Dr. Madoff I Presume

by Barry on February 8, 2016

If You Like This, RSS Me!

th-5

 

I don’t watch much TV these days, but last week I found myself watching two made-for-TV specials, one about Bernie Madoff and the other about O.J. Simpson.

Most would agree that these two were possibly the greatest monsters of our time. Most of us got to witness the behaviors of these two men. Madoff was particularly interesting to me because we came from the same town, and we went to the same high school.

My brother-in-law was in his graduating class. And Peter Madoff, Bernie’s brother was the president of my college fraternity.

Yes…they walked among us.

No real surprises there, but something struck me about the screenplay. Three times during the show Bernie Madoff repeated the line: “Trust is the basis for all long-term relationships.” Most of us who watched it heard the line because it was repeated again and again.

But most of us probably let it go by like a sudden chill in the room, or a fleeting pain.

Not me. This blog is about Trust, Appreciation and Ownership, and I have been writing about the importance of trust for dentists, in every human interaction…it is not only the basis of all long-term relationships, but the entire substructure of any well-functioning organization from a family to a country to a planet.

A few days later I got a phone call from a dentist who questioned what would happen if Bernie became a dentist, or a doctor rather than going to Wall Street. It could have happened considering his socioeconomic background.

Now, granted people like O.J. and Bernie are special cases…people who totally lack even a trace of empathy, and we all know that the opposite, people like like Mother Theresa, are just as rare.

So they don’t shock me.

What shocks me is the public’s reaction…to the SEC. The SEC is a government agency that is set in place to protect the public.

Who can we trust if we can’t trust those who are there to protect us? My friend, the dentist, was saying that we see this in our profession all the time…frtom every angle…the dentists, government, corporations, insurance companies and even the public itself.

In 1979, during the more idyllic days of dentistry, I traveled to Los Angeles to hear a presentation of alternative ways to deliver dental care. This one discussed the new retail dental office concept that was being set up in L.A. The first one was in a Sears store in El Monte California, a small industrial town just east of Los Angeles.

Two very polished salesmen spent two days trying to convince dentists that this was the future of dentistry. They were brothers, very well trained and very convincing. I left L.A. with a bad taste in my mouth…not because of the business model, but because of the way they objectified patients.

That was in 1979. I lost track of that concept, but not the language that I continued to hear over the last 35 years, from non-dentists and dentists alike who have objectified the patient experience and used trust as their method to persuade.

Very effective…and unethical. A paradox that would make anyone shiver.

Trust…the force that can be used for good or evil. We can choose to be Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader…yet mostly we sleepwalk through these choices.

I have witnessed dentists and doctors using the force for good and evil…it all comes down to —who are you?

For years, we in dentistry have seen outsiders take what used to be a “noble” ethical profession and turn it into business as usual. Who protected the profession?

Certainly not the dentists. Most went along with the status quo. I wonder why? Because we sure express our displeasure to each other.

Certainly not the insurance companies or corporations. They only talk about the human side of dentistry but continue to look at numbers and take away our autonomy- in one way or another.

And most important…not the patients. Many actually are crying out for more of the same.

At the end of the Madoff movie there was a voice-over as Bernie, thinking he was innocent, was blaming the system…the SEC, the public who he cheated because they wanted to make money because of their own greed.

He has a point…yes, my dental friends…we see this playing out everyday.

 

 

 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

th-3

 

 

 

I haven’t blogged in a while. No, I am not getting lazy. I have been busy. I am writing a new book on leadership and communication for dentists.

I know…it’s a bland subject. I know…what can I tell dentists about leadership and communication that they haven’t heard before. I see their eyes light up when the speakers show them beautiful photographs of smiles.

I know where they spend their time and what they focus on.

But not me…for forty years I have focused on the human side of dentistry…the behavioral component.

And I have learned a lot, more everyday as strange as that seems. So I have decided to write a book about leadership and communication because those two terms seem to capture the entirety of the human side of dentistry is every way.

I truly believe what leadership expert John Maxwell says: “Everything rises and falls with leadership.”

If you want to be effective…study leadership.

If anyone has a better way to describe this highly complex subject, I am open to suggestions.

While doing my research, and trying to keep leadership and communication on the positive side of life because one of my core beliefs is that optimistic leaders are more effective and more successful; I found my self writing about  actual problems in dentistry.

