The Story of Dr. Daniel Hally-Smith Part 2—Tell Your Patients the Optimum Treatment, so They Can Decide Based on Knowledge

October 24, 2022 Bill Davis

When L.D. Pankey visited Dr. Hally-Smith in Paris, Hally-Smith was curious about how L.D. could afford to come to the International Dental Congress in Paris. L.D. told him about his benefactor, Mrs. Blanchard. Hally-Smith said, “That is wonderful, just wonderful!” Turning serious, he then said, “You know of course that you will make it. Your benefactor has started the process for you but there are many things you will have to do before you will be there.”

Hally-Smith gave L.D. a personal tour of his office. The office had five dental technicians and three associate dentists. His personal dental assistant was a White Russian woman dentist who had been driven out of Russia during the Russian Revolution. She was wearing a long, highly starched nurse’s gown that went all the way to her ankles. L.D. began to understand what Mrs. Blanchard, his benefactor, was talking about. She wanted him to know some of the outstanding dentists in the world! When she suggested he take the trip, she said, “I think you have the potential of becoming an outstanding dentist.” This was after he had completed her dental work.

L.D.’s time at the Dental Congress was a busy one. There was so much to learn! Even though Taggart had cast the first inlay nineteen years earlier in 1912 by the “lost wax” technique, investments and casting techniques were far from perfect. Many slides were shown, and many papers were given on new techniques in restorative dentistry. New impression materials and impression techniques were shown in lectures and table clinics. Much of the denture information did not interest L.D. because he was mainly interested in saving teeth.

After their first meeting, L.D. made rearrangements to spend an additional week in Paris with Dr. Hally-Smith. Hally-Smith was old enough to be L.D.’s father. One morning, they were talking about patient communications, and Hally-Smith asked, “Did you ever take the Bosworth course?” L.D. said he had taken the course.

Hally-Smith said, “Isn’t Bosworth the dental supply man who suggests dentists say this when speaking with their patients, “I can do a good job for so much, do a halfway job for this much, or I louse it up at a very reasonable price’?” L.D. answered by saying, “That is not exactly what Bosworth says but pretty close.”

Hally-Smith then asked, “L.D., do you like that approach?”

L.D. said, “No, I’ve never liked it, but I have tried it.”

Dr. Hally-Smith became serious and said, “L.D. it all starts with communication. You should tell your patient the optimum way their dentistry should be done. Then what the patient decides is their own decision. If you’re going to make a compromise with them, then compromise based on your patient’s knowledge, not because you have prejudged them. You should tell every patient what optimum dental care would do for them. If they decide to go elsewhere, leave the door open for them to come back later. I have found over the years that a lot of these people return after they’ve lost half their teeth.”

They discussed this premise for a while longer, and L.D. realized how right Hally-Smith was. Tell patients about the best treatment plan. Then, if there were any compromising to be done, let them decide. L.D. realized Dr. Hally-Smith’s way of communicating was easier said than done.

When L.D. returned home from Paris, he never felt comfortable using the Bosworth Plan again. Instead, he presented patients with the optimum treatment plan. If they resisted, he would compromise and do only what they would allow or just put off the work, except for emergencies. After a while, L.D. began calling this compromise time a “Holding Program” – a time of doing only what had to be done until the patient chose to move on to optimum care. With enough time, patients would usually follow through with optimum care, but not always.

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Bill Davis

William J. Davis DDS, MS is practicing dentist and a Professor at the University of Toledo in the College Of Medicine. He has been directing a hospital based General Practice Residency for past 40 years. Formal education at Marquette, Sloan Kettering Michigan, the Pankey Institute and Northwestern. In 1987 he co-authored a book with Dr. L.D. Pankey, “A Philosophy of the Practice of Dentistry”. Bill has been married to his wife, Pamela, for 50 years. They have three adult sons and four grandchildren. When not practicing dentistry he teaches flying.

