She grew up in the Bronx. Her father was a butcher. And she had designs on becoming a medical illustrator. That career didnâ€™t materialize as she â€œjust fell into dentistry.â€ But art remains a major part of Geri Robinâ€™s life, and she sees her dental career as an extension of that love of art and related aesthetics.
"The mouth is three-dimensional...you have to shape it. You have to create it.” Geri Robin, DMD, FAGD said about rendering dental treatment
She majored in biology and art, setting her sights set on a career in medical illustrating. When her guidance counselor suggested that might prove too difficult, she redirected her academic efforts. Instead, she followed in the footsteps of a friend’s father and pursued dentistry.
“Which actually was much more difficult,” Geri Robin, DMD, FAGD, a New York City-based dentist, admitted.
And while today she “truly loves dentistry,” there were times early on, she recalled, where things “couldn’t have been more terrible.”
Robin describes herself as a Bronx girl, hailing from New York City’s northernmost borough. When she completed dental school, the most logical next step was heading home to work at a clinic, but things went south pretty fast.
“I had a patient steal my prescription pad, and he was writing prescriptions for drugs down on the corner,” Robin said. “The police had to be called in.”
New to the field and without much guidance, Robin turned to her father when she began having problems with a particular treatment technique. His message was simple: “Well, you just have to learn it.” Robin recalled the moment well.
“I said to myself, ‘I’m just going to have to figure this out,’” she said. “I loved school, but now I actually had to apply those lessons. And I was going to learn from whomever I could. I tried not to think about egos and personalities, and wherever I could learn, I did.”
That’s when she became involved with the Pankey Institute. She took her first course in 1989, and was immediately drawn to the instructors and facilitators. What was most impressive to her was the practice philosophy she learned from her colleagues — always strive to be the best possible dentist in all facets.
“And do as much as [you] can so people can keep their teeth for the rest of their lives,” she added.
In 2017, Robin found herself looking to grow her private practice. She found out about Floss Bar, a recent start-up with a unique approach to accessing dental care, while interviewing a hygienist.
Founder and CEO, Eva Sadej, wanted to take routine dental care and make it as easy and affordable as booking a room on AirBNB. From the busy professional with great insurance coverage, to the uninsured freelancer or startup coworker, Sadej wanted to improve access for anyone. To that end, Floss Bar developed an innovative mobile dentistry service where hygienists go directly to patients who need care.
The company operates its dental system via the hub-and-spoke model. Think central locations combined with more nimble entities that relay back and forth.
Robin was intrigued.
“I called Eva,” she said. “I found Floss Bar, they did not find me. And I said I want to do everything I can to help you, but I also want to grow my practice.”
There have been growing pains, to be sure, but Robin said she can’t say enough great things about the company.
“We’ve grown together.”
The part of Robin that wanted to become a medical illustrator is still present. Art, she explained, has always been a major part of her life, and her dental profession is just a continuation of that.
“I love to create,” she explained. “I’m not saying I’m good or anything, and I’m very private about it. But I love to create. I cut up glass, and I do these five-foot by three-foot mosaics. It’s something I really look forward to, and I try to do a huge project every year.”
Robin said there’s a clear link between dentistry and her love of art, and she tries to apply aesthetics to all of the disciplines within dentistry.
“You have to be able to envision things,” Robin said, “the bite is three-dimensional. The mouth is three-dimensional. And today with dental scans, things are in three dimensions. You put a filling in someone’s mouth, whether it’s in the front or the back, you have to shape it. You have to create it.”
There’s a saying that Robin has lived by since her 20s, and today she passes on to her grown children: Chance favors the prepared mind. She said it means if you put yourself in the right place, that’s all you can do.
“You don’t know what tomorrow brings,” she remarked, “but if you put yourself in the right place, when opportunity comes, you will hopefully see it.”
Robin sees things just fine. She recently interviewed for, and was offered, an adjunct teaching position at NYU College of Dentistry.
“I’ve been doing dentistry for so long, I want to try being in an academic environment,” Robin said. “I’m not sure what they’re going to have me do, but I told them to put me where they think I would be able to do the most for the university. It’s very exciting.”
At the end of every workday, Robin turns to her staff and asks, “Did we offend anybody today?” By asking the question, she ensures her team prioritizes patient care by doing something good for them.
“You try so hard, and things don’t always go well,” Robin shared, “but if I can get through the day, and if I can feel that I did my best, and the patients were happy and satisfied, I go home, and I feel a sense of comfort and a sense of peace.”
Robin described herself as a happy person because she’s doing something she loves. She reminds her staff each day at morning huddles that it is the patients, especially the difficult ones, that enable them to perform great.
“And I thank my patients,” Robin said, “because if I wasn’t doing [dentistry] I would have to be home doing laundry.”
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