The individual, the organizational and the community problems…the darker side of dentistry.

Stress.

Now, I know that’s an old story. We have all heard the news that dentists commit suicide more than any other group. I never got into that conversation…but I do know some victims. I know a lot more sufferers of depression and burnout.

Whenever we hear about a professional suicide we march out that old cliche’ about suicides and dentist…then we go back to work – as a friend of mine once said, “we are either crying or lying.”

One thing we all know, workplace stress is real and professional burnout is very common.

But we’re doctors, we are expected to have everything under control, right? Maybe that is why professionals have swept this problem under the rug for so long.

For me, the giant basket of information for the cure for burnout was to learn how to connect with people better and learn how to become a better leader. It worked for me.

For others this has become a big issue. And it’s finally beginning to trend.

A friend tipped me off about a physician in Oregon, Pamela Wibles, who has become an evangelist for physician suicide and burnout. She has written a book, Physician Suicide Letters Answered. The book describes the problem in the medical community through her own personal story.

After publishing an article about herself, she received hundreds of letters from physicians who have shared similar feelings.

I contacted her and told her that we have similar issues in dentistry.  Her website is www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/. In her book and on her website she discusses some of the solution to this growing problem.

Of course this can be viewed as a blessing and a curse. Professional education is in dire need of reform…in every way. This problem has many causes….from professional school bullying and hazing to the extreme pressures young professionals go through in private practice.

The public needs to become more aware because of the implications of this problem. Mistakes in diagnosis and treatment will cost the public in the long run. Lawsuits will go up.

This is the tip of the iceberg. When this problem is more deeply explored we will find many more implications.

In the meantime if you have been effected by dental suicide, and burnout…leave some comments below.

 

 

 

 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Dentistry Then and Now

November 30, 2015

  In 1973, while in dental school I read the influential bestselling book, Working⁠ by Studs Terkel, the late Pulitzer Prize winning author. In that book Terkel reveals a well-founded conviction, that our universal search is the one for meaning, the subject of Viktor Frankl’s classic book Man’s Search for Meaning. Terkel calls our jobs a […]

Get more of the TAO

Do You Do Emergency Crowns?

November 3, 2015

      Everyday, all over the world, there occurs an opportunity to raise dental intellect.  In case you haven’t noticed there has been a shortage of dental intellect and that may be a big obstacle to achieving better dentistry. I heard former Arkansas Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee talk about curing the […]

Get more of the TAO

The Martian – A Self-Help Movie?

October 27, 2015

  I am a sucker for self-help books. I am not into the Kardashians, Dancing With the Stars or Entertainment Tonight, but put a self-help book in front of me and I’ll devour it in a day or two.  I have read them all – under the hope of becoming a better person, improving my […]

Get more of the TAO

How to Deliver Bad News

October 19, 2015

  As a practicing dentist for over forty years, if there is something I do regularly it’s deliver bad news.  As the GEICO ad tells us…“if you’re a doctor you deliver bad news…it’s what you do.” Not a day goes by when I don’t have to tell someone that they have a cavity, periodontal disease […]

Get more of the TAO

A Voice From the Grave

September 30, 2015

      It has been two weeks since the second Republican debate was televised to the American public.  I found it ironic that the debate was held at The Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.  The backdrop for the event was Reagan’s presidential plane, acting as a constant reminder of the deceased ex-president. […]

Get more of the TAO

The Indescribable Value of Autonomy

September 9, 2015

      For old timers like me this film clip is one of Hollywood’s most iconic ever.  Go ahead and watch…and if you’re too young not to remember this scene from Nicholson’s Five Easy Pieces…enjoy. The scene is Jack Nicholson at his best.  It illustrates why he has so many fans — he is […]

Get more of the TAO

Dental Yoga

August 10, 2015

    Can a dentist be a yogi? I practice hot yoga three days per week.  I have reaped the rewards.  The word “yoga” means “to join” or “to yoke.”  What gets joined is the body, mind and the spirit.  First comes the body, then the mind, and then the spirit. Physical, mental and emotional […]

Get more of the TAO

Cecil and the “American Dentist”

August 3, 2015

    Well, I’ve just about had my fill of Cecil the lion stories,  but I still feel obligated to write about my take on this tale.  Like most stories these days, this one too will soon be forgotten because, as someone once said about Americans,…we have short memories. So, in the spirit of Jimmy […]

Get more of the TAO