Teaching: The More Varied the Better

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FOR ME, it is always a challenge to think about ways to teach. The audience we wish to attract is understandably busy, each dentist with his or her own agenda. Now, you might question whether I, as one of the founders of the largest endodontic practice in Manhattan, really want to teach or just to market our practice, which will happily and effectively do the work we hope you send us. Of course, we want any and all of you to send us work, but after forty years of teaching I know in intimate detail the benefits of truly teaching as well as I possibly can (and I’m better at it now than I was forty years ago).

If I develop a reputation for teaching effectively, meaning that I give dentists the tools to do well what they formerly did not do as well and to do for themselves what they routinely sent out, I will teach people I know and I will also continuously make new acquaintances where a potential relationship can start. When I first started out, like any ambitious young specialist I knocked on doors. If you knocked on enough doors you could build a practice, assuming that you delivered on the fine service you promised. While I still try to treat patients to the best of my ability, I don’t have the same motivation to knock on doors, but I hope that knocking on doors has been replaced by my much-expanded schedule of teaching.

For me, the best way to teach is one-on-one. I like being a mother hen hovering over those I teach, giving them advice on an ongoing basis as they work on extracted teeth with loupes, under the microscope, or both. Now, you can do only so much one-on-one teaching before your wife threatens you with divorce, so I generally limit this form of teaching to two evenings per week. The nice thing about this form of teaching is that I offer it free to the student and I have been providing it for free for the past twenty-five years. We also have two-day courses that are tuition-based, and they have the advantage of group participation in which we all learn from one another. Here, too, the participants work under the microscope, honing their knowledge of pulpal anatomy and where the branchings of the canals occur. Unlike the one-on-one courses that I give in our Manhattan office, we hold the two-day courses, open to a maximum of twenty participants, at our facility in South Hackensack, New Jersey.

These two avenues are not enough. We live in a big, vibrant city, and different approaches appeal to different people. So we also hold collective meetings in our dental office once a month or so to allow dentists to get at least an initial appreciation for the concepts we want to teach. We supply food and drink, and the entire event is free. For many participants, these events are the prequel for one-on-one training, and they are also a good way to meet new dentists. Starting in 2013, we will be holding combination social and educational events at 71st Street and Broadway in a beautiful space in the building of my partner Amy Dukoff. These events are constructive for all parties. They are educational because we will be covering various endodontic subjects as well as other interesting subjects as they arise, and they are social because we will be serving a changing menu of food, limiting the educational aspects to one hour of a three-hour event and filling in the rest of the time with our own company enhanced by musical and video entertainment. It will be a time when dentists can discuss their problematic cases with us and, we hope, gain some helpful insights.

You might ask why, after so many years, I am even more enthusiastic about teaching than I was in the past. Quite simply, I enjoy it and know that honest goodwill teaching is the best way to build a practice. It fosters wonderful professional relationships that often grow into personal friendships, and it builds on the basis of integrity that is the most stable support one could hope to achieve. I think you will find this potpourri of events stimulating in the new year, and I am excited to see how things develop. It goes without saying that we are also looking forward to any suggestions from those who participate that might contribute to making these events even better.

January - March 2013

You might ask why, after so many years, I am even more enthusiastic about teaching than I was in the past.