Career Pathways: Perfecting Dental Practice Success with Dr. Sarah Hulland

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Career Pathways is Schulich ExecEd’s ongoing series that showcases talented alumni. From new managers to senior executives, everyone has something interesting and insightful to share.  For our inaugural interview, we’re talking with Dr. Sarah Hulland. She practices pediatric dentistry out of her private clinic, ABC Dentistry, in Alberta. 

Below, you’ll learn more about a seasoned professional in a new stage of her career. How the growing pains of expansion led to creative ideas, new associates, and a fresh outlook on her business. 

Interview with Schulich Mini-MBA: Dentist Business Leadership Program Alumni Dr. Sarah Hulland

 

Thanks so much Dr. Hulland for taking the time to talk with us. Let’s get started! Tell us a little about yourself. You’re a pediatric dentist?

Yes, I run a private dental practice in Alberta. I love what I do. Little kids don’t have a filter and they call whatever they see at that moment. As you can guess, that makes my job a little harder! 

Pediatric dentists treat a wide spectrum of people, known as ICAISC, or Infants, Children, Adolescents and Individuals with Special Health Care Needs. A person with down syndrome, for example, is mentally five when they’re 50.

In our training, we take two full years of psychology on top of all the dentistry that we’re doing in pediatrics. This has really been useful with all the issues surrounding COVID. It feels like we’re all suffering from a bad case of PTSD.

“If you think about the cost of what a continuing education course is, and you can do it online, it’s actually a good bang for the buck in terms of value. What you get from the quality of the instructor is quite high.”

 

What was the sort of spark to make you decide you wanted to take a business course?

I took the Schulich Mini-MBA: Dentist Business Leadership Program. Part of the appeal for me was that the density Mini-MBA was brand new. I’m always very interested in learning the newest concepts and business approaches. 

So from the brochure and little research I did, the course seemed interesting and new to try. I also had to take into consideration the time I had available — which wasn’t much!

I had to look at how I could integrate it within my schedule, and whether or not I actually had the resources, both time and mental energy. I think for some people, the financial constraint of it might put a limitation on them and I understand that education isn’t cheap.

But if you think about the cost of what a continuing education course is, and you can do it online, it’s actually a good bang for the buck in terms of value. What you get from the quality of the instructor is quite high. 

 

Before taking the course at Schulich ExecEd, where were you on your career path?

If I had to define it, I’m at an advanced stage where I’m thinking of bringing in associates. Possibly even segue into partnership. So I had a lot of questions, such as, what information do I need to confidently streamline these business transitions? How do I best tackle the hurdles ahead of me? 

That was the obvious stuff, but then there was lots of stuff that the program gave that I didn’t necessarily consider. 

“The course helped me get a finger on the pulse of the direction of where dentistry will go in the future.”

 

Can you give us an example?

Sure, the course had Dr. Carlos Quiñonez, a pre-eminent public health specialist and an associate professor and program director at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto. Essentially one of the top dental professionals in Canada. 

He came in and gave his perspective, with evidence, about what’s ahead for the dental profession. Where we’ve been, where we are, and what direction we’re heading in terms of preparedness for healthcare in the dental world.

This was last year when the initial public offer went out for DentalCorp, one of the largest big-box dental organizations in North America. 

 

Correct me if I’m wrong. But isn’t Dentalcorp a company that will essentially run the business side of your dental practice for a percentage of your earnings? 

Yes, exactly. 1 in 3 dentists uses a service like Dentalcorp. 

So Dr. Quiñonez chatted with us about what the future looked like to him, where big companies in the industry were going and the perspectives in dentistry between big corporations. Think big box versus boutique, and how that may play out.

The course helped me get a finger on the pulse of the direction of where dentistry will go in the future. And again, I think it’s more the stage I’m at. A much more senior stage.

 

What else did you find useful about the course?

We looked at things like Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or DEI. Our instructor helped us understand DEI and the relevance of that in conjunction with The Great Resignation and the patterning to try to find quality staff and what evokes people to stay in their jobs and what makes them want to leave. 

We all know that with COVID, a lot of people change their perspective of what they thought the job meant, and what they wanted from a job. We explored the idea that people now realize that they don’t need to go to work all the time and they can still have a good family life and make a little bit less, but maybe enjoy their lives more fully.

“We had to do our own app proposal for a business project at the end of it and presented it, like we were presenting the Dragon’s Den.”

 

What did you think of the faculty that you interacted with? Did their expertise match the level that you were expecting or exceed it? 

Honestly, I thought the instructors were amazing. Schulich ExecEd put a collective of individuals together who complemented each other and created a very good overall experience.

Most dentists at my career stage learned about the business on the fly. The younger dentist, have by large gone through a big box system like Dentalcorp. 

If you are working within that parameter, then you’re probably not managing the business aspects of the practice. But if you’re thinking that you might want to run your own business, it’s very beneficial to learn how to set it up.

We all felt like such a bunch of newbies when the instructor asked us to create a business project, including a proper business proposal. At the end of the exercise, we presented them like it was Dragon’s Den!

“I think it’s really important that dentists, or anybody who owns a business, should go through and learn a fair amount of what was taught in this program.”

 

That must’ve been quite the experience! Were there any networking opportunities from the course?

I stayed in touch with the instructors. Not so much the participants, but I think that just has to do with the age of my career.

Some of the other students were within the first five years of their careers. I actually think this type of program is ideal within the first five to 10 years.

I think it’s really important that dentists, or anybody who owns a business, should go through and learn a fair amount of what was taught in this program.

 

What advice would you give someone who was thinking of taking this course at Schulich ExecEd or a similar course? Does it depend on where they are in their career?

Not necessarily. I say it’s a very well-run course for anybody who wants to broaden their knowledge and awareness of what they need to understand about dentistry. 

Whether it’s the social parameters or whether it’s understanding the business landscape in terms of corporate dentistry versus boutique practices. Also, it’s great for anyone just learning how to set up a business plan and run it to a presentation base and possibly even run it into an application.

 

Is there anything else that you wanted to just mention about your experience?

I found the support team that they had on top of the instructors was fantastic. They were responsive and ready to make sure that people were well connected and well communicated with.

Thank you, Dr. Hulland. 

Thank you so much.

We want to thank Dr. Hulland again for taking the time to chat with us for the Career Pathways series. If you’re interested in learning more about the Schulich Mini-MBA: Dentist Business Leadership Program, go here

Not sure what course is right for you? Our expert advisors can help. Get in touch with them today