White Coats Are a Special Symbol of Knowledge and Leadership

Recently, FDA Vice President Dr. Dave Boden spoke to students at the University of Florida College of Dentistry White Coat Ceremony. We post his remarks here as a gracious reminder to all to continue to grow professionally and apply all you’ve learned as you care for your patients, and to strive for excellence every day. Thank you, Dr. Boden!

Good morning everyone! I want to thank all of you for inviting me to help your faculty confer upon each of you a doctor’s white coat. This is a particularly happy occasion for all of us in this room. The energy and enthusiasm of all of you is palpable. This is why we all love teaching pre-doctoral undergraduate dental students.

However, I must caution you. Your acquisition of this white coat is not free. You must earn it: Every. Single. Day. It is a special symbol of knowledge and leadership.

The man who first popularized the White Coat Ceremony some 25 years ago, Dr. Arnold Gold of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, did so because he felt “A physician’s responsibility is to not only to take care of patients, but also to care for patients.” Presenting the white coat was a way to impress upon medical, and now dental students, the importance of applying all their learned knowledge to establish and promote the health and well-being of the patients they will see for the rest of their careers as doctors. For those of us who are faculty and practitioners, it is our symbolic, solemn, yet joyful way of initiating your pathway through corridors of learning containing the knowledge of thousands of years and countless doctors before us.

Just what knowledge do you need to become a doctor? Anatomy? Physiology? Pathology? Pharmacology? Certainly. Anything else? Actually, that is a trick question. The answer is EVERYTHING. For a thousand years, doctors have been honored by their patients as the keepers of special knowledge. Your charge, starting today, is to absorb it all. I can assure you that in modern dentistry, you will use every bit of it sometime in your career, even the material that today makes your eyes roll. Physics, engineering, math, finance, psychology. But also, philosophy, language, literature, art, music, religion. In fact, everything you have experienced since kindergarten: from your classmates and friends, your church, and most importantly, from your greatest teachers— your parents and family. Yes, that is a lot to ask. But everyone you treat depends on your knowledge, and your ability to use it … honorably.

Honor. A concept that seems to have faded a bit recently. But oh-so-necessary if you are to be called doctor. This is symbolized by this pure white coat. For not only are you seen as a repository of vast knowledge, you are also rightly perceived as a trustworthy and responsible leader. You must be in order to gain a patient’s trust to accept your often-invasive care. Honor, trust and responsibility are concepts we really cannot teach you. In fact, these qualities were continuously bestowed upon you by everyone you have interacted with since you were 6 years old. However, we can, as your mentors setting good examples, show you how not to lose them. We always worry about that, because it is all too easy to succumb to temptation. Your patients and colleagues will be perceptive and harsh judges. Once honor and trust are lost by irresponsible action, you will not regain them.

But let us be positive. You are already leaders. You have already demonstrated that by gaining acceptance to this incredible institution. Some of you already have started a family. The concept of leadership and responsibility will penetrate deeply the first time your young son or daughter ask you, “How do I do this, Daddy/Mommy?” You will discover that while leadership can be daunting, it is also very rewarding, because it allows you to have a positive impact. Whether that is with your family, your staff, your community, or your profession. The good news is that it isn’t really that hard. Just remember these basics:

  • Maintain the honor of your profession. All the rest of us are linked to everything you do. Be responsible to your patients and the public. Always.
  • Lead your family and your office team. They look up to you, depend on you, and will support you endlessly.
  • And finally, respect and honor your college. In a great institution like the University of Florida, you will have the opportunity to gain and embrace the knowledge that will make you an outstanding doctor IF you reach for it. I can assure you; you will NOT be spoon-fed in this school. Now go out there and get it and accept nothing less from your professors and yourselves.

From the Florida and American Dental Associations, congratulations on your beginning!

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A Guide to Finding Your First Job After Dental School

By Ashley Halsey

So, you graduated from dental school and you need to figure out your next step to get a job. First of all, congratulations! Now, you need to follow these steps to help you get your first dental job.

1. Make a Plan

Think about where you want to be in five, 10 years. Do you want your career to go toward being a partner or owner of a practice? Are you interested in simply getting more experience, or paying back your student loans? Think about where you want to go, and it will help you discover how to get there.

Once you know that, you can start thinking about location, but you shouldn’t be focused on that at the start of your career. The best dental jobs usually are not in the heart of the city, where you’ll find there is more competition for patients. If you must live and work in a saturated or difficult market for whatever reason, consider the income offered in different parts of town. You’ll also want to manage your expectations regarding your income.

