Office Visit: Dr. Fariha Querishi by Kyle Patton, associate editor

Office Visit: Dr. Fariha Querishi 

by Kyle Patton
photography by Robin Subar


Dentists spend most of their working hours inside their own practices, so they usually don’t get many opportunities to see what it’s like inside another doctor’s office. Dentaltown’s recurring Office Visit profile offers a chance for Townies to meet their peers, hear their stories and get a sense of how they practice.

After eight years as an associate, Dr. Fariha Querishi hit the ground running when she built her practice in 2022. That same year, she won the American Dental Association’s Design Innovation Award for her office in Woodridge, Illinois, 30 miles outside of Chicago. Querishi’s knowledge of investment strategy, gleaned during a previous consultant role with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and her love of fully digital offerings have turned her practice into a place where patients receive spalike treatment. “I see every service I provide as a deliverable to my patients, and at the same time view it through a lens of empathy,” she says.

In our exclusive Q&A, Querishi talks about the lessons she learned in her first year of practice ownership, how her negative experience as a patient shaped her into the doctor she is, what private consulting and dentistry have in common and much more.

Office Highlights
NAME:
Dr. Fariha Querishi

GRADUATED FROM:
Midwestern University
College of Dental Medicine

PRACTICE:
Seven Bridges Dental Studio

PRACTICE SIZE:
2,249 square feet; 6 operatories

TEAM SIZE:
5

How’d you find your way into dentistry?

My mom, Habeeba Akhter, took us to the dentist every six months and with her degrees in chemistry and nutrition/food, she made sure we ate healthy, but I still ended up with dental concerns. I ended up seeing a dentist and having a bad experience, which resulted in additional dental issues. My mom switched dentists and took me to an amazing dentist who was gentle, kind and fun. He talked directly with me about the importance of healthy eating habits and good oral hygiene. I still remember that conversation to this day! He also was able to correct the dental concerns I was having. He changed the way I thought of dentistry and my oral health. I realized the importance of it and the fact that it’s not dentistry that’s “scary,” it’s how the dentist presents it to patients. We talked and joked about young 10-yearold Fariha becoming a dentist. Little did I know the idea would stick and change the trajectory of my future.


That experience as a patient shaped your philosophy as a doctor. Any tips for doctors who want to improve their chairside manners?

Know that each patient comes with their own set of experiences. Coming to see us can be scary for several reasons. We can’t change a patient’s previous experiences but we shape the experiences they have in our offices. Truly seeing the patient experience from the eye of the one receiving care is an overlooked skill. Empathy is what creates trust and a sense of safety for our patients.

One tip I would have to give doctors who are working on their chairside manner is to listen. It seems simple, but listening is not only knowing the patient’s chief complaint but knowing their history. Behind a great case is not just a beautiful smile but a person who wants to smile. That person is trusting you with their health and their appearance. Knowing your patient’s goals and passions on an individual level will guide you on what they are looking for out of their treatment. This will allow you to connect with your patient and provide them with a great experience.


You were a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. What advantages did that role give you once you entered dentistry?

When I first started at PwC, we had plenty of training focused on professionalism, aiming for excellence in all our work products and managing clients. One phrase that stuck with me during one of these sessions was, “Put yourself in each other’s shoes.” What mattered was understanding what the client’s expectations were, providing them with the deliverables they were paying for, and making sure it was not just meeting their expectations but exceeding them ... all while ensuring great client/team interactions. Apply these same principles to running a practice, and you will go far in standing out among your peers and patients alike.

I worked with partners and managers who showed me what great leadership and professionalism looked like, and am grateful for those experiences because they truly shaped my standard of care as a dentist. I see every service I provide as a deliverable to my patients and at the same time view it through a lens of empathy. I go to great lengths to emphasize this with my team as well and have chosen a team that truly embodies the essence of this. Everyone in the office understands what sets us apart is knowing we are delivering excellent care to our patients and providing it with a level of compassion that is exceptional.


After eight years as an associate and making mental notes of how you’d run an office, you fi ally got your start. What were your first steps?

