The Value of Consultants, Coaches, and Mentors in Dental Practice 

April 5, 2024 Gary DeWood, DDS

Gary M. DeWood, DDS, MS 

As an associate dentist, you may be fortunate to learn from the instruction and observation of a senior dentist, but over your career, you will gain innumerable benefits from outside consultants, coaches, and mentors. 

One of my mentors, Dr. Richard A. Green, told me that one of the keys to my success would be to surround myself with a Board of Directors. He was correct. My board is composed of people who are willing and able to see my vision and hold me accountable for going to it. Some are consultants, some are coaches, and some are mentors. Sometimes they are all three in one person but no one person has all the answers. 

Consultants, coaches, and mentors help us in different ways. 

In dental practice, I often hear the words mentor, coach, and consultant used interchangeably to describe the activities of someone assisting the doctor with the management of his or her practice. I believe that these functions, while not mutually exclusive of the same individual, are different in their roles with regard to all three of you. 

What do I mean by that? “You #1” is the entrepreneur and leader of the business you have established. “You #2” is the manager of that business. “You #3” is the dentist working in the business. Each you possesses a different level of training, understanding, and ability. Each you benefits differently from consulting, coaching, and mentoring. 

Early in practice my partner and I hired consultants to see what escaped us and to give us solutions.  

Consulting is all about being an outsider looking in. The adage that consultants are individuals who are paid a lot of money to tell you what you already knew but couldn’t see, does not diminish their effectiveness or necessity, particularly in offering solutions.  

I met Jim Pride while I was still in dental school. In the early years of our relationship, following the acquisition of our practice, Laura, our Pride consultant, consulted us by telling us what to do. I was directed to employ systems that were developed by Jim Pride and his team while working with many Pride Institute clients. I did as we were “consulted” because I had no reference for individualizing the systems, something that changed as we found the parts and pieces that delivered and left behind parts that did not resonate for us.  

As my partner (who happened to be my wife) and I changed, our expectations changed, and our needs changed, we continued to need that outsider looking in to see for us that which we could not see. We did not, however, need or want to be offered solutions. The best consultants understand that their ultimate goal is to empower and develop their clients’ skills and abilities so that they can eventually operate independently. 

When we no longer needed a consultant, we needed a coach. 

Unlike consulting, where solutions with precise instructions are offered, coaching offered us a process out of which our vision for our practice developed. Dental practice coaches ask questions rather than give answers. They are observers. They take us inside ourselves and assist in our development as leaders. They draw out what is already within and empower us to act on it. 

What, then, is a mentor? 

For me, mentors are individuals who have traveled the path we seek to follow. They may fill the role as a consultant and/or a coach depending on our needs and their comfort with the things that are challenging us at any given time, but frequently their primary role is that of an example. The Pankey Institute community abounds in them. 

I have observed that dentists who develop a relationship with a mentor are able to move more quickly and clearly toward their preferred future. It is precisely for this reason that one of the goals of participation in a study club is to build groups with a broad range of experience and experiences. It is the third YOU, the practicing dentist, who gets the most from being mentored 

Dentistry is a tough job. It’s demanding and stressful to perform highly technical, intricate procedures continuously on a daily basis. Our mentors show us that we can do it because they did. Often there is peer-to-peer collaboration in “surfacing up” the mindset, approaches, and solutions that will work best for us. Always there is encouragement. 

Sometimes mentors listen. Sometimes they challenge. Always they support. Their map is not always the map we choose to follow, but their example–as individuals who continue to see their vision and map their future accordingly–inspires us to do the same. 

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Gary DeWood, DDS

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Reflections on the Last 30 Years

July 15, 2019 Michael J. Scherb, DMD

As I lay here and reflect on the last 30 years of my life, I cannot help but wonder and imagine what my life would be like had I not been given the gift of being a part of The Pankey Institute. Today marks my 30 year anniversary of walking through the doors of what was then called The L.D. Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education. I was seven weeks shy of my 27th birthday, and I had nothing but a lot of debt and dreams of doing great dentistry.

Back Then and Now

I am no different than many, if not most, of the students of today, who are saddled with what seems to be an insurmountable amount of debt. At the time, we were charging about $300 for a crown and paying a $70-$90 lab fee, a percentage of over 20%. I never even considered that percentage high, because I was just happy to be taking care of people.

Many people say, “It was different back then,” but was it? People were waking up with mouth or jaw pain. They were seeking an individual that could take care of their needs. Some wanted to feel better. Some wanted to look better. Some were willing to lose teeth. Some wanted to keep teeth. It is the same now as it was then, and it will continue to be this way for decades to come.

The fact that people will need or want to be taken care of will never change. The fact that some will have money to pay for your services and some won’t will never change. The question is “What type of dentist will you want to be?”

The Road Less Travelled

Thirty years ago, I wanted to be the best. Having been given the book The Philosophy of The Practice of Dentistry by L. D. Pankey, in dental school, I felt this was the way to care for patients that needed us. You see, it is all about the choices we make. I wasn’t going to be guaranteed a salary by a corporation, but I was going to have the opportunity to keep a portion of all I earned. It was up to me to make the decision about how I wanted to care for people, and this philosophy became my driving force.

The office I was in and peers in my area at the time did not seem to have the desire to take this path, as no one else had been to The Institute. I guess you could say I took “the road less traveled.”

The choice of committing to this philosophy has impacted my life beyond measure. For 30 years I have been able to learn from some of the greatest educators this profession has to offer, who have given their time, treasure, and talents to the 30,000 students who either have flown or driven to the beautiful island of Key Biscayne, Florida. I have established lifelong friendships with individuals from all over the world, who had and still have aspirations and dreams just like me. I have made mistakes, and I have done great things. All along the way, I had a group of individuals I could count on to get me through the ups and downs of the practice of dentistry, as well as life itself.

The Pankey Institute Community Is There for You

As you finish reading this, whether you are 26 or 56, realize there are people willing to help you get to where you want to be. I am glad it was The Pankey Institute for me. The Institute has now been here for over 50 years, and I feel immensely grateful for the 30 years that have been mine.

I want to thank all of those individuals who have given me so unselfishly their gift of priceless knowledge. And, if you have just begun your journey with The Pankey Institute or thinking you might like to, let me assure you that The Pankey Institute community is there for you.

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Michael J. Scherb, DMD

Dr. Michael J. Scherb is on the Visiting Faculty of The Pankey Institute and a Pankey Scholar, an honor which has been conferred on less than 50 dentists in the world. He has been awarded Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry. A graduate of the University of Alabama School of Dentistry, he has practiced dentistry in Jupiter, FL since 1989. He is a certified member of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association, and former president of the North Palm Beach County Dental Association.

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