By Kristen Wright, Assitant Editor. Cover and story photos by Stefanie Felix, Stefanie Felix Photography (www.stefaniefelix.com)
A dentist just outside Seattle says monthly meetings inspire his staff to reach their professional goals. It could be the meetings, or maybe it’s the dentist’s belief in big rewards for big efforts.
Dr. Jerome Baruffi of Southcenter Dental in Tukwila, Wash., rewards his staff with vacations to exotic and remote locations. The team’s most recent reward was a weeklong excursion to Hawaii’s Big Island in September 2004.
“We set up goals, and when we achieve them,” says Dr. Baruffi, “we all have fun taking a week off together. We’ve gone twice to Mexico, three or four times to Hawaii. For a particularly stellar performance, we went off to Europe. My favorite phrase is, ‘This is what our goal is, how can you help me achieve it?’ One of the things I like is the ABCDEs of goal-setting. Goals must be achievable, believable, commendable, desirable, and effective. The key is, how can you help me?”
411 Strander Blvd., Suite 308
Tukwila, WA 98188
Dr. Baruffi says it’s not difficult for a staff to achieve their goals when staff members are confident in and excited about systems that draw patients to the practice. At Southcenter Dental, the credit goes to CEREC single visit restorations and BriteSmile.
“I think CEREC turns out the finest inlay/onlay restorations available today,” Dr. Baruffi says. “And I can’t imagine why we don’t have a line around the block for getting BriteSmile. The thing patients say routinely is, ‘Wow!’ I don’t know a lot of dentists who have both CEREC and BriteSmile. My assistants are very good at this whole CEREC system. We fight over who gets to use the machines.”
The staff includes a receptionist, Jeanna, who has worked 18 years with Dr. Baruffi. She also is a professional harpist and just earned a black belt in karate.
“I hired her as an assistant with two years experience, but it wasn’t true,” Dr. Baruffi jokes. “She had two weeks experience because the guy she had worked for wouldn’t ever let her do anything.”
Diana is Southcenter Dental’s office coordinator.
“Diana was working at an office down the street seven years ago, and my former bookkeeper was leaving,” Dr. Baruffi says. “She knew Diana was a great person.”
Dana is Dr. Baruffi’s hygienist of more than seven years.
“She worked for a periodontist for 25 years, and he retired and she needed a place to go,” he says.
Tammy and Crystal work as dental assistants.
“Tammy has been here five and a half years,” Dr. Baruffi says. “She answered an ad. Crystal started two weeks after Tammy. She came to work for me when a dental assistant I’d had 28 years finally decided to retire. She was hired right out of one of the dental-assisting schools.”
Dr. Baruffi says he could have retired 20 years ago, but he doesn’t know how he would be filling his time if he had.
“The reason I’m here is because I love what I’m doing,” he says. “I keep learning new things. It’s the world’s best hobby, and I get paid to do it.”
And patients respect that. Most of Southcenter Dental’s advertising is simple word of mouth.
“I just try to internally market the CEREC and BriteSmile systems because I think those are the best systems available,” he says. “It seems like the ages of the patients I see most are women in their middle 30s to age 50. The men are in their 40s to 60s. We do free brush-ins for children ages 2 ½ to 9. That drives a few of them in here.”
Southcenter Dental is a 2,250-square-foot, five-chair office that offers patients in operatories unobstructed views of Washington landscapes.
“I have a hang-up about windows,” Dr. Baruffi says. “We have floor-to-ceiling windows in each operatory. The walls are salmon-colored and everything is up-to-date.”
Office hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Dr. Baruffi has been a member of 1-800-DENTIST since 1994. He also belongs to many organizations and study groups including Creating Restorative Excellence Summit Study Club and Truelove Study Group.
He is married to Paula, a naturopathic physician. They have four sons, Tony, Adam, Austin, and Taylor.
“My wife practices natural medicine,” Dr. Baruffi says. “Instead of doing a lot of penicillin, she tries to get them healthy. Tony is a bond manager for an equity management firm. Adam works in the finance department at Starbucks; there is a team of 12 managers, and he’s one of them. Austin is a 19-year-old freshman at Loyola Marymount University. And Taylor just finished third in downhill skiing at the junior nationals. He’s 16.”