A GUIDE FOR FRESH GRADUATES
Every fresh graduate is flabbergasted at the economics of the dental profession. There is a lot of competition for a much fewer number of jobs. When the fresh graduates step into the real world, they realize that they are no longer sheltered by their beloved educators and appear to be lost in the negativity and lack of character that encompasses the dental profession.
The fresh graduates quickly realize their lack of clinical skills, lack knowledge of business part of dentistry, inexperienced treatment planning and patient education. They have no concept of how to run a new practice. They have no set goals or proper guidance and do not know which path they should take on.
A study conducted in Harvard University regarding goals set by graduates had 3 groups – 3%, 13%, and 83% which showed that the 13% who had goals were making twice as much as the 83% who had no goals and the 3% who had goals written down were making twice as much money as the 13%. This is the importance of goals once written down.
You need to have a clear vision of what you want. The mind is a powerful thing. If you think you can achieve something and you deserve to achieve it, only then you will. Take example of all the elite athletes in the world – take football for example. When an elite footballer makes a goal, he envisions it in his mind, he knows where the ball is going to go, he plans it out and then he makes the hit. Yes, there is a lot of hard work and determination that is put into it and practice is what brought him to that place where he can actually accomplish it, but in that split second, it is his mind which leads to that goal.
I have had personal interactions with hundreds of fresh graduates up till now. Most of them have one thing in common; they have no idea what they want to do and are disheartened. If they set their goals before graduating they can save themselves from trauma of trying to figure out what to do next. They need to set goals, pen them down, then work their way backwards, fill in the voids until they reach their target. International athletes start their training as early as 4 to 5 years of age. The maximum efforts start from the very beginning and that’s how they become champions. Their career is carefully planned and thus this coordinated effort yields the best results. That’s exactly the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. If you compromise on your skills and quality of your work, you will just be one of them. Everybody has different goals. It’s okay to do private practice or be a part of academics or select whatever specialty you like but the decision should be based on what you truly want to do and not what others recommend for you. With hard work and determination and as long as your heart is into it, you can achieve your goals. If any one of you wants to do DDS, instead of wasting time on observer ships trying to gain experience, focus on DDS and do whatever needs to be done for it. To sum up; no matter how hard you are working, it does not matter until your efforts are rightly directed because planned and coordinated efforts guarantee best results.
If you are planning to practice in Pakistan, you need to keep one thing in mind; simple BDS + one year house job is just not enough. We have a very strong education system in Pakistan but unfortunately we are way behind in our clinical skills. 80% of our population has periodontal disease and we don’t even know how to properly treat that. In western countries, no one can run a dental practice without implementing perio charting on every patient and properly treating their periodontal disease. Dentistry is an art and a skill of hand and unless we learn proper techniques to do the right way, there is not a big difference between a BDS graduate and a quack. We have read about 6 degree axial inclines and occlusal clearance and all that about crown prep in books but if we make our occlusal preparations flat, over tapered axial walls and undercuts in our preps then this shows we are under trained. No wonder our crown failure rates are above 80% and most teeth are lost within 4 to 6 years. Imagine a heart surgeon performing surgeries with failure rates above 80%. I fail to understand that why we, as a dental community, are okay with the idea of performing procedures that are short term. That’s exactly why patients are reluctant to get these procedures done and we blame the uneducated population when we ourselves are lacking the skills and expertise to restore a tooth.
It takes months for students to learn crown and bridge, working on typodonts before they are assigned patients in western countries. When doing a filling, we don’t know how to make proper outline form, exit angle and axial walls which are important for the long term prognosis of a filling. A lot of practice is needed under supervision to perform restorative procedures which will not result in loss of tooth. So, add another year to your training after house job. Undoubtedly, it is important to acquire the skills for advanced procedures like implants, but it is imperative that one should first invest in the basic restorative skills, which are the foundation of a successful practice.
When I moved to Pakistan I was told that in order to be successful I must get involved with an institute. I was also told that comprehensive treatment planning had no chance in Pakistan, that I will not be able to get good quality lab work done and if I wanted to do cosmetic dentistry I needed to use a foreign lab. I was told that fresh graduates can’t really do anything. The only associates that I had and have at my clinic are fresh graduates. Nobody flew all the way from USA to be a part of this journey. The patients, the lab, and yes, the fresh graduates are all Pakistanis. People give advice based on their own failures. If someone failed to do something, it doesn’t mean that thing is not possible at all. Either they were not committed enough or did not know how to get it done. If you see our smile makeover cases online there isn’t much difference from any good dental lab in USA. It is being done here in Pakistan and by Pakistanis. When I was told about all the taboos, all I thought was how am I going to make these things happen. I believe if something can be done anywhere in the world, we can also do it here in Pakistan because we are no less than anyone.
In 80’s and 90’s good personal relationship helped build very successful practices. Gone are the days of past when patients were loyal and would keep coming back because they liked the dentists’ personality. Our consumer is very much different from that in the past; they are much more educated and aware now. They Google procedures before coming in for their appointments and hence are much more quality conscious. When I landed here I knew I was going to run my practice in Lahore exactly like I did in California. I wasn’t going to settle for less even for small things. So I sat down, did my homework, penned down my goals on paper and acted upon them. I knew it will pay off and it has. So start off with the best. If I can do it, so can you!