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Let’s get honest—this discussion might make you cringe

Sept. 9, 2020
Dr. Stacey Gividen says there are honesty issues going on in the dental profession that she can't let slide. “The binary code of honesty is not something that warrants a deep discussion, because you’re either honest or you’re not.”

The words bewildered and baffled are just the tip of the iceberg to explain what I’m feeling right now. I just got off the phone with my cousin, a general practitioner, who recently signed a death certificate for a patient of his who had died of terminal colon cancer. He was pissed—really pissed. Why? Because shortly before I talked to him, he had received a call from the hospital requesting that he change the cause of death on the patient’s death certificate from “colon cancer” to “COVID,” to which he replied, “Hell no!” The patient had been tested numerous times during his three-week stay in the hospital, but each time the results were negative. That’s one scenario ... keep reading.

Remember the video I did where I talked about prepping the wrong tooth? Well, putting that kind of stuff out there isn’t the easiest thing to do, but, hey, it happens. I’m not perfect and neither are you. My talking point, clearly, was the manner in which we handle those situations is what differentiates us and defines the type of practitioner we are. Interestingly enough, somebody had the audacity to email me and say this: “Now that you have announced [your mistake] to the whole dental world, do you expect that the dental board will contact you? By your own admission you did have an act of malpractice. I would have charged the patient and not said a word.”

Yeah, you read that right. He called me out on my “act of malpractice” (that I admitted to, duh!), but then stated he’d do the same thing—only take it a step further in the opposite direction. He’s a dishonest person and to say I’m ashamed to call him a dental colleague doesn’t even scratch the surface of what really comes to mind.

Why am I bringing these situations to light? Well, it’s clear there is an honesty issue going on in the medical profession, and it’s implied that dentistry falls under the “medical umbrella.” I didn’t bring up the first scenario to debate about everything that swirls around COVID-19—that’s an entirely different game. I brought it up because of the dishonesty that’s spilled forth on multiple facets of the profession to the detriment of the patient’s well-being ... whose care is entrusted into our hands. We’re no different from our medical colleagues.

Even if there wasn’t a financial gain to be had (sickening to even say that, but it’s true), or if you are someone just wanting to save face (I’ve seen that too), let me ask you this: If you made a mistake, would you have the nerve to admit it? To your staff? Your patients? Your board? What about to yourself? Would you sit there and go through arguments in your mind about what to do, what not to do, and try to justify yourself out of what you really know you should do?

Thinking back to the days of dental school, you know who among your classmates you’d refer to for their honesty, integrity, and commitment to the profession and patients. I can also name a handful of classmates who wouldn’t fall into this category. You know who you are if you’re reading this, MUSOD Class of 2004. I vividly remember calling out one of my classmates for cheating. I saw her plain as day cheat on a test, and it really disappointed me because I didn’t think she was that type of person. But then again, the guise of dishonesty can be hidden behind a degree, regardless of how you earned it.

I don’t have an easy answer for you. I’m a tell-it-like-it-is person and my world is black and white. 0 or 1. Right or wrong. The binary code of honesty is not something that warrants a deep discussion, because you’re either honest or you’re not.

If you don’t have a system of checks and balances in place, let’s hope that your colleagues can take up the slack and make sure your patients are taken care of the right way and call you out for not doing what you should have had the balls to do in the first place. Am I being a tad harsh? Probably. But this isn’t a topic that warrants warm fuzzy feelings. Let’s bypass the sugarcoating and engage in the hard discussions that yield productive results and offer solutions we can actually see on a day-to-day basis in the clinical and patient care arenas. I’m ready. Drinks are on me.

To the colleague over on the East Coast—you know who you are. Don’t think I’m going to let this slide. To our patients, we are a hardworking, dedicated collective group of professionals overall who have each other’s backs and best interests at the heart of what we do. Every. Single. Day. That’s a fact.

Cheers to the profession, its ability to be amazing, and everything else in between.

—Dr. Stacey

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Through the Loupes newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles at this link and subscribe here.

Stacey L. Gividen, DDS, a graduate of Marquette University School of Dentistry, is in private practice in Hamilton, Montana. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Montana in the Anatomy and Physiology Department. Dr. Gividen is the editorial co-director of Through the Loupes and a contributing author for DentistryIQPerio-Implant Advisory, and Dental Economics. She serves on the Dental Economics editorial advisory board. You may contact her at [email protected].