Sunday, January 25, 2015

Balance

I recently read that one of the top regrets of the dying is that they wished they wouldn't have worked so hard.  I don't think they meant that they wished they necessarily achieved less, or worked less intensely, but that they wished they had made more time for family, raising their children, self reflection and giving to others.  So, with dental school and dentistry as a career, there is hard work, but don't let it supplant the important things.  Make time for the people in your life.  Balance between work, faith, family, and fun!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Reasons applicants fail to get into Medical School

Most of these reasons may apply to Dental Schools as well.  I do disagree slightly with #2 at least as far as it might apply to dental school admissions.  Clinical experience is good, but shadowing your family dentist or working in a lab is a little less important than showing a knowledge that you know what you are getting yourself into.

"6 Reasons Applicants Fail to get into Medical School"
 From KevinMD,com blog.  Guest post by Jessica Freeman, M.D.

6 reasons why applicants fail to get into medical school

6 reasons why applicants fail to get into medical school
Every year medical school applicants feel confused and in the dark about why they have been rejected by medical schools. They do not understand what they did wrong or what they need to do differently when they reapply. Whether you are a premedical student trying to make sure to “do everything right” or a medical school applicant who has not yet been accepted to medical school, it may help to learn what applicants who are not accepted to medical school often have in common. Many of these problems are easy to avoid while others take a little more time and effort to remedy.
Here are six problems I have observed:
1. Applying to a narrow range of medical schools. Everyone has told you that you are a great applicant and you should have no concerns. Premed advisors, friends, and family may advise you to reach high and that you don’t need to apply to more than 10 to 15 medical schools. I advise most students to be wary of this advice. While I always encourage medical school applicants to “aim high” and to have dream schools in mind, being realistic is also important. The competition for medical school admissions is fierce; fewer than half of 42,742 applicants matriculated in 2010/2011. So unless you have outstanding grades, MCAT® scores, letters of reference, experiences, written application materials, and a great interview experience, it is extremely important to cast a wide net and to apply broadly to a large range of medical schools. Sometimes applicants (or their advisors) overestimate their competitiveness and apply to mostly top-tier medical schools. These applicants are then surprised when they are not accepted to any of them. The bottom line is that, even if you are a top-notch applicant, you must consider adding to your list medical schools that are not ultra-selective.
2. Lacking clinical experience. You are applying to medical school, right? Then you must be able to demonstrate to the admissions committee that your experience fits this career decision. Many medical school applicants are interested in science and, while research is important, it cannot substitute for clinical exposure. Some medical school applicants submit applications with an impressive list of accomplishments and experiences but don’t demonstrate any clinical exposure, which comes in many forms: You can shadow your own family physician, volunteer in a free clinic or a hospital, or participate in a formal premedical program that includes time spent with physicians. It is very tough to convince an admissions committee via your written documents or during interviews that you want to pursue a career in medicine if you have never spent time in a clinical arena.
3. Submitting poorly composed written documents. Regardless of your candidacy’s strengths, composing persuasive application materials is essential for success. Whether you are competitive applicant seeking acceptance to the most prestigious medical schools in the country or a “borderline” applicant with lower than average grades, experiences, or MCAT® scores, your experience descriptions and personal statement must convince the people reviewing your application that you are worthy of an interview and an acceptance. This is especially important during the first stage of the medical school admissions process when the admissions committee decides whether or not to extend an interview invitation. The committee bases this decision on the objective material you present such as your academic profile, but your written materials, including your application and letters of reference, make a difference. You don’t have control over the content of your LORs, but you do have complete control of what you write in your application materials. Written documents that clearly and articulately express the evolution of your interest in medicine with introspection and thought are more likely to motivate the admissions committee to click the “interview” box when deciding your fate.
4. Having a lackluster academic profile. You have done “okay” in college and on your MCAT®, but is your performance strong enough to gain admission to medical school? Many medical school admissions committees “screen” applications; if your grades or MCAT® don’t reach a certain threshold, you are automatically rejected and your application isn’t reviewed. Other medical schools use a school-specific “formula” that takes into account your grades and MCAT® score and determines whether or not your application will be reviewed if you earn a minimum score. The general rule of thumb is that you must have an overall undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) of 3.5 with a strong performance in the sciences and a minimum MCAT® score of 30 to gain admission to medical school, but this rule has variations. For example, if your UGPA is lower than a 3.5, your MCAT® is a 31 and you have outstanding LORs, documents, and interview skills (see below) you can still gain admission to medical school. Medical schools also consider the rigor of your academic course load, undergraduate institution competitiveness, outside pressures (such as financial difficulties), and upward grade trend when evaluating how you performed. Many students perform poorly as a freshman in college and as they adjust to college life their grades steadily increase as they improve their study and time management skills; admissions committees consider this.
