Office Visit: One Man. Two Passions. Chelsea Knorr, staff writer, Dentaltown Magazine

One Man. Two Passions.
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 competitions.

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 of school?
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.

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