Looking back at the last 25 years as a dentist and a mentor

Ewa Rozwadowska shares how she got into dentistry, her role as a dental mentor and her most defining moments over the last 25 years of her career.

How did you get into dentistry? What’s your story?

I loved biology at school. I wanted to a biology degree and thought I’d want to do something that’s actually going to give me a job at the end of it, so not just biology itself.

I looked at the careers book and somebody said, ‘Oh, how about doing dentistry?’, and I went, ‘Ugh, looking down people’s mouths for the rest of my life!’.

And the more I looked at it, the more I saw that it was working with your hands, it was working with people and as academic as you want it to be. And I have absolutely loved it. If I had my choice again, I would do the same.

You were practice owner at 24 – did you take a lot away from that experience?

Very much so. And every day in dentistry is an experience because you have to do the practice ownership, you have to do the business side, you have to be a dentist, you have to be a coach and a mentor to your staff. So there’s so many aspects of that which are really hard to balance up. But we do get the balance. It’s great.

And I think I found a really, really good mentor to help me in my practice and in my dentistry as well. And actually that’s who I model myself on. My mentor was a dentist called John Pollard who used to work with Kevin Lewis in his coaching and mentoring business that they used to have at that point.

They actually saw me through a very difficult time from a business point of view where I was being threatened with bankruptcy. And they saw me through that and at the end of six months said, ‘Right. You know what to do’, and I just burst into tears. So he looked after me after that for many years.

What do you now do as a mentor? Tell me a little bit about your coaching and who you help.

I help practice owners. I also help individual professions complementary to dentistry, such as hygienists, therapists etc. The idea behind this is that I support them with all the knowledge that I have and all the experience I have in dentistry. This is both from a business point of view, and also from the personal aspect of trying to be a good professional.

I hold them in a coaching conversation so we can discuss various problems that they have non-judgmentally in a safe environment and help people to achieve their goals. If it’s from a business point of view, if it’s from running a dental practice point of view, there are all sorts of aspects of practice.

So for example, the financial aspect, the resource aspect, the compliance aspect, the marketing, and there’s all the aspects of actually trying to do your dentistry as well.

As a single practice owner with a small practice it’s very difficult to keep those cogs running together. If something then doesn’t work or something gets stuck, then it might come out as you have a financial problem. But actually what it is, if you look at it, is a resource problem, or a compliance problem.

So it’s looking at the whole picture and being able to have an overview and working with those dentists or with those professionals in trying to improve what they do.

Is this something that you do in conjunction with your role with Denplan?

There’s a number of us that are trained in coaching and mentoring within being Denplan advisors. Denplan advisors’ role is slightly different. So, Denplan have a quality assurance scheme called Excel. There’s part of that quality assurance scheme where dentist subscribe to that and try and to improve what they’re doing.

Every 14 months or so they will get a practicing dentist who comes into their practice to have a look around about 300 different things in the practice, including things like record card audits, radiation protection, the compliance, looking to make sure that the practice is compliant as far as it possibly can be.

So Denplan Excel actually existed many, many years before the CQC did. When CQC came in, dentists were using Denplan Excel to try and make sure that they were as up together as possible on their compliance. So it’s been a huge support to dentists for many years and it continues to be so.

As a dentist and as a mentor, looking back over the last 25 years, what’s been the highlight of your career?

I’ve actually got lots and lots of moments. It’s been a huge privilege to be part of the dental profession.

We were the first dental practice in the country to achieve Investors In People, which allowed me to learn about what my team actually contribute. I actually hadn’t appreciated what everybody did in the practice.

And once I started to do that and get people on board to what we wanted to do as a practice, rather than me pushing people into doing things, I was actually being pulled along by my team, which was absolutely brilliant. At one point we actually won an award for our children’s dentistry which was completely run by my team.

So with regards to highlights, we won private dentistry Practice Team of the Year, which was a fantastic accolade to my team and everything they did.

One of the lovely, huge compliments that I had was when Kevin Lewis invited me to speak at the young dentist’s conference about who owned dentistry. Was it the individual dentist in practice or was it the corporate?

The debate was in front of 300 young dentists. I won hands down because it actually is what each individual dentist does that allows both individual practices, so corporates, to do what they do. Without their dentists, they can’t provide the service and it’s up to us to maintain those standards, to actually do the best dentistry that we can in whatever circumstances we have, whether it’s NHS or fully private.

So that was a really interesting debate. And in the front seat of the audience was my daughter who was at dentist school at that point!

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