Doing Well by Doing Good: A Henry Schein Interview

By Lexi Marino February 12, 2021

In this episode, we had the honor of interviewing Stanley Bergman, Chairman and CEO of Henry Schein where we discussed the pandemic supply chain, the future of dentistry, and leadership during times of distress.

Watch this video to learn the following:

  • The concept of “doing well by doing good”; the importance of empathy in medicine
  • Importance of dental isolation tools to keep the public safe from viral infection
  • Why dentistry is not a super spreader of the COVID-19 disease
  • Marrying medicine and dentistry with the concept of oral and systemic health

Rolando Mia, from Zyris, is the host of our series, Dental Voice. In this show, we focus on the latest news, topics, and conversations happening in dentistry and assess differing views across the nation. In Season 2, we’re focused on, “What’s Working and What’s Not”, where we’re debunked myths by assessing trial and error since the start of Covid-19.


Rolando Mia: Hello, everybody. Welcome to Dental Voice S2 with Zyris. Thank you so much for joining us. My name is Rolando Mia. The purpose of Dental Voice is to meet professionals in dentistry and hear their perspectives, their opinions and get some advice from them. Today, we have a very special guest, someone I am absolutely blown away is taking the time to speak with us and join us during the course of this.

Everyone, please meet Stanley M. Bergman. Stan is the Chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc. Now he started at Henry Schein back in 1980 and then he took on the reigns as the CEO of Henry Schein around 1989. In the span from them to now working closely with the Henry Schein team, he and the team have built Henry Schein into a Fortune 500 company.

Stan, first of all, thank you so much for joining, it’s an absolute pleasure, how are you, sir?

Zyris and Henry Schein Partnership

Stanley Bergman: It’s great to be here, Rolando with you. I have been watching Sandy and you from a distance for many years, probably close to two decades. And you know what? You guys have done a great job for dentistry with the Isolite® product, which at the end of the day is the way to make sure that you have the sterility in the office.

Rolando Mia: Well, first of all, thank you. Yes, I want to start with this. First of all, congratulations to that point. I’d love to get your thoughts on the Zyris and Henry Schein partnership. How do you see Isolite fitting into the portfolio of Henry Schein’s offerings?

Stanley Bergman: Well, Rolando, here’s the story. In 1985, it was alleged for the first time that a dentist contracted AIDS from a patient. Henry Schein kicked in at that time to develop the very first comprehensive infection control program in dentistry.

Before that, if you went to a dentist, they didn’t wear a mask, gloves, and they didn’t sterilize before between patients. We went out to dentistry in San Francisco at the ADA meeting in 1986 with a slogan, “Sterilize as if your life depends on it”.

The COVID-19 challenge from an infection control is very different, it’s not about gloves, masks and sterilizing only, it’s about aerosol as well. And the Isolite product fits right into that range. So we believe that Isolite complete our offering for the sad coronavirus epidemic we’re in, and for dentists to be back in business, providing a comprehensive infection control and sepsis control program.

They need the Isolite product, and now we have the complete offering. Let me share with your viewers a little secret. We have represented the Isolite product outside the United States and other countries for a few years, and you know what? It works. We know that, so now we are delighted to be selling it together in the United States.

Rolando Mia: Well, first of all, thank you so much for that. On behalf of the Zyris family, Sandy and the team, we are thrilled and we’re really excited. As a matter of fact, I want to show you, I wish Sandy were here, but look at this picture.

Stanley Bergman: That picture was taken when I had a lot more black hair.

Rolando Mia: I know, you’re looking good.

So, with regard to Henry Schein, infection control, and COVID, it’s a big issue right now. One of the things that hit the industry was access to PPE. So I’d like to ask you, I have to share, you know, Henry Schein was and continues to be a leader.

One of the comments that I read here is that according to a session with Fortune Leadership Next, you’re referred to as the “pandemic supply chain experts” because of this context that you’ve built around ensuring that clinicians have access. Now, it’s interesting, there’s this juxtaposition that we’re hearing about availability, cost and then, you know, quality, what are your thoughts on that as it relates to dentistry and medical overall?

Being a “Pandemic Supply Chain Expert”

Stanley Bergman: Well, Rolando, I hope we have learned a lesson from COVID-19. We have been saying for many years that there’s a flaw in the supply chain of masks and gloves. So in 2015, we launched a program at the World Economic Forum in Davos. We launched the Pandemic Supply Chain Network, which focused on ensuring that PPE was available. Several companies were involved in that. It was Henry Schein, BD, Becton, Dickinson, UPS and J&J.