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People Change But Not Very Much

September 13, 2020 Paul Henny DDS

L.D. Pankey famously said, “People change but not very much,” and hearing this for the very first time represented an “aha moment,” as it put into proper context an important realization I had previously ignored.

As dentists, we know a lot, and we have worked very hard to acquire that knowledge. As a consequence, we naturally want to use it to help others. But there’s a problem. Often times others act like they don’t want to be helped. Often times others act like they don’t want to be better. Often times others act like they don’t want to map a course toward a higher level of health. So, we struggle to make sense of it and even judge others as a result of it.

Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, PhD told us that the motivation to change comes from within the individual, from their perception that they’re in a state of “disequilibria,” wherein what they’ve been doing in the past (including what they believed to be true) isn’t producing the outcome they want. And as a consequence, the person is confronted with an uncomfortable truth. They can’t keep on doing what they have been doing and expect a different outcome. They’re going to have to suffer through some personal change if they sincerely desire to experience something different in their life. And executing the change is going to cost them something namely time, energy, and money. In other words, significant change can’t be done for them or to them. It’s an “inside-out” process that they will have to do for themselves.

Some people will look at their need to change and ignore it. They will say to themselves the cost is too high for them to pay, or they will simply rationalize away their need to change in an elaborate form of denial. Others will immediately confront the challenge, learn what they need to know, figure out a way to pay the price, and move on. So, what’s the difference between these people?

Perception… values… readiness.

What Can We Influence? 

In our world as dentists, we can build up a person’s understanding of their situation through CoDiscovery, and therefore we can facilitate how they frame, prioritize and think about what they have learned. But we can’t make them change. We can’t cause them to act. We can only honor where they are with it all and stand ready to assist them when they are ready to move forward.

Significant change often requires a change in a person’s value structures and the hierarchy of those structures. Piaget called changes of this type “accommodations. Piaget said that they are made at the person’s own pace after the person senses that he or she is in a state of disequilibria. And so, Dr. Pankey was right. Those who change do so not because we are highly skilled at “case presentations.” They do so because they want to, and it may occur only a little bit at a time.

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Finding Your Philosophy

March 4, 2020 North Shetter DDS

After about ten years in practice, I had “one of those days” when I sat down at the end of the day and said to myself, “Is this what it’s going to be like for the next thirty years?” I was working hard, making money, and considered successful by my friends and peers. But, patients were not saying yes to the dentistry I was capable of delivering. 

I had a long talk one evening with Dr. Loren Miller while at The Pankey Institute. His parting comment stuck with me“Son, its time for you to do some straight-line thinking.” then realized that I needed to change if I wanted my patients to change. I needed to practice in a manner that allowed me to be happy and serve my patients well. In order to do that, I needed to define what I wanted out of my life – personally and professionally – and start living that life.

Starting Point 

Each of us will find our core philosophy in our own way, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get there. There are many resources to help you get started. What follows is a list of ideas from Jim Rohn that I like as a starting point.

  1. Set some key goals for life – personally and professionally. Then be like a sailor. No matter where the wind is blowing from, keep tacking toward the goals. 
  2. Learn from both success and failure. Don’t take everything personally. Analyze when things go right and wrong, and learn from your mistakes. Success is a series of small steps toward your goals. 
  3. Read. Reading requires concentration and focus. These are skills we need to find success. Reading allows you to learn from the experience of others. The brain functions differently when you are reading and writing than when you watch a YouTube video. 
  4. Keep a journal or write a blog. Keep track of your path to clarifying your philosophy. You don’t really have a personal philosophy until you are able to explain it to your team and others. 
  5. Practice the art of active listening. It is a learned skill that is valuable in your practice and your family. Surround yourself with people you admire. Observe and listen to them.  
  6. Be disciplined. Every day is filled with a myriad of choices. We know the difference between good and bad options. It takes discipline to make good choices and stick to that path. 
  7. Don’t neglect your personal and practice life. If you don’t take care of yourself, your relationships and your business no one else is going to do it for you.  

