The title refers to my father and I, so as long as he doesn’t read my blog, I’m golden!
I wanted to spend a few minutes of your time discussing how valuable a mentor has been for me in my dental career, with the hope that everyone will see the benefit in gaining such real world experiential knowledge.
All too often, I think we, as dentists, want to just do it our own way. We feel like we’re competing with our peers for the same patients and don’t want to share strategies with the enemy. We feel like we’re the greatest implant surgeon to ever walk this Earth, and that we have written the textbook on patient communication and case presentation (as I slowly raise my hand in admittance). I think this causes many of us to miss potentially game-changing relationships with mentors during our careers.
I went to a great dental school, where I feel they did their best at preparing me for the practice of dentistry. But its academia—there are politics, guidelines, rules of engagement. It’s just not the real world. Great learning experiences for sure, but not every day dentistry. The dean said to me, “Placing one or two implants as an undergrad under the supervision of the oral surgery residents won’t benefit you in the least,” and it still irks me. Oh man, if you could have taken my pulse rate during that first implant surgery in real life. I honestly am happy I didn’t faint onto the patient. I was sweating so much that I had to change my scrubs. It would have been nice to have an experienced resident (mentor) by my side for that one. This is where dad comes in.
I get the privilege of working alongside my father, as well as my mom, brother and sister-in-law, in my practice. I’ve been practicing for a little over four years now, and feel like I’m just getting into my “groove.” That point where you start to feel comfortable with the procedures, materials, day-to-day grind, and crazy patient questions-- yea those questions! It’s a fun and exciting place to finally be, but there’s always work to be done and valuable information to absorb from our mentors and peers.
I consider Dad my AGD instructor. He took me under his wing, showed me the ropes, answered my crazy questions, and even bailed me out midway through an extraction or two early on in my career. Not everyone has the chance to work with a close family member, but there are plenty of well-versed dentists in your community that are ready and willing to share their wealth of knowledge.
We know the absolute basics to get through daily dentistry when we come out of school—the rest is up to us to learn on our own. Or, better yet, alongside someone who has been through it, and already made the same mistakes. Do yourself a favor and find a dental mentor!
Donald Murry, DMD
Check out this AGD Podcast on the Value of Mentorship!