Overcoming Adversity in Your Dental Career





By Lexi Marino May 20, 2020

Rolando Mia, from Zyris, hosts a video series focused on the latest news, topics, and conversations happening in dentistry featuring dentists across the nation. In this episode, Dr. Louis Kaufman, DDS, FAGD shared his life story of overcoming adversity, how that led him to becoming a dentist, and also gave us an outlook on the future of dentistry.

Watch this video to learn the following:

  • How adversity in life may take you on a more fulfilling career path
  • Aerosol management in relation to COVID-19
  • An outlook on the future of dentistry
  • Joining groups/clubs in dentistry in order to stay connected
  • The aftermath of COVID-19 relating to dentistry

Transcript

Rolando Mia:

Good morning everybody. This is Rolando Mia with Zyris. I have a wonderful guest here, Dr. Louis Kaufman. Dr. Louis Kaufman is a dentist in Chicago. He’s a very good friend of ours and he’s been a huge advocate in dentistry, a natural educator, and a fellow for the Academy of General Dentistry. He’s also an administrator for Smile Source and I’ve actually had the pleasure of sitting in on a whole bunch of his lectures and his educational programs. So, really excited about spending a little couple of minutes here with him and getting his insights on what is going on. Good morning, Dr. Kaufman.

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Good morning, Rolando.

Rolando Mia:

By the way, to those of you who are joining us, if you want to send any questions please send a note in the comments and then we’ll make sure we address it as we go along. So before we begin, how are you sir? How are you or your family?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Everybody is safe. Rolando, I really appreciate you asking. Thank you for having me on here. So I’m doing okay. I was on my bicycle this morning and it’s a beautiful day. Did some calisthenics and working out – it’s all good. You got to keep your sanity. That’s my way of keeping my sanity. That’s right. When I get done with you Rolando, I’m sure I’ll need to meditate for a little while. I’ll do some new calm.

From Business Management to Dentistry

Rolando Mia:

So, if I understand correctly, your background in dentistry is quite different because you didn’t start out initially in dentistry. You were actually a businessperson. You also have an MBA. So could you kind of summarize or share with us kind of how that happened?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

I’d happy to, since we don’t have a ton of time, I’ll give you the shortest version I can. I graduated with a BA, got my MBA and then I went to work in the fast food industry for Burger King. I did that for a few years, and I was like there’s more to my life than flipping burgers. But that experience gave me just a real-world MBA, if you will. One day I showed up to one of the restaurants I was turning around because I was a specialist in increasing the value of restaurants. A deposit bag went missing. They brought me and several others in for a lie detector test and I was like, you know, F you pretty much. I went, took the lie detector test, got back to the restaurant and left my keys on the desk.

I had called my boss and said, “Look, I’m done.” Then I did a year of education to get my science degrees and applied to dental school and then went to dental school. About two thirds of the way through my first year of dental school, not a lot of people know this, I got brought into the Dean’s office. I knew what was coming and I sat down around a whole conference table of all department heads, and I was like, “Oh”, and they said, “Well, you know, you’ve got great clinical skills, Kaufman but you need to repeat your first year, we’ll give you the opportunity.” So, I did that – I did five years of dental school. You know, I was 29 at the time. I wasn’t married, didn’t have kids.

I had the flexibility to do it and I just committed to it and did it. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Again, maybe do it four years instead of five. So, I’ve been around dentistry my whole life. My earliest memory, my dad was a dentist as well, was being about three, four years old and going to a St. Bernard’s hospital in Chicago. In those days you’re talking 1965, 66 most of your oral surgery was done in hospitals at that time and they did sedation in hospitals.

I remember going in and you know, I’m Jewish obviously, and my first experience is, I remember two nuns greeting me and telling me, Look, you need to stay in this room until we come and get you.” And I was like, “Whoa. Okay.” So I was frightened and everything worked out great. So, now my entire life has been around the industry. But, yeah, 25 years actually a clinical practice, five years in dental school.