This all sounds similar to what L.D. Pankey wrote and said, doesn’t it? 

Moving to Fee for Service Care 

I had many mentors on my path to change: Avrom King, Sandy Roth and The Pankey Institute. It was neither quick nor easy, but these sources came together for me to help me have the courage to commit to change. That change was not driven by money. It was driven by the desire to help people willing to commit to seeking outcomes they desired that were within my capacity to facilitate. That may seem “fluffy,” but from a client perspective, it is a really big deal. We asked our clients to take ownership of their own health. If that was not within their capacity, we chose not to be involved in their care. Our philosophy evolved over several years and allowed me to move from insurance dependence to fee for service care. We called our practice an outcomes-based practice, thirty years later, and three years out from handing off my practice to my former partner, it is still a successful fee for service practice. 

Moving from insurance dependence or mixed dependence to a completely fee for service care takes commitment to a special kind of practice philosophy. The listed seven steps above can start you on the way to clarifying your own. 

 

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North Shetter DDS

Dr Shetter attended the University of Detroit Mercy where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1972. He then entered the U. S. Army and provided dental care at Ft Bragg, NC for the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. In late 1975 he and his wife Jan moved to Menominee, MI and began private practice. He now is the senior doctor in a three doctor small group practice. Dr. Shetter has studied extensively at the Pankey Institute, been co-director of a Seattle Study Club branch in Green Bay WI where he has been a mentor to several dental offices. He has been a speaker for the Seattle Study Club. He has postgraduate training in orthodontics, implant restorative procedures, sedation and sleep disordered breathing. His practice is focused on fee for service, outcomes based dentistry. Marina Cove Consulting LLC is his effort to help other dentists discover emotional and economic success and deliver the highest standard of care they are capable of.

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I Am, Therefore I Think

February 27, 2020 Paul Henny DDS

Cogito, ergo sum is a philosophical proposition developed by René Descartes translated as “I think, therefore I am.” The proposition went on to become a fundamental element of a developing secular Western philosophy. Descartes asserted that the very act of doubting our own existence served as proof that we exist. 

But that’s pretty thin gruel.  

I believe Descartes got it backwards. I contend that he should have said, “I am, therefore I think.” Each of us has been given an amazing gift. In fact, we’ve been given many gifts such as life itself, but I am referring to the gift of thought and contemplation. And it’s a gift which can either make us or paralyze us into a state of inaction and failure. 

Success in practice today comes down to one thing and one thing only. Those of us who master the ability to think and solve problems quickly and efficiently with foresight will ultimately win the game, set, and match. The rest will be marginalized, consumed, controlled, oppressed, and limited by third parties. 

Our brains work like an executive committee of three memberseach with its own primary purpose, which either work in harmony to achieve great things or which work at counter-purposes on a level that is counter-productive or even self-destructive. 

Our executive committee is made up of: 

  1. A primal “reptilian” brain which is focused on very basic functions and maintenance.  
  2. A rapid pre-cognitive information gathering, analysis, and response system designed for the purpose of self-preservation, known as the limbic system. 
  3. A super-computer information processing system that can take new and stored information, reorganize it and then CREATE things like the Declaration of Independence or the Toccata and Fugue in D minor. It’s called our prefrontal cortex.” It’s our brain’s CEO. 

How well we are able to coordinate these three aspects of our mind largely defines our future. And that coordination is only possible when we are clear about our central purpose in life and practice. Have you become clear about who you are…what you want for yourself…what you want for others? What are the sacrifices you are willing to make to achieve them? And how will others benefit from it all? These are the kinds of questions that help keep our executive committee on the right course, allowing it to be adaptable, as well as progressive in a rapidly changing marketplace. 

L.D. Pankey taught us that creating a written practice philosophy was the most important step in building the practice of our dreams. Why? Because it puts our executive committee on-task and keeps it there.   

