Seek Mentorship, and Honor Your Mentors by Providing It
In dentistry, we often emphasize the importance of seeking out quality education to improve our practice. But even the most dedicated practitioners who aggressively pursue endless hours of continuing education and repeatedly attend hands-on training courses are ultimately on their own. This is where mentorship comes into play. Having a relationship with an experienced mentor may be one of the most important connections to put you on the fast track for success. A dentist can possess all of the academic knowledge in the world, but developing real-world experience requires time-and sometimes failures along the way. Being able to tap into the knowledge of a mentor and leverage his or her experience helps expedite this process.
Throughout my career, I've had many mentors who have helped me to achieve goals beyond my wildest dreams. My former partner Paul Polydoran pushed me to believe in my clinical skills and think big. He was a wonderful clinical mentor and helped me take my understanding of practice management to an entirely new level. After attending Buddy Mopper's direct bonding course three times, he approached me about starting to teach with him and encouraged me to lecture. His style of mentorship was instrumental in my development as both an educator and speaker. And as I began lecturing, Michael Cohen approached me about speaking at the Seattle Study Club's National Symposium. Although I was petrified when I finally stepped onto the big stage, his encouragement and sound advice allowed me to persevere and go on to speak at many future meetings.
This points to another key aspect of mentorship. Mentorship not only serves to add the voice of experience to your clinical knowledge, it can also play a motivational role, helping you to believe in your abilities and gain the confidence to pursue new opportunities and grow in different directions.
Regarding mentors that we respect and strive to emulate, dentistry recently lost one of its best with the passing of D. Walter Cohen. In this month's issue, Inside Dentistry honors his legacy with a tribute from another one of my mentors, John C. Kois, and others who valued his dedication. And as usual, we've brought you a wealth of great information from our expert authors who are all excellent mentors in their own right, including an infection control CE on treating dental unit water lines, a primer on peri-implant disease, a perspective on dentistry's role in the opioid crisis, and a practice management article that presents a mindfulness approach to help you mentor and develop your staff.
In your pursuit to improve your practice, don't forget that mentorship is a two-way street. For those of you who have sought out the benefits of mentorship and gone on to become successful, it is incumbent upon you to become the next generation of mentors. When you see the potential in dentists that they can't see for themselves, offer mentorship to help them bring it out and become their best. After all, collaboration is an essential component of improving dentistry for both our patients and the future of the profession.
Robert C. Margeas, DDS
Editor-in-Chief, Inside Dentistry
Private Practice, Des Moines, Iowa
Department of Operative Dentistry
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa