As dentists · we step into the public spotlight (whether we want to or not)

As dentists, we step into the public spotlight (whether we want to or not)

One day, I was searching my name on Google (don’t act like I’m the only one that does that), and I saw some interesting things come up that made a few light bulbs go off in my head. The first thing was my name on some website about rating your doctor. I never filled out a profile on there, how did they get my name and practice address!? Are they allowed to do that? Apparently. I can’t stop them. It’s public record. The year I was born, where I went to school, the year I graduated, where I practice, if I’ve been disciplined by the board -that’s all public knowledge that can be discovered on the Internet in a matter of seconds.

Dr. Dougherty

Dr. Dougherty

When you become a dentist, you step into the spotlight. While it’s pretty cool to have that “Dr.” in front of your name on your scrubs or your lab coat or your Spurs replica jersey, it comes with some rules and responsibilities that have to be followed. As a doctor, you’re held to a higher standard than the Average Joe in many situations. More is expected of you from the public and your peers to be a leader and to be a professional. This isn’t a bad thing, this is a great thing. If we can’t count on doctors to be the leaders and standard bearers of good taste and professionalism in our communities, then who can we count on?

Are the wild party days over?

Who cares what I do during my free time, when I leave the office I take the doctor hat off and put the “me doing whatever I want” hat on!  Right?

These are some things to think about.

Everyone that you meet as a professional is a potential advocate for you, a potential resource for you, and maybe a potential patient. How do you want others to perceive you as a professional? Do you want to be known as a loose cannon/weekend warrior or do you want to be known as a person that is worthy of trust and respect in any situation?

It’s obvious by my tone where I stand on all of these matters, but these are all individual decisions we all must make in our lives, and it isn’t easy. Dental school is a time of tremendous change in your life in many ways, and deciding where you stand on what I’m talking about will shape your professional reputation.  It’s something that you should take very seriously, especially in this day and age where privacy is almost nonexistent.

In closing I want to provide you with a few related tips/thoughts on managing your online reputation.

  1. Delete the Bloody Pics. I used to not think anything of it, but I’ve become a huge proponent of leaving bloody teeth, surgery pics, and x-rays off of social media. It scares and grosses out your friends and potential patients, and it makes us look like insensitive jerks that get a kick out of making people bleed. Winning patient confidence and trust in us and in dentistry is what we do. Stop making it harder.
  1. Keep It Pro on Social Media. In a more general sense, think twice before you post things, especially negative things about your struggles as a professional or as a health care provider. Outside of the profession, no one wants to hear it, so consider your audience. Have a private conversation with another student or doctor if you need to let off some steam. Those conversations and thoughts aren’t for public consumption. It makes dentists look bad, and we’re not, we’re awesome.
  1. Make a LinkedIn Account and a Google+ profile. Like I said, your reputation is open to the public, people are going to be looking for you. Recruiters. Sales reps. Other professionals. Potential patients. Make it easy for people to find you, and when they do find you online, you ensure that you immediately appear in a positive way on something of your own terms.

When you get out of school and start looking for career opportunities, it’s great to have a readily available mass of contacts at your fingertips. The more people you know, the more opportunities open up. If you want important people to find you, if you want potential patients to find you, and if you want to be well known for what you do best, make yourself easy to find.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published August 2014 in Rolling Oaks Dental’s office blog.

Dr. Larry Dougherty is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and on the board of the San Antonio District Dental Society. He grew up in Georgia and graduated from Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine in 2008.  He moved to Texas in 2010 and opened Rolling Oaks Dental with his wife, Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty, in 2011.  He enjoys spending time with his family, playing music with friends, and going to Spurs games.

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