“I think, therefore I am,” or “I am, therefore I think?” Understanding the distinction and leveraging it will make all the difference in the world. 

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Head, Hands, Heart

January 7, 2020 Paul Henny DDS

L.D. Pankey, when talking about the assimilation of knowledge would say, “First you get it in your hands, then your head, and finally in your heart,” meaning objective understanding and competence was only a step in becoming a complete dentist. 
 
This, of course, was a hard message to hear as a young clinician, because after rapidly proceeding through Pete Dawson’s curriculum, purchasing three Denar articulators, and then going on to The Pankey Institute, I felt that I was ready to start practicing as a “comprehensive dentist.” 
 
But unfortunately, most of my patients and the citizens of my berg didn’t get the memo. Most of them just looked at me suspiciously, while others left. Fortunately, a few of them allowed me to perform my “complete exam,” collect study models and take 35mm slide photography. And then, I’d spend hours waxing up cases, and preparing a thorough written report containing all of my findings and recommendations. Finally, I’d make  a “case presentation” appointment and unveil the brilliance of my understanding of complete dentistryabout which I was sure the patient would be impressed and then have no alternative but to say “yes” to my plan for them.

From there, it was easy for me to visualize a completely organized schedule full of people who had said “yes,” and a projected level of income of my choice based upon how hard I wanted to work, and the number of hours I was willing to commit to being at the office. It all sounded so perfectly logical, and it all fits quite well with my left brain driven in the world view of dentistry.

But things didn’t work out that way very often. And since that time, I’ve have spoken and consulted with literally hundreds of dentists who’ve experienced similar frustrations. Many of them told me that they eventually gave up on their effort to try and practice comprehensive dentistry. Others took their practice to near bankruptcy via their determination.

You see, most of us missed Dr. Pankey’s message the first time we heard it, or even after the next two or three times.

We failed to recognize that the concept of complete care also hinged on how each patient felt, what they wanted for themselves, and what the solution would mean to them on an emotional level.

It was only after this difficult realization that things began to improve for me and my practice. The work of Carl Rogers, Bob Barkley, Lynn Carlisle, Avrom King, Sandy Roth, Mary Osborne, and many others, helped me to make some critical adjustments regarding how I was communicating with my patientsand perhaps even more critically when.

Patient-centered dentistry is just thatpatient-centered, not treatment centered.

This means we must first come to appreciate each person without imposing our beliefs and expectations upon them. This is a process that involves feelings first (their feelings not oursbefore cognitionand before the discussion of any solutions. We must first be able to grasp the contextual meaning of the dentistry in each person’s life, and by so doing, better appreciate their perspective.

When we become better at doing this, we’ll feel that our knowledge has finally reached our hearts and the hearts of our patients as well. And it’s only at that moment that things will start to become easier and our patient’s behavior more predictable. It’s only at that moment that the “yes” to comprehensive dentistry will happen on a regular basis. 

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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The “First” Principle

November 14, 2019 Paul Henny DDS

I was recently rereading one of Avrom King’s essays and stumbled upon the deeply profound statement: “Fear and love cannot coexist; where there is one, there is the absence of the other.” 

I have discussed in the past that the central intention of L.D. Pankey’s interpretation of the phrase “quid pro quo,” was love.

And when I use love here, I am referencing M. Scott Peck’s definition: “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” 

Note, that this definition has a “quid”—the giving of the self, and it has a “quo”—the spiritual development. The “first” (the quid) begets the reward (the quo).  

Dr. Pankey famously demonstrated this “first principle when he elected to not quote a fee at the beginning of his treatment process, and then at the end of it, asked the person to pay him based on their perceived value of what he had done for them. Think about that for a moment, because to act in that fashion requires a tremendous amount of courage and self-confidence.  

Do you think that you could ever get to a place in your life where you could act in a similar fashionto give freely of yourself in the very best ways possible, and then risk the possibility that the receiver of that gift might not appreciate everything you have done for them on an appropriate level? 

