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Cover Story: Putting the

Sept. 1, 2003
It wasn't exactly turning into a wonderful afternoon for Dr. Rachel Anne Day. After going to her house with her husband to have a serious discussion with the nanny, the conversation ended with the nanny throwing the car seat in the driveway and driving off, leaving Dr. Day, her husband, and two young children in her wake.

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

It wasn't exactly turning into a wonderful afternoon for Dr. Rachel Anne Day. After going to her house with her husband to have a serious discussion with the nanny, the conversation ended with the nanny throwing the car seat in the driveway and driving off, leaving Dr. Day, her husband, and two young children in her wake. Dr. Day's husband looked at Dr. Day and reminded her of his meeting at work later that afternoon. She looked at him and reminded him she had interviews for her open dental assistant position that afternoon at her office in nearby Westborough, Mass.

Dr. Rachel Anne Day (right) describes herself as "a very tough boss," but Tanya Ventres (left) says she can't think of anywhere else she would rather work.
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Not only were these interviews for an open dental assistant position, but Dr. Day had tried something new with this hiring process. Everyone who responded to her ad was asked to come to the office at the same time. They were left in the waiting room, and Dr. Day's staff watched them interact. Somewhat frazzled from the nanny experience and trying to find somewhere for her two kids to spend the afternoon, Dr. Day asked her current assistant to tell her which one of the candidates in the waiting room stood out in his mind. He had a simple answer: "They all look like hens, except for the one with the dark hair."

It turned out that dark-haired Tanya Ventres not only stood out from the others in the waiting room, but also during the interview process.

"I asked her how she would handle things if she knew I was running behind. She looked at me and told me that that really wasn't my concern and that she would handle it," Dr. Day recalled. "I knew right then that this was a person who had self-confidence. I think that's the least amount of thought I.have ever put into hiring someone."

"I really didn't know that that (observation in the waiting room) was going on when I walked in," Ventres said. "I'm my own person and I'm very confident in myself and my abilities."

Dr. Day and Ventres both have confidence in themselves, their abilities, and each other. That trust is part of the reason why the match has been perfect for the duo since that fateful day in 1997.

"(Ventres) is a person who has self-confidence and will stand up to me," Dr. Day said. "I am a very tough boss. I have high standards for my staff and I do not have patience for employees who have a lack of character or decency. Employees are either here for a long time or not here very long at all. You can't hide in this office, because I really expect my employees to put the patient first. I want all of us to follow up with our patients instead of our patients following up with us.

"Tanya is professional and loves to learn. She believes in doing the right thing and understands what it takes to run the business. I don't know what I'd do without her."

While Ventres originally planned to be a hygienist, she quickly found her niche in dental assisting.

"I love what I do. Being a dental assistant means I'm never doing the same thing twice in the same day," Ventres said. "Dr. Day is a great employer who will go the extra mile for her employees. We're good friends, and I feel very comfortable working here. When I come to work, I feel like this is the place I.need to be."

Ventres feels she is not only in the right place, but also in the right position.

"I originally wanted to go to school to be a hygienist. I had a cousin who was a hygienist when I was little, so I guess I really first knew about working in a dental office then," Ventres said. "I couldn't be a hygienist now. I wanted a job where what I would do would constantly change, and that's being a dental assistant."

It has taken Dr. Day some time, but she also feels she is in the right place. A graduate of Northwestern University and living in a suburb of Chicago, she and her husband were looking for a more rural environment to raise their children. They found that place in the Westborough area, a community of nearly 18,000 located 35 miles from downtown Boston.

When Dr. Day opened her practice in January of 1994, she quickly discovered her clientele would be different than the people she had seen as an associate in the Chicago area.

"Native New Englanders tend to be more traditional when it comes to dentistry; I was surprised at the routine placement of posts when I moved here 10 years ago. I was also surprised to see how many offices still had cuspidors in use."

Dr. Day also noticed something else about her patients — few of them had had a comprehensive exam.

"That was difficult to address," Dr. Day recalled. "While I know many outstanding dentists here in New England, I am saddened to see how many offices focus on short-term solutions."

Comprehensive exams have always been, and will always be, a big part of Dr. Day's practice. A patient's first appointment takes approximately 80 minutes. The first 10 minutes is spent reviewing registration forms, and the remaining 70 minutes is spent with Dr. Day and staff members gathering diagnostic data. While collecting data, Dr. Day performs an oral cancer screening, a periodontal assessment, a bite evaluation, and a tooth-by-tooth check for deteriorating fillings, decay, and stability. It's all a part of what Dr. Day describes as the "wow" approach.

"The 'wow' approach is very simple. We pay attention to our patients and we take the time to get to know them before they ever sit in the chair," Dr. Day said. "Fear is a big reason why people don't come to see the dentist or don't have the dental work done that they need. When patients know that they are safe, they will do what is best for them. It's not that hard to be a good dentist if you will listen to what your patients want."

Part of knowing what patients might want comes from attending continuing-education courses. Dr. Day is a strong believer in attending courses with staff members and learning the latest techniques.

"G.V. Black was quoted as saying, 'A professional man has no right to be other than a continuous student.' I believe that wholeheartedly," Dr. Day said. "If you don't keep up with your CE, how are you going to know what is going on in the world of materials? If you don't read your journals, how are you going to know about the latest techniques?"

Dr. Day is also quick to point out that there's more to attending CE courses than just learning about materials and techniques.

"Roughly a third of my CE is spent on practice-management," she said. "I have used the Pride Institute and (practice-management consultant) Deborah Odell to really transform me from just a dentist into a businessperson."

Part of being a good businessperson is caring about your job and your clients. That's a skill Dr. Day has mastered, according to Ventres.

"We have a unique office, and all of us take great pride in what we do," Ventres said. "We don't just work from 8 to 5 and go home. We care about our patients. Every night when I go home, I feel good about what I do. That makes this a very fulfilling job."

For more information on Dr. Day, Tanya Ventres, and/or their practice in Westborough, Mass., log on to or call (508) 366-3623.