We went to the leadership of the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the World Food Program, by the way, the World Food Program handles the logistics in general for the United Nations. And we said, the time to figure out where supply chain starts and how it works is not when there’s an epidemic, or a pandemic, we never thought of a pandemic. We said the time to start thinking about it is not when we have a pandemic, that’s not the time to exchange business cards, we got to do it before.

Unfortunately the world was too focused on vaccines, very important, but the world until recently thought everything could be dealt with through vaccines, it can’t, you need infection control, we know this from Ebola. What happened in Ebola is the United States and the UK sent over tremendous amounts of infection control products to West Africa. It came in a little bit late, but it stopped the infection.

We need to ensure that the worldwide supply chain for infection control products is working, that’s the big lesson from Ebola, from coronavirus. Now we had a perfect storm this time around, unfortunately, sadly, what happened is a huge part of the world’s mess come from China, and particularly, Wuhan. The challenge was that COVID hit at exactly the same time as the Chinese New Year.

So, the time we needed to up production was exactly the same time as people had left to go home, and the factories were closed. So we kicked in a number of countries to figure out how to deal with this, and the United States government in late March, early April set up a FEMA Task Force together with five other healthcare distributors that are primarily in the providing of products to acute care to hospitals, we joined, and we dealt with this issue through FEMA.

We didn’t deal perfectly with it because there was a worldwide shortage. FEMA is a group of remarkable dedicated government professionals, including a number of military officers that deal with logistics. We were able to send planes into China and into Malaysia for gloves to bring the product out. We got through it, but we had a real big challenging situation.

I hope we’ve learned the lessons that we need PPE in stock. We need it’s available, so we don’t run out. Right now the supply chain is reasonably effective, there’s enough masks available and cleaning solutions. Gloves, there’s enough, not in abundance supply because it takes time to build that up. So I think it is critical to ensure that infection control is understood in the doctor’s and dentist’s office, and that’s the supply chain is backed up with that. Henry Schein is committed to that and we lead the Pandemic Supply Chain Network as the industry lead.

Rolando Mia: That is so cool, and I appreciate the context around that. One of the big questions that we keep getting is kind of this issue of cost, because when people all of a sudden needed PPE, the costs literally went through the roof.

Now, as it seems to be settling there are still some of these, I mean there’s some stuff that’s available that’s incredibly inexpensive. Why is there such a large price variation between the same product, what are your thoughts on that?

Pricing Fluctuations in PPE Since COVID-19

Stanley Bergman: Well, there’s a bit of a challenge here. First of all, during this period of March, April and May, governments went into the suppliers and bid up the price, unfortunately in the US we had the federal government and the states putting for the same products, so the price was pushed up, number one.

Number two is there was also a worldwide shortage for a period of time on the raw materials that go into masks and some gowns. So we had a situation where the price went up because of supply and demand, and there’s a big demand, and also because of raw materials.

However, there’s a third factor. And the third factor is very unfortunate, a number of players, not in the healthcare arena went in and bought whatever supplies they could and hoarded the stuff. Also, companies that were interested in helping the employees were buying these masks, should not have bought N95, not necessary. So we had this situation.

I believe it’s largely resolved for the moment, having said that, one has to be very careful because not all PPE in the US is FDA-approved. For a period of time a whole bunch of stuff came into the United States, and I know from talking to our customers, and actually talking to a number of Deans of dental schools that bought the stuff, it was not FDA-approved, and the quality wasn’t right. So it’s been largely dealt with but there’s still quite a bit of product in the supply chain that is not FDA-approved with a quality issue.

Rolando Mia: Wow, really good to know, because when people have access to something that’s incredibly inexpensive, I guess, from a context that you said, you get what you pay for. And the idea is not FDA-approved, you’re actually potentially risking your teams…

We Need to Use FDA Approved Products

Stanley Bergman: Of course. There are many companies that could come out with an Isolite, but if it’s not quality controlled and it’s not FDA-approved, it would be dangerous.

Rolando, when we went to FEMA and said, you know what is critical is there are about 60 dental schools United States, another few 100 programs, hygienists’ programs, and other kinds of dental programs that provide services to the underserved.

We went to the FEMA and we said, a lot of these organizations that bought PPE masks they were no good. So we asked, could FEMA give us some products as a donation for dental schools, for hygiene schools and for a number of other programs.

Last week, we shipped several million of these masks to dental schools, hygiene schools and other programs that are providing dental services to the underprivileged. And these products were given free by FEMA. There was a small charge for freight but generally, these are being delivered now, and hopefully schools will have enough product so that they can take care of the students and faculty that are providing free dental care in clinics.

Rolando Mia: That is so cool, so fantastic. Let me ask you this regarding that, and regarding the fact that now dental practices are back in and working again, there’s a lot of anxiety and stress that clinicians that business owners, practice owners are facing with their own team dynamics.

