<My imagined dental school commencement address, if I had the opportunity to speak at a dental school graduation today.>
To those of you graduating and finishing your various dental school and residency programs…I won’t sugar coat things: you’re going to need a little luck out there.
I’ll begin my remarks by quoting the most famous dental professional alive today, Dr. Jeremy Jamm from the TV show Parks and Rec, “You just got Jamm-ed.”
How true Dr. Jamm’s words ring today, especially for you class of 2020. You truly did get Jamm-ed. Instead of ending the school year with big parties and celebrations of getting to wear scrubs for the rest of your career venturing out into the long list of dental companies offering you jobs and associateships, you now get to make your own N95 PPE because all of the other dentists already bought all the good stuff. And how could you even think of those things anyway? You were too busy taking Zoom classes to finish getting your degree!
Things are going to be very different for you, class of 2020. If you’re lucky, the state dental board where you’re going to live will offer online-only dental licenses to go with your online-only boards you just completed. Yes, instead of venturing out into a world of fortune on a 4-day workweek, you’re going to be sitting home waiting for the student loan board of the government to come knock on your door and tell you that you get a big break on that nasty pile of loans you have now.
Keep dreaming! You’ll need more than a little luck for that to happen. (But that was the door…looks like UberEats…are you still spending money with that much in student loans??)
I realize, as your commencement speaker, I’m supposed to offer you words of advice, based on the vast amount of wisdom I’ve acquired over the years of helping dentists like you. But, I’m a Gen-Xer and the worst I had to deal with was finding a job after the real estate bubble crash. Don’t think about asking any baby boomers, either. They’re the ones who keep raiding social security and have racked up $25 Trillion in debt. Maybe you should rethink all that business and financial advice you got from your dental school professors.
The best piece of advice I can give you is that you’ll have to try harder than the dental generation before you. But, honestly, only a little bit harder. You wouldn’t know it by reading the average dental Facebook group, but dentists before you have had it relatively easy. Patients (bless them) naively keep showing up to the office every 6 months with not much more than a website and a sign out on the street.
But not you.
No, as a post-Covid dentist you’ll have to try a little harder. You’ll have to muddle through. But the bar is pretty low, honestly. If you just *gasp* have a system to consistently answer every phone call the office gets or *double gasp* actually explain the reason certain procedures are necessary, you’ll immediately vault into the top 10% of dentists in the country.
Now before you object and tell me that of course all the dentists and hygienists are already doing that stuff, I’ll just point you towards your nearest locum tenens opportunity and tell you to watch what actually happens when the patient sits down for a cleaning or to get a cavity filled. Watch how little communication is actually happening with words the patient can actually understand and you’ll see that your muddling through will only require a little bit more effort. Ya know, after you actually find a job or a practice to buy.
But maybe that’s the silver lining. Your generation will have to try a little harder to be successful as a dentist. And trying harder inevitably means patients will get a little more of what they want. And maybe they’ll like coming to the dentist more than they used to. And then, as you grow older with your Coronavirus struggles behind you, you can be critical of the lazy generation before you and the lazy generations after you who have it soooo easy.
Those generations will look at you with pride and talk about how you raised the bar in dentistry and brought peace, harmony and a love of the dentist to all people everywhere. Your generation will be revered.
Until they find your toilet paper stash and call you a weirdo.
Carry on, class of 2020. Carry on.