How becoming an educator enriched 1 dentist's career

Eric Wachs, DMD, has experienced several benefits after becoming an educator in the dental field. 

Dr. Wachs is the director of oral and maxillofacial surgery and an associate professor of dental medicine at the New York Medical College Touro College Of Dental Medicine in Hawthorne, N.Y. 

He recently spoke with Becker's about the evolution of his career. 

Editor's note: This response was lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: If you weren't a dentist, what would you do for your career and why?

Dr. Eric Wachs: I am a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has been in practice for over 30 years. I started teaching oral surgery and medicine in a general practice residency program and performing hospital administrative functions over 20 years ago while maintaining a half-time private practice. When the GPR closed, I provided oral surgical care at a Federally Qualified Health Center and, after a year there, I also directed the dental department as the vice president of dentistry. I was then fortunate enough to be asked to become the director of oral and maxillofacial surgery at a new dental school, the Touro College of Dental Medicine, running the didactic and clinical OMFS functions. After four years, I left my half-time private practice and went full-time at the dental school. In addition to my clinical and didactic OMFS responsibilities, I direct the ethics and professionalism curriculum and courses, play a role in teaching in a number of other courses and perform many administrative functions on various standing and ad hoc committees.

I feel that my career has morphed multiple times, but every change has presented new opportunities and challenges and enabled me to do what I now do. I know that I am still in dentistry, but I now consider myself primarily an educator and administrator. I teach and advise dental students and OMFS residents. I directly oversee them as they perform surgical procedures and teach them how to use both their minds and their hands. I guide them as they acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to develop judgment. Had I known the course my career would take, I would have pursued an additional degree along the way, either related to education, administration or both. I like the variety and balance of my various jobs. I enjoy the interactions and camaraderie that come from working with my colleagues, both in the dental school itself, our affiliated medical school and the broader interprofessional community that working at a university provides. I anticipate that because of the evolution and renewal of my career, I will work longer than I would have if I remained solely an office-based clinical dentist, as I was when I first began my career.  

So, to finally answer your question, I now enjoy a career as a dentist, but also as an educator and administrator, and this is exactly what I want to be doing.

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