At Henry Schein, you’ve led a large organization, what’s the advice that you could give folks with regard to keeping everyone together as a team?

Business is No Longer Just ‘Business’: Empathy

Stanley Bergman: So if there’s one lesson from COVID above all is that “the business of business is no longer just business”.

People are turning to businesses and say, “We expect a lot more from you. We expect you to ensure you’re doing the best to take care of the needs of society.” I believe the same is being expected of professionals like dentists. People want to know that when they go to a dentist, they’re going to take care of the infection control. And you know what? The staff in the practice are saying, “I expect my dentist to take care of me.”

So where we have advanced as a result of COVID is an environment is there’s much more caring than simply dentist drilling or a company like Henry Schein shipping. People want to know now that the people we are dealing with for up in the professions or in business care about me, that’s a big takeaway from COVID.

There is a world where people are caring and what is really important is the notion of civility, people want to know that I’m being treated right. I think dentists that take on this philosophy of helping the community, worrying about their staff, having more of a servant relationship with their staff than, “I’m a big boss”, caring about the patient, comforting the patient, about the infection control, having a broader view. Then, drill and fill will be very successful.

I’m not worried about dental practices coming back. They’re already at almost 80%. Of course, it’s costing more, the price of PPE will settle. Less patients can be seen per hour because of change in PPE, these efficiencies will come about. I think dentistry is a profession that has huge opportunity if only for one reason. And that reason is that there are a number of studies that have come out in the last four, five, six seven years showing a direct correlation between good oral care and good health care, take care of your mouth and your diabetes will be less acute, cardiac, pulmonary.

There is the study even that came out last year on Alzheimer’s and taking care of pregnant mothers will result in much better obstetrics. So, I am very optimistic with the need for dentistry and the public understanding that need. Having said that, dentists are squished now a little bit in the middle because they have to get their efficiency up, not so easy with infection control. We have to figure out how we’re going to deal with the price of PPE, and we’re of course, working on that.

Doing Well by Doing Good

Rolando Mia: Thank you for your reference to the link of the oral to the systemic. It is a huge thing because of COVID.

Henry Schein is in place, both in the dental and the medical, you’ve got the ability to marry the two, and it’s driving the requirement that, “Hey, oral health is a direct link to systemic health.”

There’s a quote that you use, “Doing well by doing good”. I think that’s a Benjamin Franklin quote and it sounds you apply that across everything that you’re doing. The number of awards that Henry Schein has received is mind boggling. Very recently, Fortune named Henry Schein a company that exerts a positive social impact for the initiative to stem pandemics, as well as change the world.

How do you maintain the energy behind that and what are you doing to continue that?

Stanley Bergman: Well, I think there are many companies that of course do this, Rolando. What motivates us, and I think it’s the same with Zyris, is that we want to do well for our customers, for their patients, for the communities we’re in, for our team.

I think if you focus on that, it is self-energizing. There’s good news for us in the dental industry within healthcare, and what better place to practice “doing well by doing good? In dentistry, you’re actually helping people from pain with pain. You’re a first-line responder in the COVID period.

At the same time, you are mitigating issues from a healthcare point of view through prevention and wellness. Look, at the end of the day, Rolando, the only way we’re going to solve the healthcare crisis we’re experiencing is through prevention and wellness.

Rolando Mia: Yeah.

Dentistry is Not a COVID-19 Super Spreader

Stanley Bergman: Dentistry is one of the greatest wellness and prevention programs you can have.

Rolando Mia: I would agree. Prior to this pandemic, dentistry was identified as the center for infection. And now there was a recent study by ADA indicating that virtually no cases are coming from dentistry because of the focus on infection control, because of the understanding of PPE and all that. So I fully agree, I fully agree.

Stanley Bergman: Well, we need to do, Rolando, we need to get the word out. The ADA actually in ADA news today, published an article showing that dentistry amongst all the professions would test amongst the lowest from a virus point of view. Dental offices are safe, dentists have been practicing infection control since the mid ’80s. Aspects of the medical world were there, but dentists wore gloves, masks, cleaned between patients from the mid ’80s, and the results have been good. Infection is minimum in hardly any in dental offices.

Rolando Mia: Oh, wow, that is so awesome.

If you were to summarize the top three things people could do to make our world a better place for COVID, what would those be? I think you already said one, but if you could sum that up, what would those be?

Stanley Bergman: Well, of course, what is important is to understand the science and keep up with it. It’s changing rapidly, I think the profession is actually keeping current, but we need to keep current. If you’re asking me at this moment in COVID, I think every healthcare professional needs to get the word out on infection control. And that involves basic hygiene, cleaning, washing your hands.