The evaluation of applicants is also subject to various nuances. For example, the student who attends a competitive undergraduate institution and pursued a difficult major, with a UGPA of 3.4 and an MCAT® 36 might be viewed more favorably than the student who attended a less competitive college, pursued a less rigorous major and had a 4.0 but earned a 31 on the MCAT®. In other words, to some extent admissions committees consider the competitiveness of your undergraduate institution and course load. At the same time, you need to realize that applicants’ MCAT® performances are the only measures admissions committees have for comparing “apples to apples.” This is why an exceptional MCAT® performance is important regardless of where you attend college.
5. Submitting a late application. You are an outstanding applicant but submitted a late application. Though this problem is easy to “fix,” you should understand why it’s important to rectify it. Every year the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®) starts accepting medical school applications on or around June 1st  And submitting your primary application as close to this opening date as possible is essential. Why? AMCAS® must review and verify your application, which can take up to six weeks (or more if there is a problem), and medical schools will review your application only after you are “verified” and they have received all supplemental application materials, such as letters of reference, Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT®) scores, and secondary applications and essays.
By submitting an early application you will be considered within a smaller pool of applicants early in the season. In contrast, applicants who wait until deadlines to submit their application materials are typically considered within a much larger pool of applicants. In addition, because early applicants have been invited for some of a school’s finite number of interviews, those who apply late are competing with a large number of applicants  for fewer interview slots. Similarly, for medical schools with rolling admissions, interviewing late in the admissions season is less than ideal since in March or April, for example, most initial acceptance offers have been extended. This means that even if you are a competitive applicant, the medical school may not have any more interviews or acceptances to extend. This is why many great applicants who submit late applications, receive “hold”, ‘reject,” or “wait list” decisions rather than acceptances.
If you are rejected by medical school and decide that your academic record needs to be enhanced, you have many options. If grades are the issue, consider taking upper division classes at a four year university after graduation. Postgraduate special master’s programs specifically designed for students who want to attend medical school are also a good alternative; a searchable database of such programs is available from the Association of American Medical Colleges: http://services.aamc.org/postbac. Other possibilities are to pursue a master’s in public or global health or in a specific scientific discipline in which you are interested. These are all great options if you need to improve your academic profile. If your MCAT® is the concern, you must critically evaluate what you need to do to improve so you can target your studying.
6. Demonstrating poor interview skills. Once an applicant reaches the interview stage, the interview is the most important determinant of success. Typically, interviewees with great interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence are naturally better interviewees than applicants who are more introverted. Applicants who are very nervous, not articulate, or who aren’t comfortable  peaking about themselves can under-perform during the interview. Even though some US medical schools are adopting the multiple mini interview (MMI) format, most medical schools still conduct one-on-one interviews. Contrary to what most medical school applicants believe when they start this process, medical school interviews are typically relaxed dialogues; the interviewer is trying to get to know each applicant, assess if he or she has the qualities and characteristics the school is seeking in medical students, and if he is a good fit for the school. While a certain degree of subjectivity influences every interview experience, applicants can perform well if they practice speaking about themselves before the interview and if they clearly express their motivations and experiences that influenced their decision to practice medicine.
I have seen applicants fail to be accepted to medical school again and again for one or more of these “Top Six” reasons. Nonetheless, how a school weighs each of these factors, among others, is determined by each applicant’s unique profile and situation and the criteria and admissions process of that particular school. Always remember that each medical school considers every candidate individually and there are many things you can do to improve your chance of success.
Jessica Freedman is founder, MedEdits, also on Facebook and Twitter.   This article originally appeared in PreMedLife.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Research Funding