2. Develop a CV and Cover Letter

The reality is that most applicants don’t get to the interview stage. Because of that, it’s important that your CV and your cover letter set you apart from the crowd and showcase why you should be selected. This can be difficult when you don’t have any experience, but that’s where you must highlight your strengths.

A suggestion from Nancy Keenan, a dental writer at Writinity and Last Minute Writing, is to “include any electives or awards that you might have won, or if you graduated at the top of your class or in the top percentage. Add any volunteer experience that’s relevant and highlight what you learned from each.”

3. Find Opportunities

Networking is the best way to find open dental positions, but it can be difficult to meet with all the dentists and go to every meeting. Do some research online for local dental schools and associations because they might post job openings. A few online databases have dental job listings posted so that’s also a good place to start.

4. Dress to Impress for Interviews

If you’re not sure what to wear for the interview, go for overdressed instead of underdressed. You want the interview panel to know that you’re serious about your career. Think about if your interview outfit makes you look like a dental professional. It’s important at this stage to make a good first impression and establish your credibility.

5. Manage Phone Interviews

You’ll want to respond to all your emails and phone calls right away to show your interest and motivation. Even if you might not be interested in the opportunity, it’s respectful and you don’t know if down the road you may want a position at that practice. On a telephone interview, try to line up an interview in person. Rhonda Gorman, a medical journalist at Draft Beyond and Research Papers UK says that you should “tell them how interested you are and that you’d like to meet with them and see the practice. There’s no harm in taking the initiative to set that up. Don’t forget to smile, even on the phone, because you can tell when someone on the phone is smiling.”

6. Prepare for Your Interview

When you’re going in for an interview, prepare in advance. Smile and be enthusiastic, because a lot of it comes down to personality, too. Show genuine interest in the hiring dentist’s practice and their needs for a new dentist, because it’s important to know why they’re hiring a new dentist. In the clinic, treat all the staff with respect and friendliness. After your interview, follow up with a thank you email.

7. Review the Contract

Before you accept a position, you’ll want to review the contract with a legal representative, including compensation considerations and requirements. Does it include all the information that you need to decide if the job is right for you? If you’re not satisfied with the offer, don’t be afraid to request more and negotiate something better.

It can be daunting to look for a job, but by following these steps it should be more manageable. Good luck!

Ashley Halsey is a professional writer at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays, and writes about career development and networking. She enjoys helping people connect with their dream careers and improve their professional skills. In her free time, she travels and attends many business seminars.

Your IQ Got You into Dental School, Doctor — But What is Your EQ?

By Dr. Rick Huot

The intelligence quotient (IQ) test was developed to measure individual intelligence more than one hundred years ago, and has been recognized as a good predictor of future academic success, while serving as a screening guide for teachers to allocate resources to students that exhibit less than average scores. Most dentists at an early age probably scored in the 130- to 160-point range — putting them in the “gifted” range — and given the rigors of a dental school education, this proved to be a valuable aid among others in predicting academic success.

There has been a lot of recent interest in the workplace to explore what individuals have for an emotional quotient (EQ), as emotional intelligence plays a critical role in higher productivity, job performance and overall satisfaction with an individual’s job description.

According to management experts, workers who display high emotional intelligence are more confident and capable in their work environment, and earn a large amount of respect from their colleagues at work. Further research reveals that in times of crisis in the management world, individuals with high EQs tend to stay calm, are flexible in the outcome and have the ability to stay focused on the problems causing the crisis.

Dentistry has become a “team sport” and requires more attention to detail and focus than ever before. As the leader of the dental team, it behooves dentists to learn how to develop a greater emotional intelligence to solve managerial problems found every day in any type of practice setting you may be in.

Due to the demand for courses on EQ, there are many companies who specialize in the development of work teams trained in the practice of increasing emotional intelligence. As teamwork and collaboration is highly emphasized in today’s managerial toolbox, a course taken by your entire dental staff would probably be extremely beneficial, and instructional in nature.

If you have been looking for a course for your dental team to teach your members to be more effective communicators, become more productive and work together more effectively, an emotional intelligence course may be just the thing you are looking for to revitalize your practice!

Dr. Huot is a general dentist in Vero Beach, where he also has a dental practice management consulting business. He is on the FDA Board of Trustees and can be reached at rhuot@bot.floridadental.org. 

5 Ways to Conquer Your Dental School Debt

By Elyssa Kirkham, Student Loan Hero Contributor

Graduating from dental school without six-figure debts is hard, not to mention pretty uncommon. Only about one in five dental students manages to graduate with under $100,000 in student loans. And the typical dental school graduate’s debt is around $237,500, according to the American Dental Education Association.

