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Working together through the years

Jan. 1, 2004
In the mind of Dr. Robert Zampieri, time is money — not just for his practice, but for his patients as well.

By Kevin Henry, Editor; Cover and inside photos by Brian Beard, Creative Images Photography

In the mind of Dr. Robert Zampieri, time is money — not just for his practice, but for his patients as well. That's one of the reasons why he practices full-mouth dentistry at his office in Fort Lee, N.J., rather than focusing on just quadrants.

"People don't have time to come in for a bunch of appointments because they're just too busy," Dr. Zampieri said. "The time of the patients is just too valuable. People are worried today about job security, so they don't want to be away from the office too many times. When patients come in here, we do as much as we can in one appointment."

Another part of the time equals money equation has to do with patient scheduling. Every appointment at Dr. Zampieri's office is scheduled for at least one hour, even if the procedure will take less time than that.

"I want people to walk into my office and go right into the treatment room," Dr. Zampieri said. "Having that extra time allows us to visit with our patients and establish a relationship with them. It gives us a chance to get to know them and their family, and not make them feel like they've been kept waiting or they're being rushed through their appointment."

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"We never rush anyone," said Veronica Zwernemann, who has been Dr. Zampieri's assistant for 24 years. "Patients do feel like they're part of our family. It's very important to Dr. Zampieri and all of us to know that we haven't kept any patients waiting or made the patient feel like they were hurried through an appointment. I remember one day we had some emergency appointments that really threw off the schedule. Dr. Zampieri took the time to go out into the waiting room and explain why he was late to the patients who were waiting. He offered to let them reschedule their appointments if they wanted. He never wants to keep people waiting."

Yes, Dr. Zampieri believes that time is valuable, but not as valuable as relationships. Maybe that's one of the reasons why he has three people who have worked with him for more than 20 years — hygienist Chris Czarnecki has been at the office for 29 years, laboratory technician Ronnie Ebert for 26 years, and Zwernemann for 24 years.

"(Chris) was the last person I.hired through a newspaper ad," Dr. Zampieri said. "Since then, I have asked patients or other people I know who they would recommend to work here. If they weren't qualified to work in the dental office, we worked with them to help them become qualified."

But what is the secret to keeping numerous employees at one practice for more than 20 years?

"I flew a psychologist in from Reno (Nevada) who was a communications specialist. He sat down with our staff and we hashed everything out," Dr. Zampieri recalled. "He asked me what.I wanted to accomplish in the office. I told him I wanted this office to run so smoothly that.I wouldn't even be missed if I wasn't here."

Through delegation, hard work, and teamwork, that's exactly what Dr. Zampieri now has in his practice — a well-oiled machine that runs efficiently whether he's in or out of the office.

"I do not micromanage this office," Dr. Zampieri said. "I do what the staff wants. My staff members take care of me and this practice, and I let them run the office. I've seen other offices where the dentist was the boss and, when he wasn't in a good mood, no one in the office was in a good mood. Patients can tell when something is wrong in the office, and I didn't want that perception here. When the staff runs the office, they will all work together to make sure things are done."

"I've known Dr. Zampieri for a long time. I.knew his brother in high school and I was a patient of his before I started working here," Zwernemann said. "He's so easy-going and never gets angry. He respects my opinion when we are in the operatory. He makes me feel like I am an extension of him when we're working together."

The staff not only works together in the office, but outside of the practice as well — for a cause that's important to everyone in the practice.

A year ago, Patricia Zampieri awoke her husband early in the morning to tell him of an idea she had had. Nearby St. Anthony High School was in dire financial straits. To help the school, Mrs. Zampieri suggested a golf fundraiser at a country club where Dr. Zampieri was a member. The fundraiser would not only be a way to help those students, but also to memorialize the couple's son, Robbie Zampieri, who was a 30-year-old commodities trader working on the 92nd floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Two years after that infamous day, the St. Anthony students had $100,000 in scholarship money from the Robbie Zampieri Golf Classic, and the Felician Sisters who run the high school presented the Zampieris with a crucifix constructed out of mangled World Trade Center steel.

"The school was going out of business, and this was a way for us to help," Dr. Zampieri explained. "The response has been overwhelming."

During the golf outing, the office shuts down and the staff serves as volunteers.

"We hand out shirts, sign people in, and do whatever it takes to make the event a success," Zwernemann explained. "Dr. Zampieri isn't worried about lost production. This is something he wants to do and he feels like it is a very important cause, and so do the rest of us. If it's a week before the tournament and he walks in and tells us he has to work on getting the tournament ready, we tell him to leave. We'll do what we can in the office without him."

With the three-operatory practice located near the George.Washington Bridge, Dr. Zampieri and his staff are certainly in a hotbed of dentistry. Dr. Zampieri estimates that between 35,000 and 40,000 people live in Fort Lee, and there are 165 dentists to take care of their needs.

"Patients from New York City come here for their dental work. I always joke that Fort Lee gets the New York traffic, but not the New York prices," Dr. Zampieri laughed.

But one thing Dr. Zampieri gets are plenty of New York patient return visits. The 35-year veteran of dentistry sends out silver Tiffany pens to patients who have been in his practice for 25 years. He estimates he has sent out more than 100 pens, which is a testament to his relationship with his patients.

"Patients may leave us for a bit, but they come back," Dr. Zampieri said. "We make a point to really know our patients, and that's something they can feel. When our patients have children, we'll send them a pair of baby shoes. We select certain patients as our 'patient of the week' and send them flowers as a way of saying thanks for being a part of our success."

And success definitely isn't measured in just dollars and cents at this New Jersey practice.

"Just being a part of this staff is the best thing about working here," Zwernemann said. "This is really a safe spot for all of us where we can get away from family problems or whatever and just concentrate on our work. Whatever comes along, we're all here for each other, and that's a great feeling."

Delegation, hard work, and teamwork makes Dr. Robert Zampieri's office a great place for both patients and staff members.

For more information on Dr. Robert Zampieri, call (201) 944-1027 or e-mail Dr. Zampieri at [email protected]