From private practice to DSO: How Aspen Dental's Dr. Anita Imadomwanyi's career has evolved

Dental students on the cusp of graduation can take multiple paths after earning their degree, including joining a private practice or affiliating with a dental service organization.

For dentists who walk down a certain path until it hits a dead end, that does not mean an end or plateau to his or her career. Rather, dentistry offers dental professionals a diverse set of career paths.

Anita Imadomwanyi, DDS, is the director of clinical support and charitable giving at Aspen Dental. She joined the dental service organization after working in the private sector. A dentist for more than 10 years, Dr. Imadomwanyi is a leader in the industry, supporting various positions.

As the director of charitable giving at Aspen Dental Management, Dr. Imadomwanyi oversees Aspen Dental's Day of Service event. This year more than 450 Aspen Dental practices across the U.S. will offer military veterans free dental care on June 8. This is the sixth year ADMI has supported an annual Day of Service event. As one of the nation's fastest growing and largest DSOs, ADMI has patient support centers in Chicago, Phoenix and Syracuse, N.Y., and has donated more than $15 million in dentistry to more than 22,000 veterans over the past six years.

Below, Dr. Imadomwanyi shares her experience in private practice and the transition to a DSO as well as the influences DSOs have on the industry.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly editor for clarity.

Question: How did you make the decision to transition from private practice to a management position?

Dr. Anita Imadomwanyi: When I came out of dental school, like many individuals I was eager and hungry and looking for a mentor to show me the ropes. But there are certain things that dentists don't experience in dental school. And rightfully so because, as a student you are so heavily focused on the clinical enrichment experience. After dental school, I went into residency, and it was specifically for treating patients with special needs. This opened up my eyes to how to truly care for those in need with limited capacities. It helps you to work on your toes and manage time effectively. From there, I transitioned into traditional private practice. From the clinical standpoint, I thought I had it down. Over the years, I gained the clinical confidence and was connecting with patients, but I was always yearning for something more. I wanted to grow in a different capacity but was unsure how the opportunity would come about.

I was also a dental director before in Texas for a nonprofit dental organization. It was there where I solidified my interest in taking on a management role. When I eventually transitioned to Aspen Dental, there was a focus on the people. Also, coming on board to a DSO there has been tremendous growth that has caused a positive disruption to dentistry. This is due to the networking support DSOs have brought doctors and other team members.

Q: Why do you think more women continue to pursue dentistry?

AI: Decades ago when it came to the percentage of individuals that were in dentistry from a female versus male perspective, there were only 3 percent women in the industry. Fast forward to present day and it's shifted to about 50 percent. For me, I wanted a career that allowed me to have an identity. A career where I could take ownership. This could be practice ownership or ownership in terms of confidence within the industry.

For dentistry, it affords women a greater opportunity to have a work-life balance. This is another reason why there are more women in the field compared to other health-related jobs.

Q: Is the dental industry still paper-friendly? How has the introduction of electronic health records influenced DSOs?

AI: At Aspen Dental, we have transitioned to EHRs. The EHR improves efficiency and quality when it comes to patients display of information. By using an electronic system, dentists and dental staff have a hub with all the necessary information, making it easy to access documentation, medical alerts, support tools, etc. Everything is streamlined.

There is also a benefit of having patients access their own information. Let's say a patient is moving to another Aspen Dental office. By having their data in the EHR platform, it is easy and quick to send the information between providers. It is convenient for the patient but also for providers to processes information.

Also, when it comes to streamlining the patients' visits, having everything in an electronic platform, dentists can more easily organize patients' schedules, resources that will be needed. I see EHR as more of a hub, where dentists have easier access to patients' health histories, schedules, alerts and medications.

Aspen Dental created its own EHR with a team of information technology experts and engineers. Within the electronic platform, it was important for us to not only organize patient information, but to also give dentists the opportunity to communicate with one another through the system.

Q: Can you recall a patient story from the Day of Service event that has stuck with you?

AI: One time on the mouth mobile there was a veteran who had served in Vietnam and the Navy for around 20 years. When he came to us, he barely had any teeth left. For the teeth he still had, they were broken down and badly decayed. He was in so much pain, arriving with his daughter and walking with a cane. He had heard about our event through one his veteran partners.

He was hoping to get a specific tooth fixed that he had assumed needed to come out. However, after the doctor had examined him with X-rays, it was determined that all of the remaining teeth needed to be removed. Because the veteran did not have access to care or coverage, the dentist provided him comprehensive care at no cost, as part of the Smiles for Your Service program. The patient received a complete set of dentures, including healing dentures and a transition set of dentures. He left with so much pep in his step.

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