Adversity is Happening Right Now in Dentistry

Rolando Mia:

That’s pretty cool. I love the story. It’s amazing when you think about, what we’re hearing so much about this crisis, Covid-19, I mean, all that type of stuff, everyone’s talking about it. But one of the things that seems to be really resonating is that history is repeating itself. It’s almost like we’ve been here before. Since you have a business background before being in dentistry and you have been in dentistry for so long, where do you see this going? How would you kind, from a business perspective, see where dentistry is going after all of this? What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

So, I’m going to answer this in two steps. I look this as before Coronavirus and after Coronavirus. So, BC/AC. You know, I think dentistry is going to be okay. I think we’re going to be fine. Until we get back to a normal, where we’re being productive and getting back to a structured environment, I think we’ve probably got a good six to nine months before we see that. I think we’ll be back to work much sooner than that obviously. Cause the curves are flattening. We have to see what comes down from the CDC. We have to see what comes out of OSHA and ADA as well. And I think where you practice is going to have a it’d be impacted as well in terms of patient flow and how busy.

I think we’re going to see a lot of emergency. I think we’re going to have a lot of recall patients. They’re waiting to get their teeth cleaned. We’re going to have a lot of work that we have to finish that we had started prior to this. We have a lot of people in temporaries right now. And you know, you’re going to have to be committed to putting in some extra hours, some longer days maybe. The biggest thing is don’t burn yourself out. I mean, that’s what I’m worried about for some people.

I’m an older guy, you know and my energy levels are somewhat depleted and then they were, you know, 10, 15 years ago. That’s just a fact of life. And it’s different for everybody. But your team has to be committed to put some extra time in as well. And I you’re playing a little catch up, but I think the production will be there and we’ll be able to take care of people.

You know, it’s not just dentistry. I mean this is like somebody took a faucet and they turned it off, right? For all of us, and it’s going to come back on slowly. And it just has had this huge wave effect, every industry practically in this country and around the entire world. So, I think it’s almost a reset for all of us. On a different note, I’ve had some great family time. Last night I sat down with my son watched a movie for a couple of hours. Like, my god, this is fantastic. We had a nice dinner. We grilled. That’s great.

You know, it’s easy to get sucked into everything we’re seeing on the internet and you gotta pull yourself away from these webinars, in my opinion, and take care of yourself. Be present right now. Gave you a little more than you wanted maybe.

Advice for Young Dentists

Rolando Mia:

No, that is awesome. I love the context of BC/AC – I agree with you and I believe that this is going to completely change everything and it’s huge especially for dentistry. You know, there’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of fear right now because dental teams, they’re on furlough. People are no longer working and they’re sitting there like, “Holy cow, what do, unemployment?” A lot of younger dentists or dentists who are starting out are feeling the impact of that. What advice would you give them?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

For the younger dentists just starting out, oh my gosh, yeah, I’d be really scared. I mean I’m a little more fortunate cause I time spent in the trenches; money put away. I think they just have to take a deep breath and realize it’s going to take to come back first and foremost. Make sure your team is taken care of. Your family’s taken care of. What I did is I have a team of 14, and we put seven people on unemployment essentially right now because the government really didn’t seem to know what was going on at the time. And I said, “Look, you have a position when this calms down or on the other side of this.” I keep in contact with them.

Every Wednesday we do a Zoom call. It’s great. For the younger dentists, just hang in there, this will pass. We’ll get to the other side of it. And, and life will get better. I hope the government does something about their loans. I mean, there’s got to be some forgiveness in dental and medical. These front liners out there – help these people out. I don’t know if I’m absolutely answering your question but that’s what I do with my team is I just had to give them time to understand. I brought them in a week before we really, we shut down and told them this is where we’re headed. This is what’s going to be happening. At that time, we were supposed to be back to work like two days ago and then we got the extension.

So, you’re rescheduling a full schedule. I have three hygienists, two doctors besides me in the practice. It’s a lot of people. You got to reschedule and for those practices that are bigger than mine, I can’t even imagine what they’re going through. I would tell young dentists to embrace a teledentistry right now. You should be taking advantage of it. There are many companies out there that you can use. I signed up personally with Simplify. So you can keep in touch.