There is only one reason why Dr. Pankey could do this. He had an attitude of abundance which radiated through everything that he did. And as a result, others believed in him and followed his leadership to discover a better place for themselves. In other words, Dr. Pankey’s love for others led to their spiritual development, which then led to him being appropriately compensated. 

I am not suggesting here that you should stop quoting fees to your patients. I think most people need to know fees (or at least fee ranges) to be able to successfully manage their personal budgets, but I am suggesting that you learn how to give generously on the front end of your relationships with people without an expectation beyond appreciationbecause if you can’t earn their appreciation, you can’t really earn your fee. 

Now, back to the Avrom King quote. “Fear and love cannot coexist; where there is one, there is the absence of the other.” You can’t successfully take this risk, unless youlike Dr. Pankeypossess an abundant mindset, so are therefore capable of loving (in the M. Scott Peck senseyour patients? 

That capacity comes from within. We can’t facilitate growth and development in others without simultaneously facilitating it in ourselves. 

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Keepers of the Meaning

November 8, 2019 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

In 2003, I was fortunate to dine with Pete Dawson and he spoke about his friendship with Dr. Morty Amsterdam and how he so enjoyed coming to Philadelphia. He spoke about L.D. Pankey. At one point he said something I will never forget, he said, “You know, L.D. was no fluke.” I asked what he meant. He told me, “L.D. really loved dentists and loved the dental profession. That is what drove him.”  

Dr. Dawson was no fluke, either.

Through his writings and teaching of over 50 years, he was a warrior for meaningful, excellent and dutiful dentistry. When news Pete’s passing came, tens of thousands of dentists all over the world wrote about how much he meant to their lives and careers. He had carried the torch of meaningful comprehensive dentistry into the hearts and minds of dentists for as long as I can remember. 

I carry a coin in my wallet which readsMemento Mori. The Stoics used that phrase to remind themselves that everyone is mortal. “You could leave life right now.” When the news of his passing came, I was shocked. Joan Forest reported that Pete was prepared and yet on the Tuesday before he was still preparing lectures and writing a chapter for a new book. I guess that is what the keepers of meaning do right to the end. 

Excellence, duty, and meaning are the primary sources of Stoic joy.

Not the surface cheerfulness and pleasure that we have come to know on social media. The essence of what L.D. and Pete taught led to real inner happiness. I know it did for me.  

Erik Erikson, the developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on the psychological development of human beings, described the last tasks of adult development as generativity and keeper of the meaningErikson claimed that if one completed these tasks, the reward would be a full life. 

As the Pankey Institute continues passing on the knowledge of meaningful comprehensive dentistry to younger dentists (from one generation to the next) and to never waiver on the meaning of dentistry for patients and dental professionals, there is true potential for a new generation to become keepers of the meaning. And this makes me smile. 

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Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Dr. Polansky has delivered comprehensive cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, and implant dentistry for more than 35 years. He was born in the Bronx, New York in January 1948. The doctor graduated from Queens College in 1969 and received his DMD degree in 1973 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Following graduation, Dr. Polansky spent two years in the US Army Dental Corps, stationed at Fort. Dix, New Jersey. In 1975, Dr. Polansky entered private practice in Medford Lakes. Three years later, he built his second practice in the town in which he now lives, Cherry Hill. Dr. Polansky wrote his first article for Dental Economics in 1995 – it was the cover article. Since that time Dr. Polansky has earned a reputation as one of dentistry's best authors and dental philosophers. He has written for many industry publications, including Dental Economics, Dentistry Today, Dental Practice and Finance, and Independent Dentistry (a UK publication).

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The Humor of the Master

October 18, 2019 Clayton Davis, DMD

It has been a life-long observation of mine that leaders who are well-loved, who people are drawn to, who friends just want to hang out with, have a comic side to them. A quick wit and the ability to tell a funny story are traits people enjoy.