In my book, I try and answer the question, "which is the best dental school"?  Of course, there is no one right answer.  For any one person, there may be several schools that meet the criteria.  Among the things to look for is the amount of research finding.  This year, my Alma Mater, the University of Alabama School of Dentistry, now called the UAB School of Dentistry, is ranked #1 in the total amount of funding from the National Institute of Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health.*   These and other sources of funding can attract high calibre faculty and is generally an indication of the academic strength of the institution.  So, when selecting among dental schools, check out their amount of research funding.

*"UAB Dentistry", Summer 2014, page 2.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Decreasing Dental Visits = Decreasing Income?

I came across some interesting long term trends in the latest issue of the ADA News.  The data is derived from the ADA's Health Policy Resource Center.

The number of dentist visits is declining, especially for adults.  This seems to be a slow, long term trend, even with an increasing and aging population.  Yes, the decrease was aggravated by the recent recession, but the data suggest there are factors in place even before that.  Children's visits were more stable and seem to have recovered closer to pre-recession levels.  Over the ten year period, visits by children with very low income families (likely on Medicaid which covers dentist visits) rose from 26% to 36% perhaps dampening the effect of children's visits.

Notice that general dentist income (who primarily see adults) and dental visits trends seem to follow each other fairly closely.



"Fewer Adults Visiting the Dentist," ADA News, Volume 44, No. 6, March 18, 2013.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Data Analysis, or Gambling?


I just got back from a continuing education meeting which happened to be located in Las Vegas. I also watched the movie "21" which is based on the real life story of a group of MIT students who learned how to count cards and beat the casinos at blackjack.  They made millions.  They did not let the emotion of the moment influence their decisions.  They used simple math, counting the cards already dealt to increase their chances of a winning bet: data analysis and rather fast arithmetic.


How much of dentistry is pure data analytics and how much is gut instinct?  Well, there are two ways to look at it. First, is cold science, numbers, and analytical data analysis.  We do a clinical exam, we look at x-rays, perform diagnostic tests, ask questions.  We consult the published research.  In medicine and dentistry this might be likened to flow chart decision making, or to something called evidence based science.  We use experiments, data and facts to decide the most likely outcomes.  If we don't, we are just guessing.

Second, there is the theory that real world experience makes the difference, raw talent, esthetic sense, gut instinct.  This is actually backed up by the study that mastery comes about with many hours of practice, error, corrections, and well, experience.  The more you have done something, the better you are at accomplishing the task at the level of a master, the expert.


My analysis is that they both matter.  You have to make decisions based on real science and study of the available data.  Dentists spend four to ten years after college in graduate education and training in science and techniques. Then, there are years of continuing education classes after that.  Collect the facts, the data, analyze, compare, then decide, act.  The problem with dentistry and medicine is that there is always a lot of data that is not knowable, that is missing or not timely.  That is where experience comes into play.  That is, making decisions when you do not have all the data you would like to have.  Sometimes there is more than one appropriate option.  Sometimes you go on experience and gut instinct.  Count the cards if you can, but sometimes you develop senses that tell you the card count at a subconscious level.  I'd like to think going to the dentist is not a gamble, but as close to a sure thing as you can get.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Perceptual Ability

This is a good example of excellent perceptual ability.  Dentists have to have a pretty good grasp of three dimensional space, angles, length, etc. to be good technicians.  Artists are the best at this.  Watch to the end of this short video and you will see something amazing.



Saturday, January 5, 2013

Problems with Multitasking

In my book, I stress the importance in having the ability to deal with all the demands of being a dentist in a busy office.  There are so many things to think about in a short amount of time.  A real ability to multitask would be the ideal in handling a typical day in the office.  Multitasking is often thought of as doing many things at once or switching back and forth rapidly between tasks.  We sometimes fool ourselves that that we are more productive by this kind of multitasking.  There is some research that effective multitasking is not really possible.  Studies show even young sharp minds tend to loose  cognitive ability the more things they have to deal with, thereby reducing productivity.  Have you ever tried to carry on two phone conversations at the same time.  You cannot listen to both, only one at a time.  There was an exhibit at Disney World a few years back (it might still be there in the Hollywood Studios Park), where you would put on headphones and would listen to one story in one ear and another story in the other.  It was impossible to make sense of either.

