6 DSO leaders to know in 2024

Here are six executives who are leading key players in the DSO field and supporting notable initiatives in the dental industry: 

Editor's note: This list is not exhaustive.

Patrick Bauer. President and CEO of Heartland Dental (Effingham, Ill.): Mr. Bauer leads the largest DSO in the U.S., with more than 1,700 locations across 38 states and Washington, D.C. He has been president of Heartland Dental since 2009, and before becoming CEO in 2015, he served as COO since 1997. He has more than 25 years of experience in dental and healthcare operations management.

Akeyla Brown, DDS. Clinical Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Community Engagement at Max Surgical Specialty Management (Hackensack, N.J.): Dr. Brown is the first person to be appointed to this role at MSSM. She joined the MSO in October to expand inclusivity in the oral and maxillofacial surgery space and create a diverse support staff.

John "J." Hedrick. CEO of Smile Doctors (Dallas): Mr. Hedrick has served as Smile Doctors' CEO since 2019. His extensive leadership background includes time as CEO of the Pei Wei restaurant chain, COO of restaurant franchise NPC National and vice president of mergers and acquisitions for 7-Eleven. Smile Doctors was recently ranked among the most acquisitive private equity-backed DSOs, completing 59 add-on acquisitions since 2020.

Stephen Thorne IV. Founder and CEO of Pacific Dental Services (Irvine, Calif.): Mr. Thorne founded PDS in 1994 and has led the company in its expansion to nearly 1,000 offices across the U.S. The DSO has spearheaded medical-dental integration with several initiatives, including becoming the first DSO to implement the Epic EHR system and opening an integrated practice in California with MemorialCare. 

Jade Vardeman. Vice President of Surgeon Recruitment at U.S. Oral Surgery Management (Irving, Texas): Ms. Vardeman was promoted to her role in January and will play a critical role in USOSM's goal to add more surgeon partners this year. The MSO currently supports partners in 26 states and was also ranked among the most acquisitive private equity-backed DSOs.

Chris Steven Villanueva, DMD. Founder and CEO of MB2 Dental (Carrollton, Texas): Dr. Villanueva founded MB2 Dental in 2007. The dental partnership organization has grown rapidly in the last couple of years, now supporting more than 700 practices and most recently entering its 40th state.

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