I think you should, in terms of social media, you should be posting things to your patients, sending them letters, just stay in contact with them, let them know you’re there, pick up the phone yourself and call some of your patients. I think that’s important to have your team members do that as well.

To the younger dentists, this will pass. We’ll get on the other side of this. It just doesn’t seem like it now. We always do. And in terms of history repeating itself, you know, I was thinking about this this morning, thankfully we live this age where we have this type of communication between each other and we can share information so rapidly. I mean, you think about 25 years ago we couldn’t do this. We couldn’t communicate like this. Everything would be via, you know, I have a phone on my desk. There you go. Right? We had dial up modems. And I think before that, you know, it was newspapers or the television, was how we communicated. Could you imagine being isolated in your home right now and not be able to talk to the outside world?

How Technology Can Help Us Overcome COVID-19

Rolando Mia:

That is absolutely incredible and you’re right with technology and enables you to kind of get out there and reach out and get in touch with people. You mentioned to me before when we were talking, and it’s something that, that struck me. You go out to mentor, you talk to consultants, you actively engage people, and you work with them. What are your thoughts around that and how can that help get us through this?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

So, I’ve always been a firm believer that I don’t know anything, seriously. There’s so many people that know so much more than each of us. And we’re as powerful as the people we can surround ourselves with. We just can’t know it all. There’s no possible way. So, I’ve always I’ve had consultants over the years that I’ve worked with, whether it was speaking consultants, whether it was – right now I’m working with Tower Leadership actually they’re a consultant to me. Eric Morin has been fantastic with his group, so it’s a shout out to him that was unsolicited and my Smile Source guys, we share information all the time back and forth – that’s been supportive as well. We have to realize that there are people that can help support us.

No matter what we’re doing, where we are in our personal life and in our business life, and they can help us find the answers that we’re searching for. It’s like having a personal trainer, you know, they’re going to help push you, steer you, focus you. Any of those answers can come.

Rolando Mia:

I love the message. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Right? I mean, hey, you know, I’m scared. I get nervous. I’ll make sure I have a practice to come back to. And I’m confident I will, but if I go down that rabbit hole and I think negatively all the time that’s what’s going to manifest for yourself. You have to stay positive. I started embracing vision boards, you know, years ago. And I think everybody should have a vision board – what you’re looking for out of your life. You have a set amount of time that we’re here. We don’t know when it’s going expire. And then an event like this comes and,it’s a reset time, right. For all of us.

Rolando Mia:

I love that you mentioned Smile Source, we’ve been working with the Smile Source organization, the context of independent doctors who have the ability to get together, share information, and all that stuff. You had mentioned to me when we were talking before that you have these fireside chats to stay connected. What are you hearing from them and what do you want to share to our listeners who are on now and other people who are going to see this? What can you share about the things that are happening and then also the advice or the information that you’re able to share with, with your Smile Source colleagues and other dental practices?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

I’ll tell you with Smile Source and our fireside chats in the group – let me say this, I look forward to that group. Every night we’d get on at 7PM CST. It’s open to all dentists. You go to smile source.com there’s a little bit of vetting that you have to go through. But you can find out more information. You can reach out to me via Facebook if you want. Or my email which you’ll get from me later. But there’s information being shared from dentists all around the country.

It’s interesting cause you know, certain parts of the country got shut down faster than others. Some people were still doing dentistry, others weren’t. It’s the same stories you hear – people are scared. How am I going to figure it out? How I’m going to get through the SBA loans, how I’m going to get through the PPP loans. But you have this comradery, this this brotherhood/sisterhood, if you want to call it with people who genuinely care about each other. I mean, everybody gets along. It’s a strong community.

I reach out to my members, you know, locally engage with them, talk to them trying to figure out, “What are you working on? What’s going on today? How can I be a help? What’s your opinion on this? What did, what did you do to handle this?” Even if you’re not a part of Smile Source and you’re a dentist listening now, reach out to your dentist down the street, maybe you’ve never talked to them or reach out to them and see how they’re doing.

