The Specialist and Dental Study Clubs

This is another guest post from our client Dr. Lurie.
It seems to me that the need and demand for continuing
education is extremely important to our profession.  Obviously, so do the State Boards and
licensing folks.  I would like to discuss
study clubs and how to gain the most value for the time and effort it takes to
begin a study club.  How to begin and
maintain the viability of the entity is important but many other factors need
to be considered.  I was fortunate enough
to start a study club that was in place for about 18 years and was most
successful and helpful to me personally as a specialist in Oral and
Maxillofacial Surgery.  It was a venture
that was close to my heart as are many endeavors that one creates from
scratch.  This is a companion article
which started from my recent post on the Specialist and Referrals
Continuing education has many virtues but comes at a
price.  The large and major professional
organizations have tons of meetings around the country and
internationally.  The advantages are
obvious but some disadvantages are also obvious.  One must leave the office for an extended
period of time.  Some meetings are better
than others and have greater draw; thus the partners in a group practice may
bicker as to who gets to go and who stays and watches the store.  In addition to the time involved, there is a
large expense for the meeting – food, hotel, transportation, tuition and time
lost in production at the office.  There
is no doubt that these large meetings with their fantastic instructors have a
lot to offer.  In addition, the large
attending group gives ample opportunity for exchange of ideas and
experience.  Lunch time becomes an
additional course of study as folks discuss what they just heard and how it is
or is not applicable to them in their own particular situation.  Even so, I feel there is a great opportunity
for the “Study Club” to
also be part of this ongoing quest for information, knowledge, practice growth
and expansion of referral base.  For the
beginning specialist, it is a great supplement to the contacts and personal
exchanges with the referral base.
I would suggest starting a study club that is narrow in its
field.  This allows for expansion of
topics as the club develops but keeps the group focused on a particular subject
that can be creatively and exhaustively researched and expanded upon.  In my case, we created a club that was
restricted to dental implants.  You must
remember that this club was started at about the time that the first words of
implantology were first spoken.  I was
one of the fortunate ones chosen to take post- graduate training in this new
field.  Now it is taught in dental
school.  This peaked my interest and
desire to share this with colleagues and referring doctors.  We had to learn a new field as best we could
and take the courses that were out there – both good and bad.  The study club enabled our group to discern
the good from the bad – what worked, was feasible, patient friendly and within
our ability to achieve good results. 
This process was ongoing throughout my career until retirement.  As the ability improved and the knowledge was
enhanced, the complex cases became more routine and the results were more
predictable.  Thus, the study club became
an arena that open discussions, exchange of ideas, and special speakers embellished
the information obtained from the formal courses given around the country.  So I would suggest that a beginning study
club be a special interest within a specialty connotation.   
Invite prospective members who are within a 5 year
(approximately) time of graduation with you so that you can grow together both
educationally and socially.  I must
comment on the wonderful relationships that the closeness of the club created.
I would also try to establish a membership that had other
specialists in fields besides my own area. 
After all, I am trying to create a referral base.  Input from ortho, perio, prosthetics,
occlusion, TMJ, etc.  will add to the
discussion and I found this to be true. 
Everyone benefitted when we discussed implants from an occlusal
standpoint for example.  I might invite
another oral surgeon to present at a meeting but I certainly did not need one
as a competing member. 
There are many ways to conduct a study club meeting.  You can have a classic lecture followed by
question and answer.  It can be an actual
hands-on class sponsored by one of the companies (with all their resources), a
round-table discussion where everyone will present on the subject (as notified
in advance) for 15 minutes per person, or even a field trip.  The possibilities are only limited by your
imagination.  I would suggest allowing
several minutes at every meeting for “good
and welfare
so that
logistics can be worked out and a consensus agreed upon. 
We actually had an evening where a patient was brought in
(all consents signed), records, x-rays, treatment plans etc. presented, and the
ability to examine the patient, ask questions—including fees and so on.  It was a fun night. So much so, that it was
repeated once a year with a different doctor getting a patient for us to
examine.  It was also invaluable when one
of the patients was a problem from a treatment-plan standpoint and this gave
the entire group the opportunity to help the doctor with the optimum treatment
for his patient.  His patient was
impressed with the help he was getting on his behalf and I think it was a
mutual stimulating evening for everyone.
Always send out an
agenda prior to the meeting
.  Try to
keep the meetings to an agreed upon time format (we used 2 hours).  Try to meet at the same, convenient location
when possible with the exception being patient exams, field trips etc. 
Keep the format inexpensive and simple.  We started promptly at 7 PM.  This gave everyone time to get home, grab a
bite, kiss the kids and get to the meeting. 
We only met 6 times/year.  There were
light refreshments in the back of the room at a convenient hotel in the area
which included fruit, cheese, coffee, soda and cookies.  Thus, folks could go back and forth while
presentations were occurring and not interfere with the presentation.  Our dues structure covered most of the cost
of these arrangements.  I footed the bill
for mailings and any other special needs. This was done to keep expenses in
check.  We started with 12 members and
ended with a mailing of 80 active folks. 
As new members joined, we tried to get them to get their age-group peers
to join with them and this was successful.
So, I think I have given you an idea on how to begin and
your own imagination can do the rest.  It
was a fun ride and I truly enjoyed every minute of it.  Needless to say, the learning process
received was invaluable.  A great way to
have “continuing education.” with friends, and fellowship.
These are just a few ideas about “starting a study
club” and I hope they are of help. 
Please do not hesitate to send me your thoughts and questions.  It would be an honor to be of help. 
More Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned next time.
Dr. Donald B. Lurie, DDS