by Chelsea Knorr, staff writer, Dentaltown Magazine
David Kahn, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, doesn’t live the
average life of a recent grad. He graduated in the Class of 2011, and he also took home the win for
the Rhode Island Half-Ironman in July (that’s 70.3 miles swimming, biking and running!).
Herein, Kahn gives his two cents about life right after graduation, explains what working at
a hospital-based residency entails and discusses how he balances his two passions.
What made you choose dentistry?
Kahn: Growing up I always wanted to go into sports medicine.
I swam all through high school and college, so I had a
strong background in sports.
I come from a family of dentists. My father and two of his
brothers joined practices in 1980 and my grandfather has been
the practice manager since 1990. After my third year of undergrad,
I decided I wanted to continue the family tradition.
Now, I get my dose of sports by training for Ironman
Tell me about your residency; describe a typical
day. What motivated your decision to do a
hospital-based residency? And what do you plan to do with your experience?
Kahn: I am in a one-year general practice residency (GPR)
at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, New York. Completing
a residency is part of New York State’s licensing requirements.
However, I would choose to do a hospital residency regardless
because of the intense clinical experience I could gain before
going on to private practice.
My day-to-day schedule varies. There are two other co-residents,
and we trade off mornings observing and assisting the
OR, pre-surgical testing and the dental clinic. In the afternoons
all three of us are in the dental clinic. We then have rotation in
the ER until 7 p.m. One of us is on call every three weeks.
[Editor’s Note: At press time, the three residents will have finished
their rotations and will be spending most of their time in the clinic.]
After my residency I plan to go into the family practice. I
want to maintain the practice’s quality, which my family has built
over the last 30 years. I’ve had the opportunity to learn quite a
bit in residency and I want to continue to expand on those abilities
and my education throughout my career as a practitioner.
What are the advantages and disadvantages
of doing hospital-based dentistry?
Kahn: Since the GPR is the only dental residency at St.
Charles, all care is provided within the clinic except those cases
performed under general anesthesia. We have a great group of specialists
who rotate through the clinic and offer the residents a
chance to gain experience with cases that would generally be
referred out of a general practice. Even though I won’t be treating
many of these types of cases in private practice, the opportunity
to obtain hands-on experience with these procedures will help me
better recognize those situations that require a specialist’s care.
One of the hardest parts about doing a hospital-based residency
is all the paperwork. As a dental clinic in a hospital, we
must maintain all the necessary records to meet dental requirements,
but at the same time, we must follow all the hospital’s
guidelines for records. It ends up being significantly more paperwork
than I would have to complete in a private practice.
If you could give new graduates one piece of
advice, what would it be?
Kahn: I feel like I should be getting this advice, not giving it!
One thing I have found to be quite helpful is having someone
to mentor me in my training. When I was in school, I had
so many instructors who were there to answer any of my questions.
Even though I’m working on my own now, I still have
questions all the time. My dad, who is also a dentist, is my greatest
source of advice.
What surprised you the most when you got out
Kahn: I was surprised by how many dental products there
are on the market! As students we really didn’t have any say in
the school’s dental armamentarium. We were basically introduced
to a set of products in pre-clinical lab and then those same
products were in the clinic.
What is great about residency is the attendings who rotate
through the clinic use different products. It is great to see how
other clinicians work with certain products while at the same
time learning what works best in my hands.
What is your favorite procedure to perform?
Kahn: Going through dental school, all the procedures I
performed were dictated by curriculum and requirements. With
residency, I have the opportunity to treat cases that interest me.
I try to keep an open mind and experience a little of everything. Maybe I’ll get a better idea of what procedures I’m partial to by
the time I start private practice.
How do you balance work and life?
Kahn: I’m a triathlete, so balance is hard. I have to make sacrifices
and decisions and sometimes I miss out. I have chosen
two things (dentistry and Ironman competitions) that take a ton
of dedication… but I’m passionate about both. When it gets
overwhelming I just have to remind myself that it will get better.
And it always eventually does.
As a side note, can you explain what an
Ironman is and what goes into preparing for
such a feat?
Kahn: Sure. I compete in Half-Ironman (HI) competitions
which are 70.3 miles – a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and
a 13.1-mile run. A Full-Ironman (FI) would be double that distance
– 140.6 miles. The problem with the FI competitions is
that you need to be able to put in four- to five-hour blocks of
training at least three times a week. This just won’t work with
my schedule right now.
My workouts vary from week to week. I put in around 18 to
23 hours of training per week. I will compete in up to eight HI
competitions per year. This year I’ve done five so far. It takes discipline
but I love the challenge.
If you weren’t a dentist, what do you think
you’d be doing right now?
Kahn: I would be a professional triathlete. At this point in
my life, I’m not using the sport as a main source of income, but
if I wasn’t a dentist I would do it full time. I could also use my
sports training for teaching or coaching.
I suppose we should all be so lucky to have
more than one life passion. Thanks so much for
chatting with us.