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Action April 2017 Cover

Words of Wisdom from John Vollenweider, DMD

One member's advice to new graduates.

In the May 2017 issue of GDA Action, we asked for GDA members' advice to new grads - and you delivered! Read the full piece as soon as the issue is online. We also received a great, lengthy, piece from Dr. John Vollenweider, and excerpted it in the feature, but felt it was valuable to share in its entirety online.

There is not enough room here to give you all the advice you need to hear. You are living one of the most exciting and yet terrifying times of your life. I remember how "ready" I felt at 24 years old when I joined the practice of Dr. William T. Richards in LaGrange, GA. He was the perfect person for me to spend time with after graduating. He helped me in so many ways. Looking back on the experience, it was really an honor to be a part of his life. In fact, I wrote an article that was published in the GDA Action magazine a few years ago. That was 38 years ago and here I sit ready to pass on the wisdom.

Wisdom comes with a price. It requires time, focus and commitment to be the "best you" you can be. You have to know where your passion is. For many, that is the "IT" factor that makes them successful. Find yours. However, there are a few truths you can "take to the bank" no matter what stage you are in with your career or where your passion lies:

  • Never be driven by "the money.” Be driven by “the difference” you can make in a person’s life. Educate your patients to desire what they need and help them achieve their goals. You may need patience with that from time to time, but never give up. 
  • Surround yourself with a great staff. You cannot do this alone! If you don’t have a great staff, develop a great staff. It’s worth the effort.
  • You think you know everything right now, but there is a reason they call this the “practice of dentistry.” After 38 years I’m still learning and feel there is so much more I need to learn. I’ll never learn it all. I’ve had to be OK with that but I love to learn… you should too.
  • Remember “the best you you can be?” Don’t let yourself get too caught up in comparing yourself to “your competition.” There will always be others who appear more successful if you measure success by the size of your house, the car you drive or size of your bank account. Simply strive to be a better you tomorrow than you were today… and pray for a lot of tomorrows.
  • Find a mentor who you can trust to share your thoughts with and bounce ideas around with, someone who will encourage you to grow, to learn, to have faith in your abilities and perhaps even to be friends with. Trust me, you have much to share with him or her as well.
  • And finally, if you do nothing else as you move into life after dental school, find balance. Balance is something I wish I had been better at finding. You must balance your life between your career and your family. If there was one thing I could change I would strive more at making the time spent with my children more personal and memorable for them. I’d put dentistry away and simply get to know who they were and what made them as happy as I wanted them to be. I focused too much on being able to provide opportunity for them – opportunity that quite honestly turned out to be something they did not really want. I’d spend more time being in their face making sure they know how much I truly love them.

I hope this advice helps. I envy you in many ways. After 38 years I have no regrets at choosing dentistry as my career. The future holds many challenges for you, many of which you have little or no control over but know there is power in numbers and together we are stronger than we are alone. So be involved in the evolution of this career you chose. Get involved in organized dentistry, the ADA, the GDA, the AGD..or whatever specialty area you choose.

Lastly, pray everyday for wisdom and listen for the answer.

Good Luck!