In 2019, I became the lead dentist at the Aspen Dental office in Alcoa, Tennessee, near Knoxville. At the time, it felt like a huge step for a dentist in year one, but I fully embraced it, knowing I wasn’t going into this phase of my journey alone. Practicing with Aspen Dental has given me support from seasoned dentists, an incredible mentoring network and decades of expertise I would never have found anywhere else.
Now in my third year of practice, I’ve had experiences I never anticipated. With each step, I’ve grown more confident in myself, in my team and in my choice to practice with Aspen Dental. My mentors, the teams in my offices and an amazing group of leaders have cheered me on in each phase, answered my questions and coached me through new treatment and leadership experiences, making me a stronger doctor.
Setting a goal to be a practice owner was a defining moment. I worked with my mentors to become the first independent Aspen Dental practice owner in Philadelphia, targeting April 2020. We agreed on the path so I could focus on the additional practice and leadership skills I needed to grow and really succeed. With the plan, I took accountability to lean into the mentoring network and education resources available through the DSO to fulfill my goals.
While my personal and professional development plans were well defined, the world threw me—and everyone—quite a curveball as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in March. State, local and community closure guidelines limited dental practices to emergency care only, to help slow the spread of the virus. My office in Tennessee temporarily closed, but with support from the DSO, we quickly transitioned to teledentistry, triaging patients in a virtual environment until we could operate more normally. It was a first-of-a-kind experience for me.
As communities began to reopen safely, I proceeded with my move to Philly. The April office opening was delayed to later in the summer, so I supported another location that was open for emergency care only. Then, I got a call about a new opportunity.
Aspen Dental is building a presence in and around Dallas–Fort Worth, with plans to open six offices in 2020. They needed a lead doctor, who was prepared for a practice ownership path, to jump in. That’s me! I made a quick visit to understand what the move looked like, and in less than a month I relocated to Texas.
Fast-forward to today and I am now an independent practice owner in two offices in suburban Dallas–Fort Worth, mentoring three new dental school graduates and working to open a third office in December.
I took on the Euless, Texas, office in June, helping to get back to normal operations after the location had temporarily closed in March because of care restrictions in the pandemic’s early days. We’ve reopened with a very strong team, and in August, we cut the ribbon and opened our Grand Prairie location. It’s been full speed ahead now for both offices.
From Tennessee to Philadelphia to Texas, my first few years in practice have reaffirmed why I chose to be a dentist with support from a DSO. As a doctor and leader I’m learning valuable lessons that I would have never imagined:
I never expected to be where I am today in my third year as a practicing dentist. Yet, I’m comfortable in my career path because I’m part of an organization that offers dental professionals unmatched learning and development opportunities with business support, so patients always come first.
While my path has been far different than I expected, I’m on a rewarding and sustainable journey having the full support of a DSO, and amazing resources and people behind me. Although I’m in my third year of practice, like many new dental graduates I feel like I’m just beginning my journey, and I’ve never been more excited about what’s ahead.
Dr. Anum Ali, pictured at the top of the article, is an independent dentist and practice owner in two Aspen Dental offices in Euless and Grand Prairie, Texas. Her third office in Burleson—also a Dallas–Fort Worth suburb—is set to open in December. Ali is a graduate of the Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine.