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Episode 564: If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now, with Dr. Colin Richman

Your health and your time are two of the most important resources you have. Once they’re gone, they’re gone! But it’s not too late to invest. To help you protect these assets, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Colin Richman, assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics at the Medical College of Georgia, to share the lessons he wished he knew in his early years of practice. To hear about the best ways to prepare for your future, listen to Episode 564 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

A Philosophy of the Practice of Dentistry by Dr. L.D. Pankey and Dr. William J. Davis:

Mayo Clinic Executive Health Program:

Cleveland Clinic Executive Health Program:

Cooper Clinic Executive Health Program:

Johns Hopkins Executive & Preventive Health Program:

Integrated Dental Seminars:

Main Takeaways:

Balance your life.

Make smart investments.

Be proactive with your health.

Join an Executive Health Program.

Don’t normalize your day-to-day stress.


“I tell my residents, I tell my kids, I tell anyone who will listen to me, your career is a 40-year project. It’s not, ‘How much am I going to make next year?’ and, ‘Which potential employer is going to pay me a $10,000 sign-on bonus or $2,000 more a month?’ This is a 40-year project. And in hindsight, it’s not a dress rehearsal. So, as a young graduate about to enter this noble profession, I’ll tell you as follows: balance your life. Look at Pankey’s Cross of Life. On the four pillars of what he talks about, profession, love, faith, and you, get everything in balance.” (14:41—15:45)

“Very, very, very few dentists ever go bankrupt. You all can be successful no matter what you do. Enjoy it. Enjoy the ethics of an ethical career, and be prepared. Be prepared for the serious things. Let some of the glamor, the glory, the cars, and the big houses be an aspiration for one day, but get everything into perspective. What is important is, run a decent practice. You don’t have to have the biggest practice in town. You don’t have to have the most number of zeros behind your name on the bank statement.” (15:50—16:35)

“Stop and smell the roses. There’s a wonderful quote that is unfortunate. It takes a crisis to stop and smell the roses — which is what happened to me. I like to believe I was successful. I had a fabulous practice. I was lecturing all over the country. I was teaching. I was working with residents. I was on the school board. I was at every one of our kids’ games. But there was very little time for Colin, and there was [less] time for Colin as a husband.” (17:25—17:59)

“Recruiting as many patients as you can as your primary objective in life is not what we were put on this planet for. Very few reasonably ethical — I’m not talking of the best of the best — reasonably technical individuals do not land in trouble. They all make a decent living. Some have got an extra one or two zeros. I did very well. I had a lot of balance. We saved in our 401(k) from day one, so there’s 40 years of saving. We had an IRA from day one. We did all of those things because I came from an immigrant family who fled the Holocaust with their lives, and that is where we grew up, in South Africa. So, we were taught, you save a decent amount of money as a priority. And we did. We had intelligent investments, not speculative investments; balanced investments, non-high-risk investments. And the magic of compound interest over 40 years, thank goodness, when the crisis came, money was not a problem. I could walk away and do whatever I wanted to do. And that’s what I’m doing now. I’m having fun with dentistry as my hobby. I earn a few pennies, and that’s fun. We could do that. So, balance is, remember you’ve got a family. Remember to be involved. Get off that cell phone and have dinner with your family.” (18:42—20:43)

“We’re not on this planet to see how many patients we can recruit, because then the problem is, what are you going to do with all these patients? I love these ads, ‘100 new patients a month.’ What are you going to do with those 100 patients a month? Are you going to examine them? Are you doing treatment? Are you going to drill-and-bill? So, that is part of balance. You are the driving force of the empire. You are responsible for those working under you, although that’s changing in the corporate world. You are responsible for the well-being of your staff, the well-being of your family, the well-being of everything around you, and the well-being of the thousands of patients you are blessed to treat. You are the course. Look after yourself.” (20:52—21:42)

“Be proactive. And [looking after your health is] part of it. Set up a proper retirement plan. Make sure your wills and all your legal documents are up to date. Make sure you’re accounting. Make sure everyone around you knows your wishes.” (25:42—25:57)

