Marc Bernard Ackerman, DMD, MBA

Dateline July, 2000

It’s been a great week in Marina Del Rey. Right now though, the buzz of jets at LAX is compounding my gargantuan headache from drinking one too many Ivy gimlets last night. Mom sure outdid herself flying me out, giving me the platinum card, and essentially disappearing to work for the week.  I’m sitting in the business class lounge waiting for my flight back to Philadelphia on what used to be called Northworst airlines.  Tomorrow morning I’m going to start my first day in private practice with my father. Everyone knows that it’s O-Day; the staff, the patients, referring dentists, and the cleaning staff.  Little do they know that the best orthodontist in the world has joined the practice (surpass my arrogance-I dare you!)

The plan is LAX to DTW to PHL.  I knock back my last drink and head down to the gate to board. I take my seat and upon taxiing I fall into the arms of morpheus.  The descent into Detroit is a bit rough due to thunderstorms.  I have about an hour to make my connection to Philadelphia.  As I walk out of the jetway, I take a look at the monitors. Instantaneously, every flight in the northeast has just turned red to cancelled.  In complete sobering disbelief, I rush to the gate attendant who tells me that storms have cancelled flights all along the eastern seaboard.  I take out my cell phone and prepare to be the bearer of bad news.

Me: “Dad, I’m afraid that I’m stuck in Detroit and will have to start on Tuesday.”

Dad: “If you’re not at work tomorrow, don’t bother coming in on Tuesday!”

Fight or flight baby.  I am quickly thinking to either rent a car or see if Amtrak has a train. By crazy luck, I look up at the monitor and see that there is a flight leaving in an hour to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport.  A 2 hour drive down to Philadelphia. I pull an O.J. Simpson Hertz-Rent a car ad and book to the gate to try and get on the flight. Fortunately no one goes to Wilkes-Barre, PA.  About half-way through the flight, I realize that I need transportation from AVP to PHL and I’m arriving at midnight.  The flight touches down. I run down to the exit and see there are no cabs.  I call the local cab company and get the dispatcher.  I tell him my predicament and offer an obscene amount of money that Dr. Ackerman doesn’t know will be my first practice reimbursement.  I’m in my bed at 3 am. A tragedy narrowly averted.

I almost got fired before I started. Right then and there, I promised myself that work would come first and frivolity would have to take a backseat.  I am not very good at keeping promises.  In 2001, the French Society of Lingual Orthodontists offered me a trip to Paris to speak for an hour.  4 free days on the ground, who says no to that? I tell my employer (er um father) who reminds me that he is speaking with Bill Proffit in Japan leaving the same day that I arrive home.  No problem.  I land on time and hop in the car service. Somewhere between Essington and Bryn Mawr, it becomes clear that I have a stomach bug and will have to pull over to you know what.  By the time I get to the office, I am as green as Shrek.  My Father doesn’t notice because he is literally getting in the car service to go to the airport.  I declare, we have to cancel patients for this afternoon and tomorrow.  He shakes his head and says “we’ll discuss this when I return.”  Short story, a week of patients cancelled but I stayed employed.

I have been blessed with many opportunities in orthodontics and in spite of myself I have managed to make a good living in practice. Not every year was rosy. I’ve messed up on just about every blog topic that Ben and I have written about on  Each mistake has led me to bounce back with a renewed spirit of dedication.  The master word in orthodontics is work (Sir William Osler).  Talk is cheap.  Don’t look at other colleagues and say I wish I could do what he/she does.  To thine own self be true (Shakespeare).  You’re the consumer. What would you want from an orthodontic experience? Are you delivering it? Or if you don’t know the answer to these questions, call a friend, visit another office, or hire a consultant to figure it out.

If you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves, sit at the chair, and place a wire or two each day, I’m afraid that success will elude you.  Remember, you need to demonstrate to the staff and consumers that you are the most competent and efficient at what you ask them to do and you are 100% willing to jump in the trenches beside them.

Yeah some days it is far more fun to talk about orthodontics (hopefully in an exotic locale and paid for by someone else) but don’t lose sight of the fact that most days you’ll be doing orthodontics and at some level it has to be fun. Consumers can sniff out clinicians who have checked out.  Tune in, turn on, and crush it!