management & leadership

Seeing with a DIFFERENT eye

by ALAN STERN, DDS

My Grandfather’s Blessings is a wonderful book of stories by psychotherapist Dr Rachel Remen. Her anecdotes of things that she learned from her very wise grandfather, along with the application of those lessons in real life offer us ways of changing our lives and the lives of those around us for the much better. As I read this wonderful book, I am inspired to relate her wisdom.

Dr Remen tells the transformative story of an oncologist who was on the verge of burnout in his career. She counseled this brilliant, accomplished life saver to begin to look for and document great things at work on a daily basis and to see his patients as though he were a novelist. The doctor began to see his people as brave, loving human beings and developed a new devotion to his very important work.

Let’s ponder. If we take a moment to think about them, some of the things we see in our practices as mundane are anything but that. We render treatment to preserve and protect the critical components of a very sensitive part of a person’s health, comfort, function, dignity, and esthetics. We spend so much energy “educating” people how important our work is; yet, we glance over what we see as simple fillings, routine prophies, and even denture adjustments. Of course we take pride in our restorative and other “major “ services, but do we really understand the impact of our work on a human being? If we understand that impact, perhaps we could see our work in its proper perspective. We change people’s lives for the better every day. See it all and prosper.

Now, let’s get a new set of eyes towards those we serve. Who is that person at the other end of your and your hygienist’s instruments? Have you thought about how you can make or are making their lives better when they are in your office? Do you discuss the people you’ll be seeing in your morning huddle? Many times our team reminds one another that Mrs X ‘s son just got engaged or Mr Y’s wife is seriously ill. Have you thought about how that knowledge could affect what you say or do for them? Did you know that, more often than not, things you say or do will affect their lives in ways you couldn’t possibly anticipate?

We’ve lost ten people from our office since the beginning of the year. We’ve gone to ten wakes / funerals in the last two months. At each one, the families were astonished that the dentist would show up at their most heartbreaking moments. To us, it’s just natural to use our standing with another human being, supporting our people in good times and bad. To their families, it’s profoundly meaningful. We’ve also gone to wedding ceremonies (we seldom have time to stay for the receptions) and are greeted with the same level of meaningfulness.

Another example for you- how do you treat the letter carrier, UPS, FedEx, and other delivery people who visit you? Do you take the time to learn their names? Do you express any interest in them? Try it – you won’t believe the rewards you get for this. You may even get one of them to engage your services, by the way!

When we understand that our profession can be a huge source of healing in ways we cannot imagine, we begin to get curious. We discover that we are connected to almost everyone. We learn that we can make at least one person’s life significantly better by simply listening to them. And we can innovate and create new ways to build and redefine our practices to be so much more than spinning tooth dust.

As so-called health care devolves into algorithm driven patchwork of the human body, we have huge opportunity to be people caring for people in unimaginable ways. Yes, they’re coming to us for dentistry. But when they receive so much more than a fixed tooth, crowns, bridges, periodontal work, etc, life become very, very rich for you and for those you serve.

So sharpen up those eyes and ears and discover those people you serve. They’ll love you and you’ll love your work even more!

ALAN STERN
DDS

Dr Alan Stern graduated Queens College in New York and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. He has practiced dentistry for over 36 years. In his time as an associate and three decades in his own practice, Dr Stern has stepped up, paid the price, and learned success. He has studied at the Pankey Institute, as well as with masters of Operative Dentistry, Practice Management and Leadership, Esthetics, Sleep Disordered Breathing, and the Oral Systemic Connection.

Dr Stern has lectured throughout his career on subjects including Depression Awareness and Suicide Prevention and Hiring and Motivating a Winning Team, and, most recently, Prosperity in Turbulent Times.

Alan is the founder of Better, Richer, Stronger, LLC, whose purpose is to help dentists create a vision for their own unique practices, enjoy their lives, prosper in every sense, and see opportunity to adapt to a (seemingly) changing world. He has a certificate in Behavior Change from the Academy of Coaching Excellence and is working on a certification in Health and Wellness Coaching.

Dr Stern lives and practices on the Jersey Shore. He and his wife, Fran have two adult children. They love traveling, exercise, family, friends, and the New York Yankees.