I mean, I’ve met a lot of dentists along the way and I’ve reached out to some of them that were not Smile Source as well, just to say, “Hey, I’m here. I don’t have all the answers, but maybe I can help you get through this situation.” It’s that human touch that we all need. We all need that contact a of somebody else. Smile Source, I always have it. It’s not a buying club – people get that stigma. Yeah, we are a group of independent dentists that are preserving this unbelievable profession of dentistry.

Our mission is to preserve it and to stay strong. It’s not judgmental. Egos are left at the door. We have a lot of fun when we get together. Unfortunately, we’re not going to have our huge exchange this year. It was supposed to be in Atlanta. But it’s just a great group. And I’d really recommend, you know, dentists, if you practice by yourself come check it out. It’s a great group of people that I’ve enjoyed being with.

Reassuring Patients in Relation to Aerosols

Rolando Mia:

I love that. Thank you for that. The message which is whether it’s Smile Source or it’s the dentist atmosphere, that message, which is “reach out”, talk to these people because I we’re all in this together. It’s a really good opportunity to kind of see what other people doing and share what’s going on. This way you’re not just by yourself because I would say, thinking about that, how terrifying it would be if you felt you were alone. So thank you for the message. I love that. That’s really cool. So, shifting gears slightly there was a webcast and when you look at this virus, the issue of aerosols, the issue of infection control, people wearing masks and gloves and all sorts of things – that’s going to continue.

From a dental perspective, what message do you want to get across to patients? What are your thoughts or what are you thinking about with regard to what people need to know about aerosols? So Dr. Gordon, Dr. Rella, where they mentioned this whole context of constant evacuation. You know, the infection control protocols. There was a hygienist, Michelle Strange, was on who spent time with us around that. What are your thoughts around how this is going to affect infection control and how you are going to operate in your practice with regard to aerosols and all the kind of spatter splatter stuff that we’re seeing?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

All the crap that flies around in dentistry. You mean? So, in dentistry we’ve always used great PPE, we always have. The question regarding, in terms of our own personal protection, we had been using your product, the Isolite system now forever, we have one in all of our chairs. I said to my team last week on our Zoom call, “I want it understood that Isolite will be used on every patient in our practice from now on when they’re in our chairs period end of discussion.” When you look at the studies, the only way to reduce that aerosol completely is to throw a rubber dam on them. So it’s going to be Isolite and high-speed evacuation because the only time we’re putting on rubber dams typically, at least when I’m doing it, is when I’m doing a root canal.

We have to limit it. We’re protecting ourselves. We’ve got to make sure we’re protecting our team and we got to make sure we’re protecting our patients. There’s a whole lot of talk about air filtration systems. About 3-4 weeks ago, I ordered a couple surgical air cleaning units for my practice because I want to reduce that bacteria and viral count load that’s in the air of our offices and try to provide a much safer environment for everyone. We have to protect ourselves. We have to protect our patients.

It’s proven when you work with a system that allows you to isolate and have all that evacuation and suction, it’s phenomenal. It makes your life easier as a dentist. We’ll take that. I mean if you read the studies that have been done, I can’t remember the name, I just had one that crossed my desk like a week ago, it pointed out rubber dam zero in terms of the amount of aerosols really being released. Isolite and a high-speed evacuation, the parts like per million was like 0.001 – I mean that’s, that’s huge. Why wouldn’t you want to use it? Especially until we get this figured out and we get testing in place. We know who’s got the virus or who’s had it on the antibody tests we need to have a systematic way of treating our patients so we can get back to work. That’s my opinion.

