Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Farewell, a decade later

I started this blog 10 years ago, today.

My life has been surprisingly predictable if you were to look forward way back in 2010 and try to guess where I would be today.

Granted, the path was well-marked. I had just gotten accepted to dental school and received an HPSP scholarship, so things were pretty predictable from there. But the journey was anything but predictable. Multiple moves, all the people I met, the things I saw and learned. None of them were on my radar in February 2010.

I'm happy to announce that I'm grateful for the path I chose all those years ago and wouldn't change a thing about it. The destination was what I had hoped it would be, and what I had planned to do.

I am still happily married, have my first child on the way, own my own dental practice, and am genuinely grateful for all the people I met along the way in this last decade of my life.

As of know, I don't plan to monitor this blog any more or post any further updates. If something changes, then you'll know!

But for now, thank you. Thank you to all the hundreds of people that emailed me along the way and made me part of your own journey. I hope it's everything you dreamed it would be.

Thanks for reading for the last decade.

Here's to another wonderful 10 years, and many more!

Signing off,

Matthew Lee, DDS

Monday, September 2, 2019

45 Days of Practice Ownership

I alluded to it in my last post, but I have officially purchased a dental practice in Greeley, CO.

The name is NorthStar Dental, and you can find me on the web in these locations:

Twitter: @NSDGreeley
Instagram: @NSDGreeley
Facebook: Click here

I've learned a few things in my first 45 days, but I mainly want to discuss the differences between military dentistry and civilian dentistry here.

1. Treatment planning

Military treatment planning is very conservative. This stems from the fact that we are often so booked out, that it's easier to push off that tooth with some visible fracture lines to next year, or do a big filling and hope it doesn't break in the meantime, rather than stuffing the schedule full of crowns.

In civilian practice, you can pitch the option of a crown as soon as you know a filling is a poor long term solution which means your crowns are going to be far more predictable and often not require a core buildup for the patient (which saves them $) if the existing filling is small.

2. Problem solving

The military has a multitude of issues but most of them are small. However, this constant small background annoyance is akin to a constant static slowly invading your work life. There's a lot of problems that you can't fix at all, or that take so long to fix that you just start to ignore them.

In civilian practice, problems get solved very quickly. There's a host of helpful people waiting to service your practice via equipment purchases, financing, supplies, etc. 

Example: It took 8 months to get new curing lights in the military. In my new practice? 4 days.

3. Administrative tasks

One big benefit of the military is that you have a lot of enlisted personnel to help with admin duties. But wait a minute, you also have your own! Writing notes, running programs, the list goes on and on. None of them are that hard, but again, it's like the constant static in the background.

In civilian practice, you have far less that you are "required" to do yourself (treatment notes are an obvious example here). Not to mention you can run your "programs" (referrals, etc) however you want! My admin burden is probably 10% of what it was in the military. My staff is small and efficient and takes most of this load away. Now, I do have a host of new issues to deal with, but with the right leadership background, I have had no problems at all with these new items and I have more down time (yep) than I did in the military.

My overall thoughts after 45 days:

I have been totally surprised at how easy the transition to civilian practice has been. The everyday joy of treating patients that actually chose to come see you cannot be understated. Having a very small team of highly motivated individuals makes you far more productive than having large military teams (ironically) bogged down with red tape and hours of extra non-dental work. The nearly total lack of administrative tasks in the civilian world is a dream. Solving problems instantly means that there's no buildup of stress "static". Being able to actually lead a clinic and have ultimate autonomy is wonderful.

I've loved it so far. If I had to put a number to it, I would say it's about 20% as stressful as I expected, and 2x as fun.

My big caveat: 

If you're thinking of getting out just to associate forever, think twice. The military has such a great end goal for those that can stay for 20 years, and many private offices hire associates too early which means you won't be busy enough. Working for a corporate office might work because they typically have a better pulse on their needs, but you may burn out quickly because you'll definitely be seeing more patients.

So let me encourage those that are considering getting out. Do it!

If... you want to own a practice :)

P.S. If you decide to get out, you *must* use an intraoral camera for *every* exam finding. Showing the patient what you are seeing is far and away the best tool for gaining trust and building rapport. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

The End of the Beginning -- And An Offer for Readers

I started this blog in February 2010 with the intention of chronicling my journey as an Air Force dentist and being a resource to help out people who had questions.

I was "scratching my own itch", if you will. I didn't see anything on the internet like what I wanted to read. So I made it myself.

500 emails, 250,000 page views, and a few phone calls later, I'd say it was quite a success.

After a long 10 years, I am finally in the process of leaving the military and acquiring a dental practice for myself. I can't say really anything more than that, but now you know. I've already learned a ton along the way, and I'm hoping to help military dentists get over the fear of transitioning into practice.

If you're a dentist (military or otherwise) considering transitioning to ownership, please contact me (my email is on the right side of the page)!

I would love to help you better understand if this is the right step for you and even do some help you look at different practice offers, associate contracts, or just brainstorm your next steps.

As for the future of this blog...

I've struggled recently trying to decide what direction to take it, if any, given the facts that:

1. I'm leaving the military (so the title doesn't work super well)
2. It makes me no money (so I can't sell it)
3. It's a very narrowly focused/designed blog (so there's not much else to explore)

However, I think it may be beneficial to continue my story in some way and I haven't quite decided if that will happen here at this domain or on some other blog that is tailored more towards my next phase in life. Stay tuned.

I've received literally hundreds of emails over the last decade and this blog has been a central location for those looking for information about military dentistry, the Air Force HPSP, dental school, and life in the military.

My email is still live, so keep the questions coming! Like I said at the top of the page, I'm welcoming any and all questions from those looking to transition to ownership.

It's been an honor and a pleasure, and I'm excited for the next step in my journey and helping you with yours.