I started by selecting a startup consulting firm that I felt shared my vision for a modern dental office in terms of the aesthetic and the patient experience. I decided to work with Ideal Practices, who helped me find a beautiful rental space with great demographics.

From there, I put together a floor plan that allowed me to work efficiently without bumping into my staff and had enough room for modern imaging and lab equipment, a surgical suite, a treatment consultation room and a patient lounge area. I also left room for expanding up to six total operatories. I had a large emphasis on aesthetics as well.

I had a vision of what I wanted and teamed up with EHI Construction, who brought my vision to life. Once the physical practice started to come together, I worked on finalizing which insurance companies I’d be working with and getting credentialed. I started getting all the services my practice would need in place and running before we could see patients: office management software, patient communication software, claim processor, phones, payment, information technology (IT), etc. There was an extensive list of to-do items beyond the build-out, and I was glad to have my consulting team there to guide me through it.


What did you learn in your first year as a practice owner?

It’s been quite an experience. I learned so many aspects of practice ownership I didn’t have experience with from previous jobs—things like managing and training staff, insurance verification and billing, ordering supplies, managing IT systems and online marketing.

I’m happy to say we have grown tremendously and reached important milestones ahead of schedule in our first year, but our success didn’t come without setbacks and challenges along the way. As a startup during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were severe delays with supplies and equipment. Instrument orders were delayed for months. Also, because of labor shortages, finding reliable staff was an issue—which was particularly challenging as a startup because a lot of training needs to take place for those first few weeks.

You are starting with a smaller team—typically one front desk person and one assistant. You come to rely on your staff to be present and proficient for the practice to run smoothly. I realized very early on—before I even opened the office—that the responsibilities of all the roles in the office fall on the shoulders of the practice owner. If someone is out sick or doesn’t show up to work without notice, which can happen, you must be able to handle all the tasks of that day and do your best as a business owner.

Because of these experiences, I learned what type of team member to look for, and am not quick to bring on the next employee unless I’m certain they’re a great fit for the practice and for the rest of my team.


What advice do you have for docs thinking about starting a practice?

Make sure to spend a lot of time and effort identifying the right team to surround yourself with. Having experienced, personable and flexible staff makes all the difference in running a smooth operation.

Start early with your search and don’t settle. You may feel rushed to have staff in place before opening day, but rushing into hiring can cause you to have even more setbacks in finding the right person for your team. In some situations, it can actually cause harm to your practice to have the wrong team member in place.

Something else I didn’t know before practice ownership is that you will have to learn all the duties you are going to assign to your staff. Understanding the front desk and assistant tasks thoroughly will help you understand your business better and allow you to find efficiencies. It will also help you train new staff and ensure important tasks are completed properly. Most importantly, it will help you become a better leader.


In 2022, your office won the Design Innovation Award from the ADA. What went into the design planning and choices?

I wanted a space that reflected my own brand of dentistry with excellent care and modern technology, a beautiful and comfortable space that feels like home, and a friendly staff. I have a passion for interior design and a lot of my ideas were based on what I felt would be comforting for patients.

Most patient anxiety starts in the waiting room. My goal for the office was for patients to feel like they were visiting family in a modern yet comfortable space. I was able to achieve this from the choice of flooring and lighting, as well as the design of the accent walls. All design elements came together beautifully. I also consulted with a mentor, Dr. Hardeek Patel, who is the founder of 3DII and a practice owner himself, and he guided me with the flow of my uniquely shaped space.


What’s it like being a patient in your office?

As soon as a patient enters the practice, they step into a beautiful, open space full of natural light and our signature scent. They are greeted by friendly team members, checked into their appointment, and forms and consents are sent to their phones.

They are seated in the patient lounge and offered a beverage. The dental assistant will greet them and take them to the room. If it’s their first visit, they’ll get a tour of the office and comfort menu options are reviewed. Patients love our soft leather heat and massage chairs along with our Bluetooth headphones and ceiling-mounted TVs. Once the patient is situated and watching their favorite show, topical is placed and treatment begins.


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Tell us about your work with the American Association of Women Dentists and other groups you’re involved with.

