It is my pleasure to introduce a special guest writer - our friend and colleague Anthony Hua. Anthony is a current third-year dental student at the UCSF School of Dentistry, working toward a dual DDS/MBA degree in conjunction with the USF School of Management. Originally from Orange County in Southern California, he received his Bachelor’s degree from UCLA.
Given his special background as a dental lab technician and business-oriented interests, Jenny and I wanted his take on what inspired him to pursue a dual-professional degree and what his philosophy on dentistry is. We wanted to share his advice in hopes that you, whether you are a pre-dental student or a current dental student, may gain a new perspective on the many unique opportunities/career paths that dentistry offers.
Without further ado, here are Anthony's words of wisdom:
"The first thing people usually ask when they find out I am getting an MBA is how it might help me own my own practice. The truth is, even before I began the program, I knew very little of the curriculum would directly relate to opening a practice in the future. Generally speaking, to be a successful practice owner, you need a dental degree, an unlimited source of perseverance, and a healthy awareness of when to ask for professional help – everything else inevitably falls into place once you learn where to find the right answers. Generations of dentists have thrived with no business background using a pragmatic strategy focused on reaching a functional end goal. In other words, getting an MBA is not the most economical, efficient, or even reliable way to improve your chances of one day owning a practice.
So why did I get an MBA during dental school?
Working in a dental lab as a technician, and seeing first hand the harmony, or sometimes lack there of between technology and clinical dentistry showed me that dentistry is not a perfect science, especially as clinical application and patient interaction become involved – there is a reason why they call it a dental practice. Finding solutions that better facilitate this is inherently a managerial question that applies to every industry: how do we build effective teams that collaborate and communicate to best serve our target population? Knowing that there is barely enough space in the dental school curriculum to ensure students have the clinical training and knowledge to become licensed providers, I had to look beyond dental school.
The USF School of Management, which partnered with the UCSF School of Dentistry to offer a dual DDS/MBA degree seemed like a perfect fit for me to learn how to identify, develop, and facilitate impactful interactions – and so far, it has. Since the tools and skills I learn about are more relevant for business and non-healthcare organizations, I get the opportunity to take creative liberty and relate my learnings to dentistry. Thankfully, the things that require more effective managing in dentistry are not so different in other industries: managing the practice (operations), managing patient (customer) expectation, managing the clinic staff (teams), managing the schedule (time), managing dental products (inventory), and most importantly, managing oneself.
Now more than ever, purposeful interactions are needed beyond the clinical and technical aspects. Dentistry is extremely dynamic and in the middle of a technological revolution. Globalization opens the world for greater exchange of ideas and to access previously inaccessible populations in need. All of this is happening as the world is becoming more aware of the importance oral health has on quality of life from an economic, emotional, social, and physical standpoint- the influence of dentistry is expanding.
So why MBA? Well, as the industry scales, we will need voices that advocate for all stakeholders – access to care for patients, employment protection rights for providers and clinic staff, relevant curriculum for students and learning institutions, better clinical feedback for dental technicians and dental labs, industry-standards for technology companies, and clear metrics for investors, among many other known and unknown variables.
In whatever direction dentistry naturally evolves toward, I entered this profession fascinated by my time at the dental lab. The opportunity to provide personalized solutions for individual patients represented is inherent to what drew me to dentistry and will continue to guide me wherever this journey takes me. Whatever it is that calls you to dentistry, use it as your north star to guide you into and through dental school – we need it. Be honest with what drives you and as you explore deeper into the dental world. Look for the places where you think you can make an impact. If you are interested in learning more, take every opportunity to ask any within the dental industry what the largest obstacle to providing care is. I’ll bet the answer you get has nothing to do with clinical care and you’ll leave with a lot to think about. Once you find a nice niche, be realistic about what it takes to get there. For me it meant another degree, for you it might mean an unplanned residency. No other profession matches the amount of freedom, fulfillment, and fun that dentistry offers – we just need to be open and creative about what that exactly means for each one of us."
If you have recommendations or comments, he can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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