UBC program emphasizes practice management
Article Thumbnail ImageJanuary 19, 2012 -- A Canadian university is offering a continuing dental education (CDE) program taught mostly by master of business administration professors that is tailored to dentists' specific needs as small-business managers.
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The Certificate in Dental Practice Management at the University of British Columbia (UBC) aims to provide solid grounding in all of the business-related aspects of running a dental practice.

The three-part program, which is offered jointly by the CDE office of the Sauder School of Business, debuted in December, with the third part taking place in late February. The program costs $5,985 (Canadian) per dentist and $4,720 for any additional people from the same office. The next program is set to begin this spring.

Dentists who have been practicing for eight to 15 years form the majority of the current class, since by the midpoint of their careers dentists have well-honed clinical skills but often lack corresponding business skills, according to Sylvia Stephens, UBC's CDE director.

"I was working with dental students in my office, and I mentioned how important human resource management is in dental practices," she said. "They looked like deer caught in the headlights. Dentists are entrepreneurs, but they have very little knowledge from dental school about business."

Business courses for dentists are not in short supply across North America, but UBC's program focuses exclusively on the skill set dentists need. This includes leadership and team management, as well as marketing, strategic analysis, and the efficient management of costs and revenues. Dentists in the program learn skills such as how to do the following:

  • Assess their practices and identify and measure key performance indicators
  • Identify what drives efficiencies in their practices
  • Set financial goals of the practice and developing a concrete action plan to achieve them
  • Establish a sound strategy to market their services
  • Build a team culture that reflects their own goals and values

Each of the program's three parts is offered over three days in three consecutive months. The first focuses on industry trends, understanding the basics of small-business finance, and leadership fundamentals. The second focuses on service marketing and also human resources and leadership. The third part offers tips on strategy, operations, and developing a business plan.

Jim Armstrong, BSc, DMD, MBA, teaches the sessions on the overview of running a dentistry practice, as well as strategic management and external analysis. He runs 10 dental offices in Vancouver and is the chair of the British Columbia Dental Association's Economics Committee. The five other teachers all hail from the business school, including Tony Boardman, PhD, the Van Dusen Professor of Business Administration, and Daniel Skarlicki, PhD, MBA, the Edgar Kaiser Chair of Organizational Behavior.

Participants also network among themselves, and a guest speaker is featured in each section of the program. In December, Ron Haik discussed taxes, wealth management, and term insurance. Haik is vice president of investment services at CDSPI Advisory Service, a company that provides financial planning services to Canadian dentists.

The 24 participants' feedback so far indicates the program is "wildly successful," said Gordon Rein, program director of executive education at the business school. The program was designed based on the results of a large survey conducted last year, he noted.

"The whole idea behind our certificate program is getting dentists very clear and efficient on their business practices so they can provide sustainable, customer-focused care, which in theory will in turn provide more lucrative results," Rein said.