This was certainly true of Dr. L. D. Pankey, as I found out the first and only time I ever met him.

It was July of 1988 and I was making my first ever visit the renowned Pankey Institute for Continuum Level 1 taught by Drs. Irwin Becker and Donald “Ozzie” Asbjornson. To say the week for me was monumental is, quite frankly, an understatement. It would be like saying smartphones have had an influence on our culture. You see, I knew I had a passion for dentistry, but before that week at C1, I had no idea what to do with it.

And the perfect ending to the week was a visit to our class by the legend himself, Dr. L. D. Pankey. He was well up into his 80’s and had been “under the weather” for the last month, or so. But he was extremely excited that there were some international students in the class – four actually: two from the U.K., one from Denmark, and one from Alabama. So, on the last day, which was Friday morning, Dr. Pankey had asked to be brought up to the Institute for a surprise visit to the class.

Executive Director, Chris Sager, was speaking to the class in Mann Hall when Dr. Pankey stepped into the back of the room and took a seat. Chris immediately stopped what he had been saying and announced, “We’ve had a special visitor just come into the room.”

All eyes turned to the back of the room where we saw a humble, elderly man wearing a white starched shirt, necktie, and freshly pressed suit. Honestly, it didn’t immediately dawn on me who he was.

Then Chris asked from the front of the room, “Dr. Pankey, how do you feel?”

Without missing a beat, Dr. Pankey responded, “Oh…mostly with my fingers.”

The whole room laughed. The witty retort was funny, but even funnier was the fact that Dr. Pankey had played Chris Sager as the straight man. What a moment. What a gift. By the following March, L. D. Pankey would no longer be with us. But we had the privilege in that one glimpse of seeing the cleverness of the man who had charmed so many.

After we all finished laughing. On that Friday morning so many years ago, Chris invited Dr. Pankey to come upfront and speak to the class. He welcomed us and expressed his pleasure that we were there. Then he picked up a marker to begin writing on the whiteboard. After a pause, he put the cap back on the marker and placed it in the tray. He looked at us and with his voice a little shaky said, “There’s so much I want to tell you. Just read my book – it’s all in the book.”

Most of us in the Pankey family today never got to meet Dr. L. D. Pankey. But you can still “meet” him in the pages of A Philosophy of Dental Practice, the book on which he and Dr. Bill Davis collaborated. If he could speak to us today, I believe he would tell us a little joke and say, “Just read my book – it’s all in the book.”

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Clayton Davis, DMD

Dr. Clayton Davis received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina. Continuing his education at the Medical College of Georgia, he earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 1980. Having grown up in the Metro Atlanta area, Dr. Davis and his wife, Julia, returned to establish practice and residence in Gwinnett County. In addition to being a Visiting Faculty Member of The Pankey Institute, Dr. Davis is a leader in Georgia dentistry, both in terms of education and service. He is an active member of the Atlanta Dental Study Group, Hinman Dental Society, and the Georgia Academy of Dental Practice. He served terms as president of the Georgia Dental Education Foundation, Northern District Dental Society, Gwinnett Dental Society, and Atlanta Dental Study Group. He has been state coordinator for Children’s Dental Health Month, facilities chairman of Georgia Mission of Mercy, and served three terms in the Georgia Dental Association House of Delegates.

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It’s the Philosophy: Part 1

October 2, 2019 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Fifteen years after graduating from dental school I was searching for answers.

I barely knew what questions to ask because there was no guidebook to learning how to practice dentistry and live the life I imagined. I read every book including Juggling for Dummies. Then I stumbled across The Pankey Institute, and I knew my search was over. Back then the program consisted of five continuums. At C1, I was lucky enough to meet Dr. William Davis, the co-author of the then recently published book A Philosophy of the Practice of Dentistry, with Dr. L.D. Pankey.

