from Dr. Dawson. He gave me recognition and praise, and, consequently, I developed a real sense of confidence. I stopped feeling like a country bumpkin and felt I could walk with the best."

Dr. Hilt Tatum pioneered implant dentistry in this country. Connie worked with Tatum for six years.

"Dr. Tatum had a soft, Southern, accommodating, more unstructured way about him," says Connie. "He would do things for patients that were amazing and wonderful. Dr Tatum taught me that if I wanted to get ahead in life, I needed to take some chances. He gave me courage. One day he told me I was going to speak in front of a large audience at the Alabama Implant Congress. He supported me, pushed me in front of the group, and I did great! I enjoyed it! I was so shy in high school that I spent all four years in my locker. There was no being shy around Dr. Tatum. He helped me come out of my shell."

Dr. Mark Davis is chairman of the American Board of Oral Implan tology and practices advan ced restorative dentistry in Clearwater, Fla. Connie finished her dental career working in Davis' office.

"Dr. Davis taught me to never assume things, especially working with patients. I was pretty naive and he brought me into the real world. He taught me to really think things through before I spoke."

Connie has some valuable advice for you in your relationships with staff. "You always need to remember that you are the leader, like it or not. Your staff watches you and looks to you for advice and leadership. Never underestimate the effect you have on your staff members. You can make or break the morale. Dentistry is tough. You need all the horses pulling in the same direction, and the dentist is always the lead horse."

World-class dentists get that way by developing the people who work with them. What would your staff members say they learned by working with you? Chances are your greatest legacy in dentistry will not be the restorations you place, but in the growth of the people who work with you.


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 phomoly@mindspring.com. Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.

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