Get Those Letters!

Steve Neidlinger, CAE

With the holiday season past us, it’s time for everyone’s favorite eminently futile tradition: The New Year’s Resolution. Whether it be healthier eating, saving money, or finally learning the piano, we start each year with the lofty ideals that leave us with nowhere to park at the gym and the poor cashier at Starbucks with a single tear on their cheek. At least until January 15, when the siren call of the Mint Cherry Mocha Hot Cocoa drags you back onto its rocky caffeinated shores.

Is this the year that your career gets the January jonesing? According to, career was the least popular category for New Year’s Resolutions in the US in 2021, after health, self-improvement, money, family, love, and my personal favorite from slackers and realists, don’t have one. I submit that 2022 should be the year that you get after your Fellowship or Mastership in AGD. Here’s why:

1. Get Paid

While there’s no hard evidence regarding it, Spock-like logic should lead us to believe that achieving Fellowship and Mastership would lead to more productivity for you and your practice. Learning beyond dental school begets greater confidence in your skills. Greater confidence in your skills begets less referrals to specialists and colleagues. Less referrals to specialists and colleagues begets more income staying in your practice. Want hard evidence? Check back with PAGD in mid-2022—one of our resolutions will be putting this hypothesis to the test.

2. The All-Enveloping Void of Obsolescence

During dentistry’s darkest times in 2020 when non-essential procedures were nixed, the most heartbreaking calls I would take were from dentists who relied almost completely on hygiene checks to keep the doors open and the lights on. PAGD godfather Dr. Rick Knowlton used to say that continual development is what allows GPs to stay competitive. For a period of time, it was what allowed GPs to stay employed. You will need to go well beyond the educational bare minimum required by the State of Pennsylvania to continue to do what you have been trained to do.

3. Like What You Do, Do What You Like

As Sisyphus would attest, nobody wants to do the same thing every day. I’m told that’s one of the advantages of general practitionership. Variety truly is the spice of life that gives it all its flavor, and adding to your armory of skills puts a little more saffron in your allegorical paella. So why would you limit yourself to the same focus every day? Wouldn’t it be much more enriching to throw in the occasional ortho case? Or implant? Or endo? Ok, maybe not endo…

4. The People You Serve

Disintermediation. It’s a concept that economists use to explain why the consumer should be as close to the producer in the exchange of goods and services as possible. It’s why Uber and Lyft are beating up taxi services, and why Netflix isn’t mailing you hard copy DVDs of Dexter anymore. And it’s the reason that you want to do as much as you can in your own office. Giving a patient a diagnosis and a referral for what could be a short and simple fix increases the likelihood that they won’t get it done. But by allowing them to schedule their follow-up at the front desk on their way out increases their likelihood of resolving their problems in your capable hands, and saves them time and extra effort.

For those that haven’t already, I encourage you to make 2022 the year you get your Fellowship or Mastership in the AGD. Map out a plan to get in your study hours, whether through PAGD or another PACE credit-offering organization. You don’t have a job: you have a profession. And by dedicating your time and energy to developing yourself as a professional, you benefit both yourself and those you serve. And unlike burpees, this is one resolution you won’t regret in the morning.