At the end of classes one day, I stayed behind to talk with “Bill” about philosophy.

I always had an interest in philosophy, but Bill discussed how Dr. Pankey applied philosophy to a dental practice. We spoke into the evening and through the week. I told him that this philosophy sounded a lot like a garden variety of personal development. It was loaded with quotes from Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie, yet I felt there was more to it; after all, Pankey had studied “real” Aristotelian philosophy at Northwestern University.

I was never satisfied with the explanation of the philosophy consisting of the graphical “Pankey Crosses.”

From that week on I took my studies deeper. My search for answers continued, but now I was on a path. I realized that if I was going to apply philosophy to my practice it required behavioral changes. The Pankey Philosophy was more than a moral philosophy which is projected and leads to judgements about the way others do dentistry. I realized that this philosophy was a personal and practical philosophy which was designed to direct my own behavior.

The examination process became very important to me, because by continually perfecting it, I could focus on my behavior and the changes it made. Those personal changes lead to more success and more enjoyment. Slowly I began to appreciate dentistry. I focused on the “apply your knowledge” arm of Dr. Pankey’s Cross of Dentistry. Then, while taking courses in positive psychology, I realized that in order to make real changes I would have to focus on my “character strengths and virtues.”

“Dr. Pankey and the Greek philosophers used the word virtues.”

Dr. Pankey and the Greek philosophers used the word virtues. I never truly knew what that meant. Somewhere I read that a virtue is a habit of the mind that is consistent with nature and reason. It can be argued that when L.D. Pankey spoke about care, skill, and judgement, he was speaking about virtues. Not surprisingly the positive psychologists have written about character strengths and virtues.

They have defined twenty-four separate strengths divided into six virtues: wisdom/knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

By studying these strengths and virtues and working them into my daily habits, a funny thing happened. Not only did I become a better dentist, but I became a better leader for the first time in my practice. Leadership was the answer I was searching for, and character was the answer to leadership. It has been a long and worthwhile journey that may have ended differently without understanding Dr. Pankey’s philosophy was a personal and practical philosophy that had real meaning for my life.

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Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Dr. Polansky has delivered comprehensive cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, and implant dentistry for more than 35 years. He was born in the Bronx, New York in January 1948. The doctor graduated from Queens College in 1969 and received his DMD degree in 1973 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Following graduation, Dr. Polansky spent two years in the US Army Dental Corps, stationed at Fort. Dix, New Jersey. In 1975, Dr. Polansky entered private practice in Medford Lakes. Three years later, he built his second practice in the town in which he now lives, Cherry Hill. Dr. Polansky wrote his first article for Dental Economics in 1995 – it was the cover article. Since that time Dr. Polansky has earned a reputation as one of dentistry's best authors and dental philosophers. He has written for many industry publications, including Dental Economics, Dentistry Today, Dental Practice and Finance, and Independent Dentistry (a UK publication).

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The Value of a Written a Philosophy Statement

July 1, 2019 Paul Henny DDS

When asked about The Pankey Philosophy, L.D. Pankey famously responded, “What do you mean when you ask me about The Pankey Philosophy? I am not familiar with the document, although I do recall writing an essay entitled A Philosophy of Dentistry by L.D. Pankey.”

Most dentists are comfortable acknowledging that L.D. Pankey was a great philosopher and that he was the first well-known philosopher in dentistry, but most dentists don’t think of themselves in a similar fashion; rather they like to think of themselves as being prototypes of practicality. This is why most dentists never even think about the value of writing a Philosophy Statement.

Just what is a philosophy statement?

A philosophy statement is a statement of core beliefs, and a validated philosophy is a philosophy statement which has been affirmed through its frequent use, reference, and revision. It is, therefore, a living creed around which a person or group of people live their lives.

