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Lifting female dentists

Dr. Ritu Rao

Photo courtesy Dr. Ritu Rao

Meet Bizzy Tooth Mommy, Dr. Ritu Rao, who has some advice on managing a practice and getting the kids off to a great start for the new — gulp — school year, just in the nick of time.

Dr. Ritu Rao does it all. The 2003 alumna oversees her Highland Park, Texas, family and cosmetic dentistry practice, raises two kids, goes on early morning marathon running sessions, and in whatever time she has left, writes about it.

Her blog, bizzytoothmommy, is a gem of a site, chock full of resources and solutions for the enterprising female dentist, mom and non-mom alike. (Think how to use social media in your dental practice, starting and staying committed to a workout routine — and yourself! — and what it takes to juggle motherhood, your mindset and everything in between.)

With another school year upon us, what better time than now to pick Rao’s brain for her take on how to stay on top of your practice while setting your kids up for success for the school year? And yes, you can catch a bit of her trademark good humor thrown in for good measure. What else should you expect from a blogger whose website’s tagline reads “Shifting and Lifting Female Dentists in Bits and Bytes”?

BDRO: With so many back-to-school responsibilities — school supplies, open houses, registration, the list goes on — you probably have to be a pretty good organizer, especially when it comes to meshing your role as a mom with the needs of your patients. Tell us, just how far in advance do you have to plan your office calendar so you don’t experience the dreaded overlap between patient appointments and personal commitments? (Not sure if we want to know!)

Rao: At this point, back-to-school responsibilities haven't been a major issue, since my kids are in preschool. The schools send paperwork fairly early on — registration, health forms, etc. — and those can be done over a weekend, and forms can be faxed or emailed. Technology helps the busy mom these days! I'm sure this will change as they get older, so I'll have to figure out ways to tackle it then.

BDRO: And what about the unexpected? You’re in the middle of an implant case when the school nurse calls to report the grilled cheese your oldest had from the school cafeteria didn’t quite agree with her stomach. Appropriately, she needs to be taken home immediately. What is your contingency plan?

Rao: For us as a family, having a nanny has been a necessity (no family in town) but a great solution. So if a situation like the above did arise, I would trust her to pick my child up and take her home. On my end, I would see if my schedule would allow some rearranging so I could leave early for the day or ASAP. If not, a call to my husband would be ‘Plan B.’ However, I will say that most patients in our practice, being parents themselves, would understand and not mind changing their appointment for a child emergency. On our end, we do the same for them.

BDRO: It could be an upset stomach one day or an impromptu parent-teacher conference the next. What does the Bizzy Tooth Mommy site offer readers to get in the mindset of juggling the two worlds of dentistry and motherhood with ease?

Rao: I don't know it would use the word 'ease' (Is motherhood ever really easy?!?), but planning does help, and so does getting to know your child's teachers. Both my kids' schools hold evening events throughout the year, and we try to make it to as many as we can, and be sure to touch base with the teachers. Parent-teacher conferences so far have been prescheduled, so I just block that time off in my schedule — they usually don't take too long — or schedule them on Fridays when I'm not at the office. What works for one (dentist) mom may not work for another, but having a community to get ideas and support from can be so helpful, at least that's my goal with Bizzy Tooth Mommy. One person does not have to have it all figured out.

BDRO: In your new series, “17 Ways to Succeed as a Dentist”, you touch on the words “burn out” and “overwhelmed” as hindrances that can get you, and your practice, for that matter, stuck in a rut. What kind of practical advice do you have for the bizzy tooth mommies out there who want to move their practices forward during the fall months and still have some energy reserves for those special school events of the season, like chaperoning the kindergarten field trip to the pumpkin patch?

Rao: The "17 Ways" series is really about getting un-stuck and to a higher level. It's aimed more at the person than the practice. You can't have a great practice or dental career if you're stuck (for too long, anyway). Day in, day out, the challenges of running a practice can wear you down and mess with your mindset. Even if you're not stuck, taking stock of where you are and getting into a better place can only help. The journey — self or career — is not a sprint, it's a marathon. Anyone I've talked to who's been doing this for a long time says attitude and mindset are key. And since you can't neatly separate your career and life, working on attitude and mindset helps both. The series details several points, but diet, exercise, sleep, etc. are great factors, as well as knowing what you really want and getting creative. Again, this is where the community aspect can be useful, and the whole reason for Bizzy Tooth Mommy's existence.

As for the school events, I say plan ahead, but know you'll have to be flexible at times. Either block off time, or alternate outings with your spouse or another family member if needed. I've given up my lunch hour to see patients if I've had to be at a school event earlier in the day or said 'no' altogether if I just couldn't make it. Of course, life always throws a few curve balls, in which case we just have to figure things out as we go along. There are hits and misses, but you have to be OK with that.