Once there was a young orthodontist who worked as an associate in a successful orthodontic practice. The owner of the practice had grown her business to the point that she could not see all the patients so she decided to give our young protagonist a secure job, a paycheck to show up each day and also to allow him access to the inner workings of her business so he could learn how to run a successful orthodontic practice and a small business. Sounds like the beginning of a fairytale right? Hardly.

As luck would have it, our poor associate found himself living in a nightmare scenario. The owner orthodontist, as it turned out, was a hack who rendered sub-par treatment on virtually every single patient. Our hero valiantly tried and tried to show his employer the error of her ways but she rarely if ever took advantage his knowhow and refused to do things the right way despite all the evidence in The Sacred Literature. Our hero was so well intentioned that he also pointed out to staff members and even patients whenever he felt his employer was in the wrong in order to help them understand how he would do things properly if he were in charge. Our hero gave of himself generously. The wisdom and knowledge he gleaned from his years of schooling and weeks of practice were important and he was determined to educate everyone as to how things should be done properly.

The only thing worse for our hero than the Queen of Darkness (the practice owner) was the Giant Storm of Liability that loomed large in and around the practice. He was terrified of all the liability that the owner forced him into by not doing things the right way and had to live in constant fear of the dreaded Suit of Law. Our beleaguered hero could only watch in horror as the Giant Storm of Liability grew larger and darker day after day.

I know what you’re thinking… It is terrible that the Evil Queen would chain our young, handsome, hyper-intelligent Knight to the practice and force him to stay and work in such a terrible environment. But in thinking so simply, you underestimate the power of the Queen over our hero Knight. She did not use conventional chains of mere steel; nay, the Evil Queen used sorcery far more powerful. With her magical and sinister Direct Deposit the Evil Queen would inject our hero with a potion so intoxicating that he was powerless to leave, even though he was smarter, better, nicer, more likeable, more knowledgeable, more ethical and better skilled than the Evil Queen and could run a practice much better (just ask him). After all, the Knight had bills to pay. He had worked long and hard in the Mines of Academia to earn his degrees and now he deserved all the trappings of a True Knight. The Evil Queen knew our hero’s weakness and she took horrible advantage of him.

What? You’re not convinced? You’re saying that the Knight should leave the evil kingdom and not participate in such filth? After all he knows better! You’re shocked that our hero would trade his TALENT, SKILL, KNOWLEDGE, ETHICS and PRINCIPLES for a few pieces of silver? Well so am I. And that’s the point of this parable.


Our hero is no hero any more than our practice owner is an Evil Queen. Orthodontists who choose to be an associate need to understand that they are getting a paycheck and an opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment that is not of their making. It’s either worth it or it’s not but, by definition, an employee has certain obligations and is trading time for a paycheck. If the treatment is that bad (as I hear so often from keen-eyed associates in corporate offices as well as traditional practices) then you have an obligation to the patients to make it right by whatever means necessary or leave. You can’t draw a paycheck and claim that the situation is not your responsibility and not of your making. You are the licensed doctor hired to render treatment. YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

Saying that it’s not your fault and that you just work there is BS. “Following orders” is not an excuse for your actions. YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

If you want to do things your way, go buy or start your own practice and take all that comes along with that. Perhaps you are the next Angle or Tweed or Andrews… I wish you well and can promise you that the marketplace will show you exactly how awesome you are (or are not) but… YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

Sitting in someone’s practice and taking their money and security and enjoying your associate position while poisoning their staff and patients with tales of how things should be done is wrong on so many levels. Worse than wrong, it’s hypocritical. Taking money for doing things you KNOW are morally wrong makes you a prostitute. I know you have all kinds of excuses. I’ve heard them all but YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

Do yourself and potential employers a favor. Decide what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. Go out and risk it all to hang a shingle or buy a practice. Put your neck on the chopping block and be in charge of your own destiny and see what happens and own it. ALL OF IT. Or don’t… and take a safe job with great pay and low stress and be happy to be part of a proven, successful system. DECIDE.


11 thoughts on “Parable Of The Principled Prostitute

  1. I was wondering if you would be inspired to write on this subject… Although I am new to the orthodontic profession, I’ve been in Dentistry for a just a FEW more. I have had these kind of exchanges and your words ring so true. Thanks for posting and hopefully some will realize you are just trying to help them out.

  2. So you could see this coming on Young-Docs last night could you, Brent? Awesome! You know me too well. Hopefully you’re right and at least some of the residents and young docs will understand that I’m trying to help by telling them the reality of the situation rather than pandering to egos. Who knows? It’s fun to try anyway.
    For those of you who don’t know what we are talking about, join Young-Docs and check it out. The forum is for Orthodontic Residents and Orthodontists to discuss the business of orthodontics. https://www.facebook.com/groups/GACyoungdocs/

  3. So glad you liked it. I’ve tried many times over the years to explain to young doctors that they cannot have it both ways with limited success. I’m hoping that this will get their attention.

  4. Thanks Janice! It means a lot that an award winner such as yourself found this article useful 🙂

  5. PS I added you to Young Docs and look forward to interacting on that platform. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  6. I hope it serves you well. And your associates. Mismanaged expectations lead to massive unhappiness. Understanding where we are and what our options are is the first objective. That was the point of this fairy tale

Comments are closed.