I have seen several articles in dental journals and heard various podcasts comparing the Millennial generation to previous generations, and it is almost always in the context of lambasting Millennials as a lazy group who is difficult to deal with. Howard Farran, DDS, MBA, of the Howard Speaks Podcast on Dentaltown.com, called people born between 1980 and 2000 the most entitled generation to ever grace the planet. He particularly doesn’t like the fact that dental students and new graduates complain about their student debt.
As a Millennial, I wanted to put in my two cents in defense of an entire generation and put things in context. According to the archives at the University of Pennsylvania, dental school cost $10,320 per year in 1980 (not counting additional living loans). Tuition at the University of Pennsylvania for 2014 was $68,278, with additional fees (still not counting living costs) adding up to more than $90,000 per year. These are not optional fees; these are books and supplies, instrument management fees, and clinic and technology fees. I put $10,000 into an inflation calculator and in today’s money $10,000 is equal to $28,362.
So, I ask the old guard to consider this: If their tuition was three times greater than what they paid, how would that have affected their lives as they started their careers? I completely understand that my income potential long term is still much better than it would have been if I never went to dental school. I actually don’t even mind (that much) paying off my student loans, but I do dream of being able to refinance at a more reasonable rate, say 5 to 6 percent, as 6.8 to 8.2 percent on several hundred thousand dollars is hard to get on top of.
Other things Millennials are repeatedly accused of include being lazy and self entitled. I am sure every group of several hundred people has a few bad apples; however, I don’t personally know any lazy recent graduates. Most of us work full time at several jobs; we work the late hours and we work Saturdays. I did not buy a new car or house my first several years. My husband and I rented, and when my car could no longer be driven, I purchased a basic model Subaru—not a luxury vehicle, although the Subaru felt luxurious to me.
The problem with stereotyping is always that when someone proves the stereotype to be true it is easy to forget the other 10 people they met who didn’t fit. We can all benefit from mutual respect and learn from each other. While we newer grads need to learn about practice and staff management, maybe we can help a more experienced dentist navigate the new digital software and show them how to set up a Facebook page.
“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today…When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.” That quote seems like it could have come from a recent podcast, but many actually link it to the Greek poet Hesiod and suggest it was written 3,000 years ago.
Sarah Meyer, DDS