The year was 1975, and I was one year away from high school graduation, and nine years away from my dream of becoming a dentist. My father’s red and white midlife-crisis-eight-miles-per-gallon Oldsmobile 442 had been sold due to the recent oil embargo and “skyrocketing” gasoline prices peaking at $2.00, and the local McDonalds was hiring due to a change in their business plan, and a new nation-wide trend: breakfast would be served.

As a new hire, I was put on the grill to make an offering called “Egg McMuffins,” along with pancakes at 6:00 in the morning, and Big Macs and Quarter Pounders over the lunchtime.

The smell of grilled hamburgers permeating my hair and clothes every day, and my slippery work boots, from all of the grease on the floor, is still clearly impregnated in my mind.

All was well until one morning, when my one and two-at-time breakfast-making routine turned into a nightmare when a bus full of 60 people pulled up.

It was on that day, that I learned a lot about my temperament…that didn’t like to be rushed, and that I didn’t like to be put in situations where I wasn’t able to do my best. Speed, outside of track and field, was not my preference…and taking my time, and doing things right most certainly was.

Needless to say, when the summer had passed, and cross country season had resumed, I was ready to leave the McDonalds random-chaos experience behind.

Fast forward ten years, and I found myself in a similar situation as an associate in what I would regard today to be a “fast food” dental practice. The patients barely wanted to talk to me, and most of them were only interested in what their insurance would “cover.”

In the lab were case pans full of crowns and a couple of bridges which had been made two years prior- and never delivered. When I asked Ron, my employer, why the crowns were still there, he responded, “They never came back…they didn’t want to make the co-payments.”

So, it was on that day that I realized the practice of dentistry often wasn’t what I had imagined it was going to be like in dental school. It was a lot about insurance and a little bit about health. It was a lot about working fast, and hoping you would be paid. It was a lot about trying to do your best, and then having a lot people refuse to acknowledge your efforts.

I was crestfallen, and as a result came very close to leaving dentistry…that was until I stumbled onto the writings of Avrom King, who often talked about this guy named Bob Barkley from Macomb Illinois.

Because it was at that moment, that a vision started to emerge in my mind with regard to what dentistry COULD BE…that practicing dentistry didn’t have to be like working the grill at McDonalds…that the practice of dentistry COULD BE about profoundly helping others, and COULD BE structured in a way that I would be able to take the time and do things right…and carefully down to the very last detail, as well as feel good about what I had accomplished.

The rest of my professional story is related to a choice I made at that point in my life- the choice to never go back to practicing a fast-food lifestyle. And it led me through Peter Dawson, L.D. Pankey, Mark Piper, Frank Spear, Bob Winter, and many other amazing experiences in the pursuit of that vision.

What choices have you made with regard to how you want to be practicing dentistry today?

Paul A Henny, DDS

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