Global Storytelling

Need some answers to continue growing your practice? Sharing insights with your colleagues is key.

by Steve Carstensen, DDS, Diplomate, American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine

Readers know, as individuals, they don’t hold all the answers for the patient in their clinic. Each person presents a myriad of signs, symptoms, personal goals, biosignals, and interpretations that form the clinical puzzle we are charged with arranging into a pathway to health.

September was a busy month. Collaboration Cures, a gathering of more than 750 dentists, physicians, speech pathologists, physical therapists, dental hygienists, and others interested in a whole-person, focus-on-healthspan, approach, happened in Phoenix. The American Dental Association produced the 5th Children’s Airway Initiative CE Event, virtually, just a week later. Both meetings featured speakers and learners from around the globe. Dan Klauer, a dentist in South Bend, Indiana, hosted his 5th Sleep Symposium focused on pediatric interventions, with a lineup of luminary leaders in the field. No doubt there were dozens of other events, large and small, bringing health care practitioners together to learn, grow, and gain confidence to help people reach the optimum health they seek.

Why do we all invest our resources – money, time, intellectual effort, commitment to teach our team, and disrupt our practices with new ideas? Why do we take the risk? I think it is because dedicated professionals cannot sit with a person needing help and be satisfied with yesterday’s answers. Or the information shared years ago in professional training. Or CE available from the experts in their own town. They seek a new story.

Why would Sharon Moore and Shereen Lim take more than two weeks away from their practices in Australia, spend thousands of dollars to travel to the United States, and share their experience with Collaboration Cures and the ADA? Not for the honoraria, I can assure you. These professionals do not seek fame. They simply cannot sit back and hold their expertise to themselves. Every speaker at these events stands up because they can’t stop learning. They must settle a need to share to bring balance to their lives.

They have sat in the chairs each of you sit in, invited patients to put the puzzle pieces onto their tables, and, just like you, have looked for the corner pieces, the edges, and have done their best to bring the picture to focus. When their colleagues wonder about how they were able to see that big picture, stories came out about confusion, about frustration, and about reaching out to others for help before learning how to sort it for themselves. Above all, the stories are about not being satisfied until the picture comes together.

What happens when you get the best news of the day? The urge to share is the same as our courageous colleagues on the podium – life is out of balance until the next person can see a new path to success. As one learns from another, stories form about the journey from unaware to aware to mastery. When telling the story, don’t leave out the parts where things went south for a bit – saying them out loud builds trust and enhances learning. Every time the story is told, the learning expands for both the teller and the receiver.

When telling the story, don’t leave out the parts where things went south for a bit – saying them out loud builds trust and enhances learning. Every time the story is told, the learning expands for both the teller and the receiver.

Post-pandemic Zoom meeting may be tiring, but they open every one of us to global expertise. Your clinical puzzles may become clearer after hearing a story from an ENT in Malaysia, a Brazilian speech pathologist, or a Chilean physical therapist. Be a consumer of global stories. Know that when you ask to hear their story, you help them learn, too. When you share your stories, we all get better.

Dr. Steve Carstensen enjoys sharing insights on returning to a familiar place as Chief Dental Editor.

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