A great example of a validated philosophy statement was how Wilson Southam and the Group at Cox operated a number of years ago. Cox was a progressive dental equipment designer and manufacturer located in Stony Creek, Ontario. Wilson Southam was an investor, a co-owner, as well as the philosophical leader of the company. Cox had developed a philosophy around which all of its equipment would be designed – a concept is called, “the computerized dental cockpit,” fashioned similarly to how a fighter pilot might operate. And Cox preferred to sell its equipment to only those who understood its philosophy…only to those who understood the “why” behind the “how” and the “what.” Cox believed in this so strongly that it held workshops centered around its philosophy at Stony Creek.

A philosophy statement can also be called a “core beliefs statement.” A good example of a philosophy statement is the Nicene Creed, co-authored after the center of the Roman Catholic Empire was moved from Rome to Constantinople. At that time, Christianity was in a fractured state, with many different sects, and with many different belief systems. The Nicene Creed was co-created by the Roman Catholic leadership with the intention of having it function as a unifying document around which everyone could agree, so that the church could again move forward.  It states, “We believe…. We believe.”

It’s a well thought out basis for behavior.

So, a philosophy statement represents a statement of beliefs, which is so basic and so fundamental that it provides a rational and comfortable basis for you and your care team to determine what it is that each member of a care team should do, as well as what they should choose not to do.

William James was a physician who lectured at Harvard in the late 1800s on Philosophy and Psychology. He is considered to be America’s first psychologist and was thought of as a “pragmatic philosopher.”  In this regard, James said, “There is nothing more practical than having a personal philosophy.” In the case of dentistry, an applied philosophy (validated philosophy) is practical as well, as it naturally leads to an organically-driven team, deep in mission, and high levels of personal autonomy and interpersonal trust.

A philosophically-aligned team is essential for the creation of a philosophically-driven community.

Barkley a year or so before his untimely death in 1977, said during an interview with Avrom King said: “If I had one wish that could be granted, it would be that every dentist would take the time to create a written philosophy statement.” Let’s talk about why Bob would make such a statement.

The creation of a relationship-based/health-centered practice is a perfect example of the creation of a philosophically-driven community, with the word community being used as a reference not only to the creation of a care team, but also to the patients of a practice, its associated suppliers, mentors, and facilitators. All of the members of this community are philosophically aligned through either careful selection, development, or both.

A community of this type begins with the creation of a care team which has co-authored a written statement of philosophy. This is because you cannot have a true health-centered dental practice without a philosophically-aligned care team which listens well, are true helpers, and who facilitate healing in each other, as well in those with whom they come in contact. One or two people acting alone, simply cannot apply a practice philosophy as others, who are in contact with patients, will create too much confusion and mixed messages in the minds of the patients.

A personal philosophy statement starts the ball rolling.

The dentist might begin the process of thinking through a personal philosophy statement by answering these questions:

  1. Who am I? (What are my values and core beliefs?)
  2. Who do I want to become? (How do I want to see my life unfold?)
  3. Why do I feel this way? (What is my personal purpose in this life?)

To develop your philosophy-driven community (care team, patients, suppliers, mentors and facilitators) the dentist next shares his or her personal philosophy with care team members and leads them in co-authoring a practice philosophy statement.

Remember: A philosophy statement is a statement of core beliefs, and a validated philosophy is a philosophy statement which has been affirmed through its frequent use, reference, and revision. It is, therefore, a living creed around which a person or group of people live their lives.

A co-authored and applied practice philosophy statement produces multiple benefits.

Here are four concrete benefits of co-creating a written group philosophy statement with your care team:

  1. It will establish a standard of behavior for everyone to live up to and aspire towards.
  2. It will allow for that standard of behavior to be used in a situationally appropriate fashion, and therefore not be used dogmatically, as everyone recognizes that every person and every situation is unique.
  3. It will function as a centripetal force…as a kind of principle-centered psycho-social glue which will hold the care team together during times of change and challenge.
  4. It will function as the foundational document out of which a practice vision (where are we going long-term) and a mission statement (how we will get it done) can evolve.

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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