Focusing on many things at one time, effectively, is not really possible.  The goal is to focus on only one or two things at a time.  There is a talent of focusing effectively on one thing, then moving to the next item and focusing on that, eliminating distractions as much as possible.  Reducing stress also increases productivity.  This can be difficult to manage.  It seems that it's not really multitasking you should be attempting to do, but prioritizing your focus and concentration.

Here are a few articles on the subject:

"We're always multitasking, and that's the problem"  --Britannica
"Multitasking Makes you Dumber" --Annie Murphy Paul
"Teaching kids to Concentrate"  --Annie Murphy Paul
"Why Multitasking Does Not Work" --Forbes
"You can only remember three or four things at a time"  --Business Insider
"Too much stress results in poor performance" --Business Insider

Friday, January 4, 2013

Buying a dental practice (guest post)

Here is my first guest post on the subject of a new dentist purchasing a dental practice.  Abigail Widynski from 5th Avenue Acquisitions provides a basic layout of the planning process.

In my book, I address some of these topics in some detail.  The key is preparation and planning.  In many cases it may not be the best option, but in others, it may lead to a more productive professional arrangement.

There are many companies that provide services matching sellers with potential buyers of dental practices.  I do not intend to endorse any one company over another, nor do I have a professional or business relationship with any firms other than as being one of the many clients of our accounting firm Cain, Watters and Associates LLC in Dallas, Texas.  I provide this guest post to add to the information available and to get young dental students and young professionals thinking.  Here is Abigail's Post:


If You are Buying a Practice in 2013, Isn’t It Best to Create an Ideal Practice Checklist? Here’s Five Considerations for Your First Practice Acquisition.

If you’ve ever purchased a new home, or even if you’ve watch a real estate television show, you know that the checklist sets the parameters for the first viewings. Then, the reality hits: the checklist of absolute needs and the availability of homes on the market simply don’t align! Needs are re-evaluated as wants and compromise begins, doesn’t it? With a new prioritization, something that’s available becomes a ‘fit’ and the buyer is confident in their final choice. If you’ve been the one at the closing table, you understand the process!

And buying a practice is similar to buying a new home. Without narrowing criteria and understanding where the value lies within the practice, you could overlook key profitability drivers as well as preferences that impact your long-term future. Best to be prepared with a checklist. Here’s five considerations that can help you prioritize your search:

Income Requirements. You are familiar with personal and financial sacrifice and perhaps you were motivated during those long study nights in dental school by the income potential of your profession. As you look at ownership, you are probably like most who require a loan to realize their dream, and take advantage of the value proposition of being a solo practitioner!

Before you review a practice’s valuation, sit down and evaluate the costs and the monthly repayment amount that makes sense for your lifestyle. Guessing your income requirement could mean personal and practice strain sooner than later. Be honest with yourself so when you do see what the practice is netting, you can run the numbers and understand your future better!

Layout. Open floor plan versus semi-private operatories? How many operatories are needed to reflect your ideal daily patient load?  And does it matter?

Recently, I visited a pediatric dentist who is creating a ‘dental spa’ for his young patients. During his associateship, he observed that in the practice’s open floor plan, when one child became unruly that all the other followed suit. In designed his dental spa, he redesigned the space to include six semi-private operatories so that should a child became upset, the others sitting in the chairs would not watch and potentially mimic the behavior.  

As you review your work pace and the patient experience you will create, evaluate the layout and size that will be right for you. But remember: improvements can be made over time and walls can be constructed!

Marketing Strategy. Chances are that you are tech-savvy and fluent in social media! Pay-per-click advertising, a Twitter educational campaign and a Facebook success stories page are options you have to expand your next practice. These are options that dentists twenty years ago didn’t yet know about! You might find your practice’s advertising and marketing strategy is limited to referrals and the phonebook, but don’t be alarmed. 

