Teaming up for the patient
A family affair—sharing the passion for dentistry
Dr. Craig Misch and Dr. Katherine Misch met at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine in Pennsylvania. He was doing a Fellowship in Oral Implantology and she was a dental student performing intravenous anesthesia in the Dental Implant Center. Today they are married, and practicing together at Misch Implant Dentistry, located in Sarasota, Florida, USA. We decided to ask them about their views on living and working together, and how this affects their interaction with staff members and patients.
They have different areas of expertise, one complementing the other. Dr. Katherine Misch’s specialty is implant prosthodontics, while Dr. Craig Misch specializes in oral and maxillofacial surgery and prosthodontics. How do they combine their different competencies into a working business, and how is their professional partnership affected by the fact that they are married? ”One of the main advantages with Craig is that I trust and value his opinion. He is honest with his compliments and honest with his criticism,” says Katherine Misch and adds, smiling, ”the disadvantage is that he never sugarcoats his criticism.” Her husband says that they have worked together from day one and don’t know any other way.
Before they opened this practice, they had one in Pennsylvania. Back in 1985, when Craig Misch graduated dental school, he went to work with his older brother Carl in one of the first clinics to focus on implant therapy. ”I guess you can say it has always been a family affair for me,” Craig Misch admits.
They honestly feel that their shared love for dentistry is more a necessity than a practicality, as Craig Misch explains. ”I could not imagine being married to someone who does not have a passion and a really good understanding of dentistry. I am so involved in it. You know, people ask me if we turn it off when we get home. The answer is never—we often find ourselves talking about patients, treatments and office matters. Dentistry is such a big part of our lives.”
Colleagues from the moment they walk through the office door
When asking their staff, they seem to agree and point to the united focus and common philosophy of the practice. There is a sense of family in the office. But of course, disagreements between the doctors can occur. This is something that Craig Misch acknowledges: “From the moment we walk through the office door, we are colleagues with great respect for each other, and must forget about any possible personal issues, so we can focus on caring for our patients. Generally speaking, the disagreements we have result from desires to provide the best possible care for our patients.”
One possible challenge with their marital status is the team concept of the clinic. They have delegated responsibilities since they perform different treatments. They cannot go around pointing fingers at each other whenever there is an issue or a problem. ”I guess that is a bit unique,” says Craig Misch and explains how one might think of this as a complication when, in fact, it is a benefit. “We know each other so well and work together as a team. There are no egos to work around.”
They both believe in building a close-knit team, and Katherine Misch says that they always look for staff members who are excited about dentistry and committed to considerate patient care, strive for clinical excellence and have a good sense of humor. And it works, she adds, pointing to how their small, hard-working, efficient staff of five runs a large, productive and happy office. Her husband adds that in return for their motivation, the staff members are well-paid and receive extra vacation time, as well as medical and retirement plans. They have a full hour lunch break and they eat together in the clinic’s fully equipped, family kitchen as a team.
The five staff members all testify to how the doctors listen to them and are understanding when it comes to family issues and need for time off. While they are busy with patients four days a week, Fridays often offer a nice break and time to catch up on office maintenance as Craig Misch is often out of the office lecturing.
The number one focus is patient care, everything else is secondary
When it comes to formulating the Misch recipe for success, Katherine Misch is crystal clear: ”The number one focus of our practice is patient care; everything else is secondary. There are six key factors that make all the difference: 1. Scheduling—trying to accommodate patient needs; 2. Attention to detail; 3. Being on time, minimizing patient wait; 4. Focusing on patient needs and desires when formulating treatment plans; 5. Surgical and prosthetic excellence; 6. Personalized care.” Craig Misch adds that honesty, fairness and integrity are important characteristics.
These traits help them communicate better with staff members, patients and other dentists, the latter of course being an important referral base. ”I think this builds trust in all professional partnerships,” says Craig Misch. ”Not the least when it comes to giving our staff a clear understanding of our goals.” He also points to how they are dedicated to advanced education and cutting-edge technology and, above all else, they love what they do: ”We are happy doctors. We have fun.”
How do they meet with their patients; what is their approach? ”First of all, we give them time, review the treatment options and prepare them for their surgical and prosthetic procedures,” says Katherine Misch and explains that an informed patient is the best customer. ”This is important,” Craig Misch continues. ”Many treatment plans last a year, or maybe two years. In that time, a patient almost becomes family. They get to know us and we get to know them on a personal level. I also think it is important to point out that we don’t sell dentistry. We never pressure patients into treatment. I find that this relaxed approach is appreciated by patients and helps enhance our reputation.”
”Talking about relaxation, I have had many patients comment that Craig’s excellent whistling and humming has made them feel very relaxed. I wish I could whistle!” Katherine Misch says with a laugh. The couple praises their staff once again, exemplified by telling how Jennifer at the front desk answers questions from new patients better than they would, and how the calm demeanor and compassion of their experienced staff truly matters in the day-to-day patient relations.
Patient feedback is more than welcome, the two say. They understand that nobody really wants to undergo surgery, and they go to great lengths to make the patient experience as good as possible.
”I often joke when a treatment is completed—’You were a wonderful patient. I hope you don’t lose any more teeth but you’re welcome to come back for more surgery anytime.’ My staff and patients can take this joke. They know we are very serious about patient care, but don’t want a stressful atmosphere,” Craig Misch says, and this lighthearted yet professional explanation finishes off our talk.
Outside, the Florida sun is shining on the white modern building, completely devoted to implant dentistry. And, it appears that there is a lot of sunshine within these walls too. It shows when you talk to the doctors and it’s echoed by their staff. The patients seem relaxed enough as they wait for treatment in comfortable leather chairs, watching television, surfing the internet or enjoying the view through large, one-way glass windows. They know that they’ve come to the right place to receive the best that Misch Implant Dentistry has to offer.
The original article was published in Dentsply Implants magazine #3.