Rolando Mia:

The podcast that Rella Christianson was on about constant evacuation eliminating those sorts of things. The filtration, that’s kind of interesting, because I’ve been told when you’re in a dental practice, you can wipe the spatter and splatter, but the aerosols are really difficult and thinking about managing your air – yeah. You’re already stepping ahead now to do something about it. So, that’s pretty cool. From a patient perspective, how are you communicating to your patients not to be afraid to come back in after all of this is done?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

That that’s a great question and patients are getting so much thrown at them right now, if I go ahead and start saying, “This is what I’m going to be doing. This is what we’ll be doing to protect you. I’m going to stir up more fear in the long run.” I think as we get closer to opening, whenever that day comes, I then we can start introducing those messages. It’s letting them know, we’ve always followed sterile procedures. We use protective equipment for them, you know, PPE. I think it’s ensuring that we’ve always been doing our best to protect their overall health and set them at ease.

What form will those conversations take? I’m not sure yet, but I know in my head I need to start having those conversations not right now but a little bit later. Cause fact is I’m closed for the entire month of April and if you look at some of the data sets coming out, we might not be back open until the middle of May. I mean we just don’t know yet. They’re worried about loved ones right now, their families, everything else. When they want to come see us right now, it’s because something hurts because it’s an emergency and when they are coming in, we have a protocol for that as well. Their temperature’s getting taken at the door when they show up. We’re wearing N95 masks and we’re protecting ourselves as well.

Business Management Perspective and Outlook

Rolando Mia:

That is cool. Thank you for that. So, from a business perspective, this is definitely going to affect what’s happening in your business. When you look at dentists in their offices, they are small businesses, what advice would you give people with regard to kind of shoring up with what to do now. Any thoughts on that?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Hopefully by now you’ve all contacted your banks, your mortgages, your labs, your vendors and deferred all payments. That’s what we’ve done it. You also should have done that in your personal life as well. Defer as much as possible. Cash is King right now. You want to have as much of that as on hand and reduce your payroll. You know, whether it’s PPP or if you’re putting your employees on unemployment, take care of that. That’s one of our largest expenses that we have. You’ve got to get it reduced and under control. Right now, you need to figure out if you have receivables on the books, figure out how much you need to survive each week. Bare minimum on a personal level for you and your family. Create a budget for yourself in terms of looking forward.

Do you have goods on hand in order to move forward when time comes? You’ve got to start thinking. We don’t want to take anything out of our first responders’ hands right now, but we’ve got to think and say, “Do we have the protection in place? And if I don’t have the protection, where am I going to go get it? Is it going to be Schein, Patterson, Darby? Is my Smile Source partners helping me?” You know, figure that out. The high school I went to, they’re making face shields right now – it’s interesting. I mean, companies have stepped up around the country or high schools or kids or are using their printers.

I go on tangents. You know that about me but you have to protect your business in terms of, “Okay, I don’t want to be bleeding. I don’t want that money going up any faster than it has to right now. I’ve got some fixed costs.” You want to get your landlords, etc., everything in place. If you do have some receivables and you can throw some money towards those people who have helped you out over the years, send some money their way as well. But you need to limit your spend and look long-term. You know, say “How far out can I keep surviving?”

Being a Leader In Times of Adversity

Rolando Mia:

That is cool. Thank you for that. So, from your perspective as a person, a leader, and as the owner of the practice, someone responsible, not only for your family, but for your team, for your patients, how do you stay motivated? What do you personally do to stay motivated? You’ve always been such an optimistic … you have always had this wonderful perspective of, “Hey, we’re going to get through this.” What do you personally do? What helps you get through that?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Great question. So, I always make sure every day I try to do some type of physical activity and it could be a wide range. I mean, I’m not that guy on the beach with the muscle-bound body or anything like that. I picked up cycling about six years ago which has really helped me. If can’t get outside, I have an elliptical in the basement, a treadmill downstairs, a heavy bag and a jumping rope. I try to make sure I eat well most of the time. Sometimes you get urges, man, where you are stuck at home and I go for the apples, I go for the avocados healthy stuff. The other day, I had an urge. I grabbed an Oreo, couple Oreos.

