In Success by Suzanne Kump

My desire to be a dental professional was forged during my teenage years. I had severely crowded teeth, was teased, embarrassed to smile and very shy.

I can vividly remember walking into the orthodontist’s office, both terrified and excited. There, I was greeted with warm smiles and enthusiasm, which gave me a great feeling of security.  During my banding appointment, the dentist explained, step-by-step, what they were doing and why. With full bands on every tooth, springs, hooks and wires, my teeth hurt to the point of tears, but I knew why and what the end result would be. I was intrigued by the whole process, eager for each appointment and excited to learn more. After three years of monthly visits, my program was complete. The results were transformational for me, and at that point, I decided that I wanted to be a dentist and help others to experience the same joy that I had.

To get a jump start on my dental education, I enrolled in a dental assisting program as a part of my high school curriculum, and as an extension of this, cold-called dentists in the area to get a part-time job in the field after school.  That is when Dr. Paul Johnson came into my life. My cold-calls had not generated much interest until Dr. Johnson said, “Sure, come on in!” Those words initiated a relationship between us characterized by strong mentorship and inspiration, as he consistently compelled me to challenge myself. I loved interacting with the patients, calming their fears, explaining procedures and learning about their lives. I was helping them, and they were helping me. My self-confidence grew and my shyness diminished. I graduated from my dental assisting program the same month that I graduated from high school. I was a Certified, Registered Dental Assistant!

A few life events had put my college plans on hold and I spent eight years at Dr. Johnson’s office, but the foundation had been established and I was ready for a new challenge.

From Dr. Johnson’s, I went to work for a dental clinic that was part of a large, unionized, healthcare system. It was there that I quickly discovered that communication was integral part of the success of the dental team, that a conscious synergy between and among all members of the dental team was essential. In this environment, communication was severely lacking. The clinical staff knew what their role was, and the front office staff knew their roles, but neither completely recognized the impact that each had on the other. They all needed to work in concert to create the optimal patient experience. This was not occurring, and I found it troubling. I decided it was time for another challenge, to create a dental practice environment that fostered that synergy in practice operation, one that was centered on the patient and structured to accommodate patient perception and expectation at high levels.

I enrolled in college, taking classes on nights and weekends, studying management and marketing. I wanted to apply what I was learning about business and marketing, along with my personal experience and ideas, to the business of dentistry. My goal was to find a position in which I could create a positive, patient centered environment, inspired by teamwork. I joined Park Dental as a Practice Manager and set about implementing my formulation of all the different aspects of a dental practice, blending them in to a positive, energetic place for everyone to work. This was all predicated on my belief that if everyone is happy and loves their jobs, the patients will sense that and do the marketing for you! My instincts proved themselves to be correct, and I was soon managing five Park Dental Practices and training new practice managers on how to create a successful practice environment.

It was time for another challenge.

To gain further insight into the concept of organizational leadership, I earned an MBA with an emphasis in Executive Management. During my time in the MBA Program, the subject of supply chain management came up.  Immediately, I became interested in the connection between the efficient operation of the dental practice and the intricacies of supply chain. I saw another avenue of the industry that was directly related to my vision of a highly functional dental practice.

Today, I am employed as a Marketing Manager at Patterson Dental. In my tenure at Patterson, I have designed, implemented and led many programs and initiatives, from managing customer service operations, to developing sales growth, customer loyalty, and educational outreach programs such as Patterson Advantage and the D5 Dental Student Program. Creating and maintaining a thriving synergy among the many components of the business of dentistry keeps me motivated and constantly seeking the next challenge.