Mentor: a wise, trusted, experienced advisor; a consultant; one who advises or trains someone else (especially a younger colleague).
In 1969, Assistant Dean Dr. Harvey Coleman asked me to teach at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry in Los Angeles, CA. Every Wednesday I drove an hour to the dental school and shared my expertise as a successful general dentist with the dental students. From that experience, I first became a mentor and teacher.
A dentistry mentor is someone with expertise who teaches and gives help and advice to less-experienced and often younger dentists. That mentor has more experience and can impart valuable experience and knowledge to help guide the less-experienced or less-knowledgeable dentist. I have been a mentor for about 50 years.
I started Arrowhead Dental Laboratory about 40 years ago both to provide a high-quality product and to facilitate a way to mentor other dentists. The Dr. Dick Barnes Group (DDBG) was established as a way for me to share my experiences with dentists throughout the world and teach dentists techniques and strategies to become better and more productive.
I can tell you with all humility that doing seminars is not profitable financially, but as a mentor, sharing my knowledge of finance and dentistry has given me some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Mentoring dentists and watching them become better technically and financially brought me a great deal of satisfaction.
I remember a young dentist from many years ago who wanted to be involved in teaching with our group. He taught a few classes with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group. He thought that because dentists called him after the seminar and took up his time with questions about their practices he should be remunerated for that time. When I explained to him that the time he spent on the phone with those dentists was called mentoring—sharing your expertise at your own expense—he decided not to remain a part of the DDBG.
Opportunities are Everywhere
As dentists, we sometimes have opportunities to help other people—whether colleagues or patients—with something that is beyond their means. In return, we are blessed with the knowledge that we have made a difference.
By advocating that we help others, I don’t mean to encourage free dentistry, but I do feel that dentists have a special responsibility to help those in pain. Forty years ago, an elderly woman needed my help with a dental case. After her examination and diagnosis, she realized that she was unable to pay the fee for the work.
Instead of “showing her the door,” I asked her what she liked to do in her retired years. She replied that she liked to quilt. I told her that if she would make a quilt for me, I would restore her teeth. She willingly agreed to the arrangement. She made a beautiful quilt for me in exchange for the $12,000 of dental care. I knew that a proud woman like her would not want to receive pure charity. I knew she would want to contribute toward the fee in some way. It was a rewarding exchange for us both.
There are many opportunities in our careers as dentists to mentor and share our skills with others. The blessings of life come from giving of your expertise to your colleagues. And making a difference in the lives of others is a huge reward. I will never forget Dr. Omer Reed, who inspired me to become the best and most productive dentist that I could become. I am grateful for what I learned from him and the opportunities I’ve had to pay it forward. I hope you will too.