As a regular reader of Dental Economics and Woody Oakes` newsletter, it is somewhat irritating to read his Viewpoint in the November 1997 issue. Woody repeatedly shoots from the hip in first building up a straw man and then knocking him down with a barrage of personal opinion.
First, he defines "success" as enjoying dentistry and making a lot of money. The last time I looked, the average dentist`s income was well over $100,000 and climbing faster than the rate of inflation. Clearly, this is inadequate. But as Woody would surely agree, prudent spending and saving and long-term planning is more important than simply making more money. Are dentists who earn $300,000 a year happier than those who earn less? I`ve never seen evidence that this is true. As Woody points out, they may even be further in debt.
While dentistry is a demanding, often difficult profession, I don`t see dentists leaving in droves. Applications to dental schools are up. Would Woody give us some statistics that show that dentists enjoy their profession less than physicians, optometrists, pharmacists or other professionals?
In short, has Woody provided any data that would suggest that dentists are not successful? I could just as well write an article about why dentists are successful. My dentist friends seem happy. The dentists I meet at meetings are enjoying life. However, I would be loath to submit my article to a major magazine based on anecdotal evidence. Is Woody really sure that dentists are not successful or does he just hang out with "down" dentists?
Next, we are treated to Woody`s prescription for success. Don`t be part Howard Farran, Bill Dickerson or Pete Dawson, Woody argues. Be yourself, but find a mentor to guide you. Woody did. He closes by stating that if you don`t follow his advice, you`ll never succeed.
I`m happy that this worked for Woody. But there are many roads to success. Thousands of dentists seem able to integrate lessons they have learned from Farran, Dickerson, Dawson and others and still be themselves. I`ll bet many of them are successful. And I`ll bet many of them don`t have mentors.
Henry Pinkney, DDS