Ask yourself when you look at active versus total patient files: Where is there an opportunity for marketing? Is this practice using only ‘old school’ techniques and outlets? You may see that you could increase patients by a basic online strategy. Or perhaps the social media and online presence is established. Are you willing to create a new marketing strategy or would you like it ready-made in your ideal practice?

Location & Proximity. An often-debated question in dental acquisitions is whether it is ‘smart’ to own or lease the real estate housing your practice. Whether you lease or own, where you are located will impact your marketing and advertising costs, as well as define your competition.

Let’s look first at location. As you look at where a practice is located, research the traffic count. How many drivers will pass by your new practice everyday? The more, the better. But only if you have clear building markings and on-road signage. You can’t alter location but you can improve visibility. 

Think about the proximity of the practice. What is the benefit of being located near the local medical center or regional hospital? Are there complimentary specialties nearby with whom you could refer patients, or eventually merge practices? 

Updates. If you’ve recently graduated dental school, you bring to your practice knowledge of the most up-to-date procedure as well as proficiency in the latest technical equipment. Just as location and proximity is a personal preference, a dentist’s decision to make equipment updates is financial and personal. Not every practice will have the equipment you were trained on, but this does not mean the practice does not realize significant profits. 

As you are making your checklist, determine if you require in your acquisition a practice with new equipment or if you’re willing to plan for this capital expenditure in the coming years. Just as in home ownership, improvements can be planned for and expedited based on increasing your profitability. 


As you’re taking the next step, keep asking questions. With each answer, move forward. It’s the New Year and your year for ownership.

Abigail Widynski is enthusiastic about two topics: growth and expansion. In her role at 5th Avenue Acquisitions and Venture Capitalists (www.5thaavc.com), she feels privileged to talk about these two everyday. Abigail is the founder of the online and translation consultancy, Wild West Content Strategy and serves as a board member for two international children’s organizations: Hope4Kids and the U.S. Executive Board of Grain of Wheat International. Abigail is a graduate of American University and Imperial College Business School in London. Abigail invites you to reach out to her at Abigail@5thaavc.com



                                        



Friday, July 20, 2012

How Long Is A Dental Specialty Residency?

Ok, you are now a dentist.  You have completed four years of dental school and have "Dr." in front of your name.  Congratulations!  At this point you can do almost any technique, diagnosis and treatment modality in all of dentistry.  What if you want to specialize?  You know, be an Orthodontist or Oral Surgeon?  That takes more years of study as seen here in a this graphic.  Most specialty programs are at least two years in length.  There are some variations in programs from one school to another.  For instance, some specialty programs in Orthodontics are two years and others three.  GPR programs are usually one year in length.
(Click to enlarge):


*Compiled from data from the ADA Survey of Advanced Dental Education 2010-2011, and published in the ADA News Volume 43, No. 13 July 16, 2012.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How to Study

With all the volume of material a dental or medical student has to remember, how do they do it?  Well, some do the "binge and purge" method, cramming the night before an exam, then forgetting most till the next time.  This is not a good way to really learn.  There is research that repetition over time helps retention.  Information studied one day, then reviewed again the next day or two is better retained.  Here is a reference article:



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Think Small

There was an article in the wall street journal yesterday that caught my attention:

New Lawyers Seeking Jobs, Advised To Think Small

It was advising young lawyers to set up practice in smaller more rural towns and cities.  There were just fewer opportunities in the big cities.  This is also true in dentistry.  In my book, I advise young dentists to consider smaller towns where not only is there a real need, but you can do very well financially.  If you or your spouse are distressed about living away from a larger area, you can live one place and commute to your office if it's not too far.  If you set up in a nice suburban area or large city where there is a dentist on every corner, well, good luck.  It may be more difficult to make a go of it as soon as you would like.  Specialists may have to look more carefully as you do need a larger drawing area and population than a general dentist, but there is still a need for specialists in smaller towns.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The University of Alabama School of Dentistry (UAB) likes my book

The University of Alabama School of Dentistry just bought a bunch of my books.  They told me they may give some of them to interested students who interview there and also for their leadership council.

I am pleased they find it of use.  Here I am with Dean Reddy: