An interview with Mark Willings – his influences and accomplishments

interview mark willingsInterview with Mark Willings.


Name: Mark Willings

Position: Director

Practice: Horbury Dental Care Ltd

Biography: Mark graduated at Guys Hospital in 1991. He has membership FGDP (MFGDP – 1998) and Fellowship FGDP from 2007. Diploma Implant dentistry RCS (Eng)(2004).

He worked in post graduate education for FGDP, Manchester University and Leeds Deanery.

Mark is one of founding partners of Dental Excellence Harewood which he sold to BUPA in 2018. I still work part time as an associate for BUPA. His personal practice is limited to implant dentistry and specifically his interest lies in the surgical aspects of treatment for the rehabilitation of the failed/failing dentition.

Tell me about where you grew up and what your family life was like?

I grew up in Wakefield and really haven’t moved far from the family home….in fact I live in a house that my grandparents owned and where my own father grew up. It is close to the practice.

What led you to a career in dentistry?

I think it is in our family genes….. ! I can’t remember a time that I ever wanted do anything else. Right from being a small boy I apparently said I was going to be a dentist when I grew up. I am the 4th generation dentist in the family and run the practice that my grandfather started in 1944.

What do you like most about it?

I really do believe that we can make a huge difference for patients….we can literally change their life. 

A gentleman rang me recently to tell me of the sad passing of his wife. He had wanted to speak to me personally to let me know. He wanted me to know that I had really helped her ( about 15 years previously with a full rehabilitation) emotionally and psychologically at a time in her life when she was facing becoming edentulous and she was distraught.

The exact words he used were – ‘you really did change her life’. It is very rewarding to think our skills and knowledge can have such an impact.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

Having two healthy beautiful daughters who have grown up to be well balanced, grounded ladies with careers of their own – one of whom is a dentist! I told you – it’s in the genes.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

My father – sadly we lost him 10 years ago but he sparked the enthusiasm and interest I have in my career. He taught me the values and work ethic that I practice every day.

Professionally I have also been influenced greatly by my closest colleagues – both at Harewood and at Horbury. I work with a great team who influence my every decision.

Finally Michael Weiss – of all the courses I have done, his willingness to share his clinical experience has shaped the way I work and probably had the most profound influence on my practise of dentistry.

How would friends and acquaintances describe you?

I really am not sure – I hope that  they would say that I am honest and generous. That’s certainly how I like to think of myself and how I try to live my life.

Share with us something about yourself that you want to improve.

Patience and tolerance – I am often too quick to judge and become frustrated when others don’t have the same sense of urgency that I do. I want everything done yesterday and sometimes I need to take a deep breath and step backwards. I need to be more reflective in my approach to many aspects of professional and personal life.

How do you unwind outside of dentistry?

I enjoy going to the gym and keeping fit. I ride my road bike and complete sportive challenges with my cycle club. Exercise is very important both for my physical and mental wellbeing. Working indoors all the time can gives me a sense of cabin fever. Enjoying as much time as possible outdoors when I am not at work is very important to me. 

My hobbies are all outdoor focussed whether it is skiing, shooting or exercising.

Where’s your favourite holiday destination?

Holidays are important – regular trips in the sunshine are crucial to recharge my batteries.

I have so many favourites but if I had to pick one, South of France on the Cote d’Azur would probably be top of my list.

What’s your favourite film?

Easy – that has to be Top Gun. As a teenager of the 80s there really is nothing else to beat this film. 

How do you keep fit?

I go to the gym three times a week and ride my road bike. 

Sum yourself up in three words?

  1. Driven
  2. Impatient
  3. Grumpy.

Are you vegan or vegetarian?

Definitely not!!

What was the last picture you took with your phone?

A picture of our dogs playing in the snow on a walk over the weekend! We have a cocker spaniel who does not stop…and she loves the snow!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Dentistry has provided me with the most wonderful opportunities. I am very privileged to work with some incredibly talented people.

As a profession, we are fortunate to be well paid and highly respected.

I feel very lucky to have been able to keep working through the last year of the pandemic. We (as a profession) need to remember how lucky we are. I think to myself everyday how relieved I am not to work in the holiday/leisure/restaurant industries – so many highly skilled intelligent people will not have a job nor be able to earn a living.

I would certainly recommend dentistry as a career to any young aspiring person. It is rewarding on every level. We can make a difference to people’s lives and we are very well paid for doing so. Dentistry can give us fantastic standard of living and for this we must be very grateful.

This article first appeared in Private Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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