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Is Dental Burnout a Public Health Issue?

February 2, 2016

Filed under: Happiness,Leadership — Tags: , — Barry @ 12:12 PM





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.


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.





Because I Can

August 20, 2013

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , , — Barry @ 11:57 AM

images-2Stymied.  Stuck.  Shamed.  These are some of the emotions I felt when I clicked on a website shared by Mike Florio of ProFootballtalk.com. 

Florio is a lawyer turned blogger who generally offers some very good if not controversial sports opinions.  You may know him from his TV spot on NBC’s Game of the Week.  In yesterday’s list of posts was a strange title that led to the website of Martin Manley, a sports blogger who decided to kill himself at age 60 ( I am still uncomfortable writing about this).  Strange as it was to find this on a site devoted to football…I posted it on Facebook where some friends commented and felt the same way I did…compelled to keep reading and somewhat disturbed.  Uncomfortable may be a better word.  The subject, suicide, can be considered taboo in many circles.

Manley wrote a massive amount of material on the site.  He divided into two categories: his life and his death.  He claimed that he was healthy, financially secure, not lonely and mentally stable.  The writing indicated that he certainly had a grasp of language.

Many of the comments indicated one question…”WHY?”

But on one of the early pages he tells us why…“Because I Can.”

And that’s what stirred me.  That’s what bothered me to the point of those 3 words echoing in my head through the night.

“Because I can” is a matter of free will…his freedom of choice.  By deciding to take his life, he relinquished his will to live.  This is so contrary to everything in my life at every level.  I watch living organisms struggle for their last breath to hold on in an effort to maintain and sustain life.  I also watch people give up way to easily because of fear, and never get the most out of life.  Martin Manley, in the end, abused his freedom of choice…and then left it on the web to show us how much courage he had.

He was a man who committed the ultimate cowardly act.  It’s easy to say he was mentally disturbed.  Mental illness is a terrible thing.  Manley committed an act of arrogance.

It takes more courage to fight life’s daily challenges. 

The vast majority of people reading this blog will never consider suicide as an alternative…but people do.

At the risk of sounding sophomoric – Manley’s act should be an example of using our freedom of choice to overcome ours fears rather than submit to them.

In the end–the ultimate message is the the timeless one…Choose Life!


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