As a senior dentist of 33 years and president-elect of the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration, I was saddened and dismayed when I read your article in Perspective (July 1997). Your Dad instilled in you a strong respect for professionalism. Yet, I feel your column shows a disrespect.
I agree with you that the definition of success is individually defined since it is the progressive realization of a worthy goal, dream, or ideal. We are also in agreement that some practice management consultants, like some dentists and some hygienists, are unethical and motivated primarily by financial gain. To isolate all management consultants, however, and then title them blood-sucking leeches, is a great disservice to your readers as well as the many dedicated, ethical professional consultants that have contributed so much to our profession. To me, that statement demands an apology.
While I personally have never attended a boot camp in Texas nor been to a home in Virginia Beach, I found your remarks obviously referring to specific individuals who are well known to all of us who are perceptive in dentistry today. In many cases, these consultants have gallantly carried the banner for our profession. Linda Miles, for example, has recently written a book, "The Rise and Fall of Managed Care." It truly is a magnificent effort to educate our patients on the pitfalls of managed care and to maintain our freedom as well as professionalism. When your dad and I began practicing dentistry, it was devoid of HMOs, PPOs, dental insurance, IPAs, corporate clinics, private clinic chains, and, most importantly, an over-abundance of dentists. Dentistry and whatever you care to define as success was, comparatively, a "no-brainer."
In today`s world, fierce competition and all the alphabet soup has made simply surviving and having a job the definition of success for many practices. I know firsthand, because I have a son who is about to begin dental practice in another state. Many offices are struggling and fine management consultants can make the difference in achieving whatever they personally define as success.
I have personally lectured on, "Creating the Successful Practice with Professionalism" and have a total fee-for-service practice, but I realize that I am the exception. I also realize that much of what I have learned and accomplished was attained through the utilization of numerous fine management consultants and, most important, keeping an open mind.
Our hygienists work four days per week with patients, see seven patients per day maximum, and have a sharing relationship in all professional decisions, including the patient`s treatment plan. Each of us is well compensated and appreciated. We spend a half-day per week, not only sharpening instruments, but "sharpening the saw" by preparing for the following week and meeting for team building. We treat people right, maintain our obligations, and contribute to society as you noted, but we believe our rewards are always in direct proportion to how much we contribute to society. Let`s recognize that management consultants can contribute too and are, in many instances, a "Mother Theresa" and not as you`ve noted blood-sucking leeches. Professional consultant is not an oxymoron.
A.L. Ousborne, Jr., DDS
Editor Note: First of all, consulting precedes HMOs, PPOs, etc. Consulting emerged because, right or wrong, someone figured out that dentists lack appropriate business training in dental schools. So it`s not a contemporary phenomenon. Of course, we agree that some consultants are very successful in reinvigorating an entire practice, including the staff. But you do make reference to, and acknowledge, that there are some "blood-sucking leeches" out there. The dental profession makes the effort, through testing and licensure, to ensure that unethical professionals are not prevalent. Perhaps the consulting profession should consider some sort of self-policing. There`s little question that hygienists suffer through the "bad" consultants who recommend impractical solutions in "revamping" the hygiene department. So we don`t feel an apology is necessary. Dental literature, in general, is very kind to the consulting profession, publishing numerous articles about, and written by, consultants. We will say that any indirect reference to a specific consultant in the column was coincidental and unintentional. The references were part of a description detailing the diversity of consulting options.