I don’t want to get into politics or not, but you got to wear masks, we do know that. And we do know that the public needs to wear a mask, and who is better to tell the public than the trusted dentist? So I think dentists need to get out in their communities and talk about the importance of wearing masks, cleaning your hands, and yes, testing, testing, testing. Dentists in most states in the United States will be permitted all and will be permitted to administer the test. These inexpensive tests will be available at the point of care.

I think dentists have a major role to play in educating, testing, and making sure that dentists communicate to the public some of the misconceptions whether it’s in the media, social media, or in communities in general.

Rolando Mia: That is cool, thank you for that. If you were to sit down and share, what is the biggest thing that this pandemic has taught you about change? What would that be?

Importance of In-Person Communication

Stanley Bergman: Well, I would say, first of all, serendipity, there are so many different things that have occurred as a result of this pandemic that came along that we never planned for. Of course, the fact that you’re interviewing me virtually today.

Virtual telemedicine, teledentistry, aerials systems, these have all come about as a result of COVID. I just want to put a big asterisk. I would say to you that working at home is important now but it’s not going to be good permanently because humans are social animals, and we want to interrelate with people.

So I would say to you, what is really, really important is that we take advantage of all the changes, including I just heard on a program I was on early on that from a digital point of view, we’ve made five years of progress, literally in a few months. All these things are exciting, and I think dentistry will advance significantly from a digital point of view, but that’s all true and great.

The big caution is we have to make sure that the touch, the human touch, the human communication is there, because that’s what people are all about. And, you know, we had a fellow that ran the Dental Manufacturers of America. This was before DTA, His name was Dr. Edward B. Shils. Dr. Shils founded the entrepreneurial center at Wharton. And this was already in the ’90s. He got up at a DMA meeting and said, “I caution you to be careful about voicemail because when you leave messages, it’s not the personal touch, because you don’t allow somebody to talk back.” I think we have to get back to an environment where people are communicating in rooms.

We will get there, I’m sure of it, but we also need to be aware that it’s not good enough to deal with COVID, we need to deal with pandemics in general. So the bottom line is we’re likely to have more of these kinds of challenges going forward. And human beings are brilliant, we will deal with the issues, but we need to be aware of them.

Rolando Mia: Oh, I love that. I love the message; I love the sentiment. And I so agree with you. You’re right, we’ve seen each other dozens of times and seeing each other virtually, though, it’s great, there isn’t the same connection,

The Future Ahead For Dentistry

Rolando Mia: Well, so hold on, check this out. Look at this little message, “Stanley’s faith in our products and unfailing support over many years of being a pillar that inspired us to become the company we are today. We are thrilled to be partners together to improve dentistry, perfect!”

Stanley Bergman: 100% agree with you, we of course, will work together to advance infection control and the quality of dentistry, your product matched with other PPA products, and our sales organization that is so close with our customers because our salesforce help customers really operate a more efficient practice while they better clinical care, provide those services. Together we’ll do a great job.

Rolando Mia: So in closing, if you were to sum up for our viewers a message to inspire and reassure, not just us but our community that we will get through this, that we will be able be stronger than ever, what would that closing message be?

Stanley Bergman: Well, I’m absolutely sure we’re going to get through COVID, there’s no question about it. We have, especially in the United States, we have amazing science, our universities, our medical and scientific institutions are remarkable.

We need to let our scientists do what they do, we will get through this. We will get the supply chain worked out, can’t say it’s perfect. We’ll get it worked out, but the only caution I have is once this is worked out, a year or two goes by, we cannot forget PPE, supply chain, infection control, taking care of the environment so that we live in a world that is sustainable.

Total confidence in dentists, hygienists, the dental labs. It’s a great community that cares and is quite frankly bringing new technology to life every single day. We’re in fortunate we’re in a great servicing, a great profession.

Rolando Mia: Oh, I love it, thank you so much for that. Thank you so much for taking the time, we’ve got, it’s amazing, look at this, we’ve got people here. Zyris and Henry Schein, Dr. Mark Hyman. And then as you’ve mentioned, I mean, you’ve even got some old friends coming here. Steve, about win for the industry. The things you share with us and the perspective that you have and the support that Henry Schein is absolutely amazing.

And on behalf of Zyris and the team, we’re thrilled that we’re partners now, and really appreciate you taking the time, months from now, and we’re talking, I don’t know, three, four, whatever. As we’re through this, would you be willing to join again and kind of give an update on how things are going, and would you be willing to share that?

Stanley Bergman: Always ready, Rolando. Look, you guys are very thoughtful people, you thought about infection control very well. You have a great product, great team that makes it and our team are thrilled to work with you, and in that context, I’m available, any of our managements are available, they will all say the same things at me because essentially, we have it in our DNA to help practitioners do well by doing good and advancing society’s needs through our care.