Being part of the inaugural class at Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine in Illinois (MWU CDMI), I found it imperative to create an organization on campus that supports female dentists in the DMD program. I and my colleague and best friend, Dr. Jessica Peterkin, founded the AAWD–MWU CDMI Chapter.

As president of the chapter, I helped launch the organization and created events that featured female dentist panelists, raised funds and participated in a run for breast cancer awareness, and held volunteer events in the community with organizations including Feed My Starving Children. These events helped build camaraderie while also allowing us to give back to the community.

The organization also gave students the opportunity to find mentorship between freshmen and seniors or practicing doctors. I’m so proud to see the group flourishing on campus and how many female dentists are being supported by its presence.

I’m also very proud to have partnered with Blessings in a Backpack, an organization committed to combating food insecurity for children. For every new patient I see, we donate three weekends’ worth of meals to children in our local community. The meals are sent home with students on Fridays after school to help families keep kids fed over the weekend when free school meals aren’t available. We held our inaugural meal-packaging event May 5. It was great to see our patients, family and friends come together and make a difference in the lives of so many children and to have a positive impact on the community surrounding the practice. The food we packaged was distributed to three local schools


What kind of cases excite you the most?

Office Visit: Dr. Fariha Querishi
I love helping people regain their confidence and have the smile and oral health they have always wanted. I’m very excited about my veneer cases and full-mouth reconstruction cases. Recently, a client came in looking for veneers to make her smile brighter and more youthful. I start the smile makeover process by learning what the patient is looking to get out of their treatment, what they like or dislike about their smile and what they’re looking to improve. After her hygiene and restorative needs were addressed, we went into the smile design. She brought in photos of her old smile and I worked with our lab to create a wax-up of the veneer and bridge combo. Then came the “trial smile,” which allowed her to temporarily see how the result would look, ask for changes and then move forward. In this case, we did minimal prep veneers for #4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13 and bridge prep on #9 and 11. We’d talked about an implant on #10 but the patient opted for a bridge. We noted stump/veneer shade. For this case, the patient wanted OM3 with natural translucency along the incisal third. She was very happy with the temporaries and the final set of veneers and bridge. She also did Kor whitening for the mandibular arch.


What’s a trend in the dentistry you love? What’s a trend you’re not crazy about?

I love digital dentistry. The field is advancing so quickly, and I’m happy to be practicing at a time like this. With technology like photogrammetry and chairside milling, the possibilities are endless. I’m looking forward to being able to offer my patients the best options with the newest and best-proven technology on the market.

A trend I’m not crazy about is patients getting full-mouth “veneers” done without knowing they’re actually getting full-mouth crowns. This trend is now known as “shark teeth.” This is popular for patients looking to get quick and cheap veneers; they’re given a lump sum price and told they’ll get veneers even without a proper evaluation or exam. Like I told one of my patients recently, if you’re told you can get veneers without a proper exam, run! Veneers are technique-sensitive. They require minimal prep, healthy tooth structure and a great lab. The overprepping of “shark teeth” to get a uniform smile can lead to root canals or even extractions long-term.


What’s your most controversial opinion regarding the profession?

Dentists are overreliant on insurance companies to set the standard of care. No other health care providers put so much emphasis on verification of patient benefits before seeing patients. We have put ourselves in a position where we have become the responsible party to know all the ins and outs of every patient’s plan. If you go to a medical office, the office staff will merely tell you whether they’re in-network or not. Knowing the insurance coverage for procedures or medical supplies is the patient’s responsibility, and is typically billed to them after services are rendered.


Give us a snapshot of your life outside of dentistry.

I love spending time with my husband, Akif, and three girls, Haniya, Hafsa and Zara. I was pregnant with my youngest during the startup process and she was only two months old when I opened my doors to see patients. Watching her grow this past year has been amazing, and has also given me perspective on my practice growth during this short time as well.

I focus most of my time outside of the office on my children. I also love spending time outdoors, traveling and sharing oral health tips on social media. (My Instagram handle is @the.tooth.fari.)



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