How young key opinion leaders around the world are transforming dentistry
NextGen Leadership Showcase
To introduce you to the next generation of dental key opinion leaders (KOLs), DE is launching a special article series. Over the next several months, we will introduce you to emerging KOLs and the innovations they are fostering. You’ll also have a chance to listen to their stories in video interviews.
After a canceled flight, two delays, and three additional layovers, I completed a journey in 28 hours that normally takes 10. Exhaustion fell heavy on my eyelids as I tried to decipher the difference between day and night. But the first peek from the flight’s frosted window of those beautiful rolling green hills dotted with iconic chapels and farms and meadows gave me a second wind. I was intrigued. The countryside then transformed into a precisely engineered city, which itself was speckled with green. Sharp lines and intricate roadways, all softened with trees, blended into parks. An oasis was never far away. The Elbe River cut its path through the landscape, a ribbon of serenity in glistening blue.
This past week has been my first experience in Germany. I visited Hamburg, home of the DMG headquarters. It was the company’s first international gathering of emerging key opinion leaders (KOLs) from around the globe. DMG has assembled some of the most brilliant young dental minds to share ideas, learn from one another, and experience an esthetics course from Dr. Galip Gurel, an internationally renowned educator. DMG founded its American KOL group at the 2018 Chicago Midwinter Meeting, and it has expanded the group across the Atlantic to create a global community for the next generation of dentists.
International gathering of young dentists
I was both honored and slightly intimidated to be at the table. A tinge of impostor syndrome combined with jet lag had my heart pounding as I walked into the room, a half day late thanks to flight delays. The group dissolved my nervousness in minutes. The welcome from the smiling, conversational group put me at ease. China, Croatia, Italy, Romania, Russia, the UK, and Vietnam were just some of the countries represented there. The group was engaging, fun, welcoming, and inclusive: all things that good, diverse groups should be. The diversity was invigorating as we discussed different dental methods and our different lifestyles. The one thing that united us—no matter our mode of practice or our home—was a passion for dentistry.
As we learned from Dr. Gurel how esthetics and technology could merge to create beautiful smiles, we quickly realized that we had more in common than not. Dentistry was the international club of which we all were members, and that feeling of being united across oceans and borders with familiar strangers was exhilarating. We formed instant bonds. There was a sense of family. It fueled our education and our hunger to create and to innovate together. And it got me asking, what exactly will it take for these KOLs and our new generation of dentists to create the dentistry of the future? Our experience levels, our dentistry, and our countries may have been different, but we were each doing something similar to help push our profession forward.
The English language seemed to fall short of being able to describe this unity. But luckily, as we discussed how a group of people could transform the dental profession, I sat in a room that represented more than 20 different languages. As we shared freely, our communication fell in and out of English. We borrowed words from others like old friends lending hands. Three of the words I learned during that week help me describe my experience more accurately and also provided me insight as to the fabric of what makes a KOL.
Dentists from across the world came to discuss ideas—and forge friendships.
Paulo Nunes, an economist in Lisbon, describes kaizen as “a philosophy of quality management and the continuous improvement of the productive processes by the permanent introduction of small improvements.”1
It is not enough to simply master what already exists. As a new generation in a profession, we must drive change forward. We must create new technology and techniques that create a new kind of practice. If we are doing dentistry the same way in 30 years, we will have failed our profession and possibly even made ourselves obsolete. But instead of waiting for others to create this change, we need to drive this change forward ourselves.
The problems we see within our own practices tell one part of the story of what we must improve. When those stories unite, a truly comprehensive plan for how dentistry must move forward to meet the needs of patients worldwide will be created. Dentistry may seem ideal and innovative now, but the Japanese word kaizen, or constant improvement, tells us that even the seemingly perfect can be perfected further. We owe it to dentistry to do just that.
Learning at the DMG headquarters in Hamburg, Germany
Another word with no English equivalent is fargin, which means to wholeheartedly appreciate the success of others.
I sat in awe at the dinner table on my second day in Hamburg. As we talked over amazing glasses of wine and a dinner that I will long remember, the conversation drifted to work cases. Many of the young KOLs present had an incredible love and passion for dental photography—and a talent to match. The doctors pulled out their phones and shared cases, giving each other feedback and encouragement.
Growth of the profession cannot happen in singular. Dentistry can be a lonely profession, but if we design a profession for our young dentists that is more collaborative, the change for our patients and our work will be that much greater. To see a group of dentists—strangers until a mere day ago—celebrate the successes and encourage the growth of one another so unequivocally showed me how true enthusiasm and collaboration could change our world.
Literally translated as “before joy,” vorfreude means joyful and intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures. I actually learned it right before leaving for the trip, and it was fitting. I felt immense vorfreude for this trip before experiencing it. And now, having had the opportunity to attend this amazing event at the DMG headquarters, I have the same anticipation and joy for the things that will come forth out of this meeting of the minds.
I have the same vorfreude for where dentistry is headed. With the support of companies like DMG that invest in and support young innovators, with the passion and innovation that flow from all corners of the US and the world, dentistry is headed toward amazing places. And seeing dentistry with this joy and this gratitude is a huge part of what will shape our future. As they say, “What you focus upon grows.” And by focusing on the sheer potential of our next generations to impact dentistry, the world is truly our oyster.
1. Nunes P. Kaisen. knoow.net website. http://knoow.net/en/economics-business/management/kaisen-concept/. Accessed December 10, 2018.
Amisha Singh, DDS, serves on the Colorado Dental Association house of delegates, on the American Dental Association dental wellbeing advisory committee, and on the Metro Denver Dental Society and CDA membership councils. She is the CDA new dentist committee chair-elect for Colorado. She is also a blogger and professional speaker who works with IgniteDDS to inspire other dental professionals and provide them with resources to be the best clinicians possible. Dr. Singh practices in Parker, Colorado, at Smile Always Dental.