To make matters worse, the federal student loans that can be used to finance dental school are 1.55-2.55 percentage points higher than undergrad loans. To put this in perspective, if a dentist has the typical $237,500 in GRAD Plus loans with interest rates averaging 6.31 percent, $1,249 of monthly payments will go straight to interest.

With higher student loan rates and even higher balances, being proactive with dental school debt can have big payoffs. Dentists who get rid of student debt faster will save thousands of dollars. Plus, they’ll more quickly achieve financial security and build real wealth.

Sound good? Here are five things Florida dentists can do to knock out their dental school debt.

1. Pay More Than the Minimum

Pay ahead of the 10-year Standard Repayment schedule whenever possible. Doing so will shave months or even years off of your repayment period and save thousands of dollars in interest.

Take the average $237,500 in dental school debt, for example. Assuming the borrower has GRAD Plus loans, that debt will cost a total of $82,610 in interest. Put an extra $500 a month toward these loans, however, and you’d save more than $18,000 in interest. You’d also pay off the loan in eight years instead of 10.

You can play around with a student loan prepayment calculator to see how much extra payments could save in interest and time.

Chances are that your dental school debt is made up of several loans with varying interest rates. If you decide to make extra payments, strategically apply them toward the highest-interest loan for the biggest cost savings.

2. Keep Your Lifestyle in Check

As you earn more, you can afford to pay more toward student debt. The tricky part is making sure your lifestyle doesn’t inflate with your income.

After living cheap through an undergraduate degree, dental school and even residency, the typical Florida dentist’s pay is an impressive $156,000-$172,000 per year (according to the BLS). That probably feels like a fortune – it’s tempting to upgrade spending to match a higher income.

But maintaining a frugal lifestyle will enable you to put more money toward prepaying student loans. Instead of spending a pay raise on more “wants,” keep spending at the same level and apply raises to making extra monthly payments toward dental school loans.

That’s how one orthodontist, Dr. Blake Hillstead, repaid $380,000 in dental school debt in just under two years. He weighed his student debt repayment options and was tempted to upgrade is lifestyle.

Instead, he “decided that we’d save a lot of money and stress if we could just pay my student loans off quickly, even if it meant making some short-term lifestyle sacrifices,” Hillstead told Student Loan Hero.

3. Put Bonuses Toward Student Loans

In addition to your regular income, you can also use “extra” money earned outside of regular paychecks to take chunks out of your student loan balance.

If you’re a new graduate or looking to switch practices, for example, ask for a signing bonus (these can range from $10,000-$50,000) or other work benefits that help with student debt. Signing bonuses, annual bonuses or even a nice tax refund can be used to painlessly pay extra money toward student loans without squeezing your monthly budget.

Dental health professionals also can work a side hustle to generate more income to throw at student loans. Hillstead, for instance, worked as an associate orthodontist at other practices in addition to seeing patients at his own private practice.

4. Consider Refinancing Dental School Loans

When you refinance student loans, you take out a new private loan to pay off your existing loan(s). The goal is to consolidate college debt and achieve a lower interest rate and/or a more favorable repayment term.

Dentists are great candidates for lowering the costs of their student loans through refinancing. They are more likely to have higher rates, so they are more likely to save significantly on interest. Plus, their higher incomes also will help them get approved for refinancing and qualify for the best interest rates.

Remember the 6.13 percent interest rate on GRAD Plus loans? Many dental graduates face rates as high as that, or higher. However, some of the best private lenders can refinance student loans with new rates as low as 1.97 percent APR.

In real dollars, that would lower monthly payments by nearly $500 a month and save around $57,000 over the life of a typical $237,500 balance.

5. Look into Student Loan Forgiveness for Dentists

Last but not least, dental professionals can look into programs that offer student loan forgiveness for dentists. Because the costs of dental school are so high, many public and nonprofit organizations offer loan forgiveness or repayment assistance to ease the burden of dentists’ student debt.

Dentists who serve in the Army Corps, for instance, can get up to $120,000 toward repaying dental school loans. Or you might take a position in an area with a high need for dental professionals and qualify for state-level loan repayment assistance programs.

When weighing this option, make sure to find out what kind of commitment you’ll be expected to make for the student loan forgiveness or assistance. You might have to relocate or take a lower-paying position to qualify for these programs. Weigh the loan repayment or forgiveness benefits against other scenarios, such as taking a higher-paid position and repaying loans out-of-pocket.

Compare your options to ensure you’re choosing the most effective path to conquer your student loans. And then follow through and execute your strategy. A student-debt-free life takes some work and sacrifice, but it’s well worth it.