So, but you need to be careful of sugars because cause it’s so bad for us. I mean not just for your teeth, it’s bad because it increases your inflammatory responses, etc. And it says is not healthy. So that’s what I do. I also meditate as you know, I’ve been part of the endeavor for now 11 years and I thought it was just very hokey when I heard about it. But basically, it helps me meditate and I do it every day and it’s either 20 minutes to an hour and it just helps reset your autonomic nervous system. That has helped me greatly to stay positive. If you look around my office where I’m sitting right now, I have positivity signs everywhere.

I even have them in my closet upstairs. You know, be grateful every day that you’re alive. I mean, things could be a hell of a lot worse for us. It’s always good to remember to be present and the good that you have in your life. I try to practice gratitude every, I do practice gratitude every morning and think of things I can be thankful for. It’s so important and especially during a time like this where we see so many people dying. It’s sad. I mean, you think about it, I talked to somebody who knows somebody who’s either in the hospital or has passed away because of this virus. So, think about what we have in order to be present and be grateful.

Rolando Mia:

I love that. I can see how it grounds you and when you’re strong, you’re able to deal with and help other people. So thank you so much.

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

I mean, my team, I started shedding tears that day with telling part of my dental team, you know, “This is where we’re at right now.” Be human. I’ve gotten a little more spiritual lately as well. I actually have pulled my Torah off the shelf the other day and started just reading verses and wherever it took me to. Yeah, I think everybody should embrace their spirituality.

Rolando Mia:

No, that’s, that’s cool. And I admire that, and I’ve seen it. I felt it with you – we’ve known each other almost 20 years. Isn’t that crazy?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

How is that possible?

Rolando Mia:

Thank you for being so open. Thank you for letting us know that. Any final words for our listeners, there are a bunch of comments in here, people just absolutely thinking you’re awesome. What final words would you like to give as we bring this down to listeners, patients, that type of stuff?

Dentistry Isn’t Going Anywhere Folks

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Oh boy. You know, you got me on a roll. Take care of yourself first. That’s my biggest message is trying to take care of ourselves first. Cause if we can’t take care of us, we’re not going to be helpful to anybody else. Our lives, our family, our kids or business. Take the advice of getting some fresh air when you can. I know it’s different no matter where you live. If you’re living in a highly dense populated area, you’re not going to be able to take walks real freely. I’m lucky I live in an area where I can go and walk down the sidewalk and really not run into too many people – get some fresh air and get off of this computer seriously. Don’t get sucked into these computers and sucked into all these webinars.

Dentistry is not going anywhere, folks. It’s still going to be here. People are still going to have tooth aches. Eventually they’re going to want all that fancy cosmetics again. They will come back to our offices. We will be fine. It’s going to take some time. It sucks right now for all of us, but it will get better. If you look at every tragedy, Rolando, and you know this as well as I do that has occurred in our world, we always come back and we can always come back stronger after it. We live in the greatest, to me, we live in the greatest country in the world right now.

Rolando Mia:

Awesome. Thank you for that. First of all, thank you so much for taking the time. I love your perspective. I love the message that you give. To those of you who are watching Dr. Kaufman, if you have questions, what’s an email that we people can reach out to you on?

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Okay, my email is loukauf@gmail.com.

Rolando Mia:

Awesome. If you have any questions, please reach out to him.

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Facebook too. I’m on LinkedIn message me, friend me whatever I can do to help. I would love to do that for you and fireside chat. Fireside chat 7PM. I have to add that in as well cause I love ending my day there.

Rolando Mia:

That is awesome. If you like this this series or if you have any additional questions, please put them in the comments. If you do like it and there are other people who can benefit from this, please share it with other people. Let people know we’re going to have an ongoing series like these. Dr. Kaufman has been fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time with us. Please be safe. Anytime we have an opportunity to hear from you – thank you. Hope all is well and I’m sure we’ll talk again.

Dr. Louis Kaufman:

Rolando it’s great to see you and talk to you and look forward to when we get to do this in person again. Awesome. All right. Thank you. Take care.

[gravityform id=2 title=false description=false ajax=true tabindex=49]
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
[if lte IE 8]
[if lte IE 8]