What makes UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry stand out from the crowd? You may say it’s the state-of-the-art research, world-renowned faculty, specialized clinical and academic opportunities, or even how it’s located in the world’s largest medical complex. One thing that can be added to that list is the PACE Center Practice Consulting services offered to School of Dentistry students and new alumni, which is the first of its kind in the nation.
Practice Consulting, an initiative kickstarted by Dean John A. Valenza, DDS, serves to provide advice in career planning, employment assistance, and practice management consultation to all dental students and alumni within three years of their graduation.
Practice Consulting is under the direction of School of Dentistry alumni Joe M. Piazza, DDS ’79, and S. Jerry Long, DDS ’66, who have over 70 combined years of private practice experience. Along with their wealth of knowledge and experience in the field, the practice consulting team recently rang in the 10th year of helping students achieve their dreams of owning their own private practice. The past 10 years have seen practice consulting grow and adapt to industry changes and student aspirations, all with the same goal at the forefront — providing students the needed tools to undergo a dignified transition from being a health care student to being a health care practitioner.
“The volume of our busyness has increased tremendously, and it’s all done by word of mouth from the students advising their colleagues to make sure and use the PACE Center,” Long said. “You need a mentor — someone who’s been successful in what you’re studying. One of the obligations of being a health care professional is that you don’t have trade secrets. We try to teach the students that there are no competitors in dentistry, we’re colleagues.”
The consulting services provided by the PACE Center extend beyond the classroom, offering comprehensive support for professional practice. Services include mock interviews, PACE Power Hours, contract analysis, and general advice made by appointment. The consultants provide guidance based on professional and ethical principles governing dentistry, with the intent of challenging the next generation of dentists to apply a higher level of scrutiny in analyzing any business decision involving the quality of care.
“What we have to do is give the best service to our patients,” Long said. “If we do that, we wouldn’t have to advertise and we wouldn’t have to sign up as a preferred provider organization or PPO. I was never a PPO provider, and I had more patients than I could see because we gave them time to build relationships with the staff. We teach students the importance of interpersonal relationships with their patients, the staff, the community, and the profession at large.”
Within the decades of experience in his own dental career, Long himself underwent adversity early on when he lost his practice location due to a buyout within the first three years of operation. He made sound business decisions to stay afloat during this difficult time, and it’s experiences like this and his involvement in organized dentistry that led him to lead the practice consulting services at the PACE Center after his retirement in 2012.
“I could see the importance in trying to build a dignified entrance for our students to transition from student into operating a private practice,” he said. “They’re missing a tremendous benefit in going to school here if they don’t participate. It’s just more preparation that they can provide for themselves.”
Last year, practice consulting had over 300 personal experiences with students, either through PACE Power Hours or individual counseling. This year was the first to implement something that has been a goal of Long’s since the inception of the services — an elective course through the Department of General Practice and Dental Public Health. With the addition of the course, PACE Practice Consulting expects to have over 400 personal experiences with students throughout the year.
For more information about PACE practice consulting and to participate in the complimentary services, visit the Go.uth.edu/PracticeConsulting.
NOTE: PACE Practice Consultants are not attorneys and do not provide legal advice. Additionally, they are not practice management or practice sales organizations.