“I have always exercised, whether it was jogging around the neighborhood. Then, about eight years prior to the cardiac arrest, friends invited me to join their biking group. I’m not a great athlete. I don’t have to get out there every day and run or do whatever, but exercising is a priority. We watched our weight. We watched our diet. As I mentioned, I knew we had a cardiac history, so diet was important. I was carrying a few extra pounds that, in hindsight, I didn’t need to be carrying. But the important thing is, when they diagnosed me with high blood pressure and with what’s known as heart failure five, six years ago, at that stage, treatment should’ve gone beyond tablets. And had I known about the Mayo Executive — I did not know about it. At that stage, most of us have very deliberate day-to-day activities. I would have gone for that Mayo Executive physical, or the Cleveland, or the Cooper, or whichever one you want. I chose Mayo, and I chose the main branch of Mayo because I think they’re ranked as the number-one medical entity in the world. That’s why I went there. It’s readily available, and it did not cost me a fortune.” (26:54—28:36)

“Balance it out. Exercise. Exercise with your kids. Spend time with them. Exercise doesn’t mean you’ve got to break a vigorous sweat every time. Exercise means movement. Sign up with a gym. Give your staff, as a benefit, gym privileges. Look after your staff. I looked after my staff. It was part of the condition of the sale of the practice, I’m told, that they will be looked after at the same level that I had done for the past 30 years. And I still work with my successor in that. We help our patients to look after their mouths. What about the body that’s attached to that mouth? And look after your own. Now, a real sidebar issue: how many dentists see their dentist twice a year, and floss every day, and all of that stuff? . . . That’s a topic for another time. Look in the mirror. Am I doing what I’m saying, or saying what I’m doing?” (28:44—29:52)

“[One thing I would have done differently is] I would have gone to Mayo for an executive physical. Once they made a diagnosis many years ago, and I had a heart issue, and I was hospitalized, I would have gone to Mayo. I would’ve put more credence to, ‘We don’t know why you’re having a problem,’ as an unacceptable answer and I would’ve delved deeper. So, on a personal note, that is what I would have done differently.” (30:47—31:16)

“When I mentioned to my existing cardiologist — whom I haven’t had a great relationship with in Atlanta — that I want to go to the Mayo Clinic and they’re going to do this, that, and the other, he commented, ‘Well, you know, we can do all that here.’ And I thought to myself, I didn’t say anything, ‘Then why didn’t you?’ So, I think you’ve got to be proactive, and quizzing, and ‘Why does this happen?’ And when you talk about the Pankey cross balance of life, that’s not a religious cross. That is the four pillars of balancing your life out and taking things seriously.” (32:29—33:19)

“Our lives are complex. Our lives are full, and we wear numerous hats without realizing it. We’re under intense stress without realizing it. And that stress becomes normalized, all the little sidebar crises that dentists have to get through their day, and to get through their week, and the individual crises of each staff person, and then the plumbing goes out, then the compressor packs up, then the crown didn’t arrive on time. Every time that happens, it pulls on that heart muscle a little bit. And that becomes normal. One has got to put that in perspective. One has got to put that in perspective. The five percent of patients who don’t pursue treatment — think of the 95% that do pursue treatment and the 80% of those that become part of your extended family. You can’t make everyone happy. Most of us who are in the service businesses strive for 100% success. There’s a balance. There’s a serious balance there.” (33:44—35:04)


0:00 Introduction.

2:01 Dr. Richman’s background.

4:44 The event that shortened Dr. Richman’s career.

14:13 Stop and smell the roses.

18:09 What balance truly means.

22:50 Be proactive with your health.

26:08 Dr. Richman’s thoughts on exercise.

30:32 Things Dr. Richman would have done differently.

35:19 More about Dr. Richman and how to get in touch.

Dr. Colin Richman Bio:

Dr. Colin Richman was born in South Africa. He graduated from the University of Witwatersrand School of Dentistry and completed his residency in Periodontics at the University of Connecticut. He practiced general dentistry in London and Johannesburg, South Africa, for six years before entering his post-graduate residency program at the University of Connecticut. Following completion of his residency program, he and his wife moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he held a faculty position at Emory University School of Dentistry until the school closed. He then entered private practice, limited to Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, for the past 27 years.

Dr. Richman is an assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics at the Medical College of Georgia and is affiliated with Perimeter Community College, Department of Oral Hygiene. He is very actively involved in Periodontally Accelerated Osteogenic Orthodontics (PAOO) and has been described as a pioneer in the emerging technology of PAOO.

Dr. Richman has delivered more than 200 continuing education programs both in the U.S. and abroad. He is the Director of the Seattle Study Club of Atlanta and belongs to numerous dental organizations. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and an Honorable Fellow of the Georgia Dental Association.

Dr. Richman is married to Maureen Richman and has two sons, Steven, who is a practicing tax attorney in Atlanta, and Peter, who is entering law school with a focus on cyber law.


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