How has your PBRN experience benefitted you professionally?
Before I answer, I need to give you the backstory. I’ve been in private practice for 25 years. I love my profession. But several years ago, I found myself becoming a little lackadaisical. That’s when the invitation to join the PBRN arrived pretty much out of the blue. I decided to give it a try for altruistic reasons. I wanted to give back to my profession. But the experience has had an unexpected and in many ways opposite outcome.
It has made me a better dentist. In other words, the benefits have far outweighed, my contributions. Joining the PBRN has rekindled the critical thinking that I had as a student. It has made me not just a dentist but a real researcher in my own office. That’s helped me to re-evaluate and more critically choose the care that I render to my patients. On another level, I’ve had an opportunity to speak about the PBRN to other dentists. That’s given me experience in public speaking that I would have never had otherwise.
What about your colleagues in the network?
I’ve found that we are very likeminded. I think the common thread is we want to give back to the profession. This raises an important point. Dentistry still functions in many ways as a cottage industry. Dentists are mostly small independent business people. As such, their goals and motivations really run the gamut. That can make it difficult to connect sometimes with your colleagues. Not so with the PBRN. When you join forces with so many outstanding dentists who have the same shared goal, it’s really an exciting thing.
Last but not least of the benefits, my patients tell me that they are so impressed that I’m a part of a national research effort. They feel honored to be asked to participate in a study. It’s really interesting. When I joined the network, some of us were a little wary at first to ask our patients to enter a study. Some worried that it would be incredibly awkward. The patients might feel offended or somehow put upon. Not at all. The patients want to give back, and they are always curious to know the results of their study.
You have a one-dentist practice with two hygienists on staff. How much of an adjustment has it been to incorporate the PBRN studies into your practice?
It hasn’t been hard. There was a little bit of an adjustment period at first, but it wasn’t bad at all. We’ve incorporated the studies readily into the practice.
Maryann Lehmann, D.D.S.