Dr. Gurpreet S. Khurana is a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and has been a forum moderator for the Student Doctor Network Dental Forums since 2002. He currently is in private practice in Washington, D.C. Khurana is the author of Student Doctor Network Dental Admissions Guide, the first title available from SDN Academic Press.
Why did you choose to become a dentist?
I always loved the health sciences. My mother was a nurse and I saw the satisfaction she received by helping her patients. I was also always interested in working with my hands and science dentistry was the right fit. It was a combination of art, science, and healing.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a dentist? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?)
I’m glad I took the time and evaluated all of my options in the health care industry and I am confident that I would choose dentistry all over again if I had to. The Student Doctor Network was an instrumental part in my decision.
What do you like most and least about being a dentist and interacting with patients?
Obviously, being a dentist is not easy, but harder yet is being a patient. Having to lay in a supine position and have someone putting their hands in your mouth is a daunting vision. It is not uncommon to deal with occasional fear from the patient which translates into a difficult procedure. However, building proper rapport with the patient helps in resolving those issues.
Why did you choose your specialty?
I chose to become a general dentist because I enjoyed all aspects of dentistry. I see kids, do root canals, and big complex procedures. When I feel uncomfortable with something I know I can refer a patient to a specialist.
Did you plan to enter your current specialty prior to dental school?
Yes, I decided to become a general dentist prior to beginning dental school. I knew that I wanted to build relationships with patients throughout their lives and be the gatekeeper to their dental healthcare. I felt by specializing I would limit my interaction with my patients and also limit my scope in dentistry. I like a lot of variety and seeing everything keeps me intrigued.
Now that you are in your specialty, has it met your expectations?
Yes, I enjoy what I do every day. I learn something new and love to converse with my patients.
Describe a typical day at work.
I work only 3 days a week and at several offices. I start work around 8:30 and end around 4 pm. I look at the schedule and make sure to check all of the hygiene patients. My assistants help me throughout the day with keeping on time and prepped for each procedure. I numb the patients and start the procedure be it a filling, root canal, crown or implants.
What mix of clinical/research/teaching work do you do? How much power do you have to change that mix?
I am always learning. I focus on my time on dental management research. I have an MBA from Johns Hopkins and I enjoy helping practices increase their potential in all directions.
Are you satisfied with your income?
Yes, I am very satisfied with my income.
If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain?
Based on the specialized knowledge and the power to help people it is well worth the loans. I have about $200,000 in federal loans. I think the payments are fair.
On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep each night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
I work between 28-35 hours a week. I sleep 6-8 hours a night and I enjoy my time off. I have other projects I am working on but in the future I would like to take vacations.
Do you have a family and do you have enough time to spend with them?
I think it all depends on “making time” – if someone or people are important to you, you can make time for them no matter how busy you are.
In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?
Stop worrying too much. Let life flow and enjoy the ride. Too many people just stress (themselves) out worrying, only to look back and realize that they missed the ride and everything worked out even better than they had envisioned.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were an undergraduate? (What mistakes or experiences have you encountered that you wished you had known about ahead of time so you could have avoided?)
I should have focused on learning and understanding the material instead of worrying about the grade. When your focus in really grasping the concepts instead of just studying for tests then you enjoy each class.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in health care today?
Lack of patient management skills. I feel due to the stress of the healthcare industry/insurance, people feel more like a number than anything else. We need to slow down and treat the patient as a whole and not just a symptom.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in your specialty?
I think lack of business skills are an issue. We are not taught any business skills in dental school and when you own your own practice like 90% of all dentists, then issues arise.
Where do you see your specialty in 5-10 years?
With new technology I see dentistry growing in all directions. Pain management technology will revolutionize dentistry and patient care.
What other types of providers and/or technicians do you work with in your day-to-day practice?
I work with dental hygienists, dental assistants, office managers, lab technicians and also consult physicians.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any? Any international work?
I offer free dental services to patients in need. About 10% of my practice is doing volunteer work for patients in need.
What do you like to do for relaxation or stress relief? Can you share any advice on finding a balance between work and life?
I enjoy playing racquet sports such as tennis and squash. Hiking and other out door activities keep me energized. I feel that one should have many hobbies. I enjoy writing and reading as well.