Who knew Coach
Dean Smith knew so
much about dentistry?
Mustafa Shah-Khan, DDS
AS A HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PLAYER in North Carolina, I always
dreamed about playing at the University of North Carolina for legendary
basketball coach Dean Smith, who coached the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997.
Unfortunately, a 5’ 11” power forward has little chance of playing for the most
elite college program in the nation. Combine my height with the fact that I spent
the majority of my time watching from the bench, and it’s a good thing that I
was a better student than athlete.
I attended UNC for both undergrad and dental school.
At one point, I got close to playing in the Smith Center, but
that’s a different story for another day. In Chapel Hill, I learned
dentistry from world-renowned instructors. But as we all
know, dental school does not prepare us to be successful
practice owners and operators. We gain those skills after we
graduate by attending courses, using consultants, and reading about the management of dentistry.
When we start out in practice, we’re so excited to treat
people that we don’t care what the procedure is or where it’s
scheduled. We’re happy when our day is packed full of dentistry, even if the scheduling is haphazard and we’re double- or
triple-booked. Our progression in practice then goes to wanting to control the chaos. First, we explore block scheduling
and daily production templates. We often do this without
effectively communicating with or educating our staff about
how to schedule while staying just as productive. Next, we
pay a consultant to educate our staff about how to achieve
production with controlled scheduling. I went through most
of this in my practice, and I still was not happy.
Allow me to go back to Carolina basketball. While I never
played for Coach Smith, I got to know a few of the players
and followed the program as much as any diehard fan. I
always knew that Coach Smith was the best basketball tactician there ever was, but I also saw how he translated basketball lessons into life lessons for his players.
The GOAT (greatest of all time) UNC basketball player
is Michael Jordan. One of my favorite Jordan quotes was his
response to a comment about Dean Smith, indicating Smith
was the only person to hold Michael Jordan under 20 points
per game. Jordan replied that he actually averaged 20. 2 points
per game as a junior and that it was Dean Smith who showed
him how to average 32 points per game. He said that most
people believe you have to score in bunches to reach 32
points per game. But Coach Smith taught him that it’s as
simple as 8-8- 8-8—eight points per quarter for four quarters.
Once Jordan accepted that, the game became easier for him.
This is the same conversation I have with my staff and
scheduling coordinator. I see too many practices try to do
all of their production in big chunks. This results in an
uneven schedule, where some days are way too busy and
people have to work through lunch or stay late, while other
days they’re left sitting around with little or nothing to do.
My point to my staff is that if our production goal is
$80,000 per month, the simple way to achieve this is to try
to schedule $5,000 per day for 16 days. If we have two hygienists each producing $1,200 per day, then the restorative
side needs only to produce $2,600 to achieve our target.
This $2,600 can be achieved with a couple of crowns, or a
crown and a few fillings, or a root canal, night guard, and
a couple of fillings. You get the point. It is simpler than you
think if you strive for consistency each day.
Who knew that Dean Smith knew so much about
successfully managing a dental practice? While dental
education is a multimillion dollar industry with numerous
recommendations about how to be productive, sometimes
all we need is to understand that applying life lessons to
our practices can help us achieve work and life balance.
Dean Smith showed me that dentistry does not have to be
a 30-year sprint. Instead, it can be a slow, 30-year jog that
leaves our lives enriched.
MUSTAFA SHAH-KHAN, DDS, is a
graduate of the University of North Carolina
School of Dentistry, where he served on the
board of directors for the dental alumni
association. He is CEO and founder of Synergy
Dental Partners, and maintains a private
practice emphasizing cosmetic reconstructive
dentistry in Charlotte, North Carolina. He can
be reached at mshah-khan@