Celebrating 100 years of women dental professionals
Where did you qualify? And what year? Birmingham 1978
What attracted you to dentistry?
My parents were Polish World War II refugees, who worked very hard to ensure I had opportunities never available to them. I loved art and creating things, but they encouraged me to follow sciences. When I was applying to university, someone suggested dentistry, and after the first usual dismissal, I realised that this career would tick all the boxes – academia, artistry and working with people. I still regard myself as an artist, love the intellectual challenges, and revel in the ability to be in such close contact with so many people.
What are your current responsibilities in the profession?
I sold my share of Confident Dental Care two years ago, to free me for moving my career and ‘Beyond Teeth’ business into coaching and mentoring dental professionals. I do wet fingered dentistry two days per week, which also allows me to be a Denplan Advisor, doing Excel visits and certification. I sit on the Denplan Excel board, looking at the compliance and strategic development of this quality assurance programme. I am also on the judging panel of the Dental Awards, which gives me an insight into some of the best UK practices.
Ewa’s dental story
My first position was in the community dental service in Wolverhampton, where I was doing clearances on 2 year-olds – a shock after the fluoridated teeth of Birmingham children. I vowed that if I ever had my own practice, the prevention of caries in children would be one of my priorities – little imagining that I would be one of three new owners of a practice six months later! Looking back, we were so naïve, taking on crippling debt at 16% interest - as we had no capital or security and no practice management experience – a real baptism by fire. I left five years later, pregnant and expecting to work as an associate, when I was telephoned by my new principal from prison (he had defrauded the NHS), asking me to look after, and eventually buy the practice that I have now owned for over 30 years. I was supported by a visionary bank manager, who allowed me to borrow against my sheer enthusiasm and determination. In 1984 there were few female practice owners, let alone ones who had few financial assets and who were about to deliver a baby! Juggling motherhood, practice sole ownership and finances was desperately challenging, but after four years, I expanded the practice to new premises and repositioned our patient care to a higher level. My dreams for the practice were realised and promptly shattered as my newly installed surgeries were dismantled due to rampant dry rot. Cue Kevin Lewis’s Insight group, and my first real coach – John Polland, who provided a six-month strategy for me to present to the bank (same manager!) and to ‘professionalise’ all the systems within the practice. I thought I was engaging a ‘rescuer’, but far better, I took real responsibility for my own future. Withdrawal from adult NHS treatment focussed our attentions on the development of a team-led structured preventive programme for children – a joyful realisation of my vision ten years previously. My appreciation that my team were crucial to my success was brought into focus when we became the first UK practice to achieve Investor in People (nothing like a challenge, as I was about to give birth to our son). Over the next ten years we achieved many dental awards for prevention and teamwork, and I gained a reputation for having a voice in dentistry. Attending the Pankey Institute in Florida in 2000, and subsequent top quality Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses gave me a new perspective in ‘completed dentistry’ and the gradual creation of smiles that represent state of the art in health and confidence for my patients. With the advent of HTM01-05 and Care Quality Commission (CQC) requirements, I became interested in the dynamics of providing quality assurance through professional delegation, becoming qualified in Dental Practice Assessment, which led to becoming a Denplan Advisor. I have recently taken formal qualifications in coaching and mentoring, and am sharing my expertise in being a ‘wet-fingered’ dentist and practice owner with my portfolio of clients, helping them realise their own visions for their practices.
What have been your most memorable achievements in the profession?
Seeing the results of my dentistry on my patients for over 38 years – an exceptional lesson in the value of CPD and professional reflection! The privilege of leading, coaching and developing team members in their dental careers and personally, and seeing them become true professionals with their own voices in dentistry. Recognition of my team’s professional achievements through the numerous awards over the years. Being invited by Kevin Lewis to speak at the Young Dentist’s conference, and being able to influence 300 new graduates – including my own daughter! Being a spokesperson for the BDHF and being involved in Denplan’s Children’s Dentistry project nationally. Still enjoying the challenges of dentistry and seeing the legacy of my coaching and mentoring in the next generation of practice owners.
What advice would you give your younger self on qualifying?
I am privileged that my daughter is a qualified dentist, and so I can give advice on a daily basis! I do advise to constantly learn about things that make you passionate and give you joy. To embrace the opportunities in life, to enjoy the roller-coaster of the consequences of your decisions, and find mentors who will both support and challenge you. To value and work on your relationships - both personal and professional.
Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?
Kevin Lewis as a model of professionalism and level-headedness. My Pankey tutors in taking my dentistry to another level, in balance with my life. John Pollard and all my business mentors for channelling my thinking and actions into the creation of my practice. My family and my team, for showing me that I need to be a real person, too.
How have you used mentoring throughout your career?
Mentoring has been central to my career. Initially it was to help me out of financial difficulties, but subsequently I realised that having experienced, ethical professionals who could question my decisions, help me to realise the innovative projects my team and I envisioned, and help to raise my leadership performance was invaluable. I am inspired by my mentors and aspire to give my own mentoring clients the space in which to grow.