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Life does not always stick to the plans we have for it, and no one knows this better than Lauren McDonough. The Aspen Dental owner aspired to be a world traveler, but after careful consideration, chose a career in dentistry, where she combines her passions for photography and writing with her desire to help others. Continue below to learn about McDonoughâ€™s journey.
McDonough says dentistry allows her to provide for herself and enjoy the freedom to travel
As a teenager, traveling the world, taking photographs and writing about exotic places was on D.M.D Lauren McDonough’s radar.
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Then she had a career-altering conversation with her parents. They asked what she was looking for in life — not just in her twenties, but into her thirties and forties.
That prompted a re-evaluation. McDonough’s father was a dentist, and her mother was a hygienist. They provided a comfortable lifestyle, and after some thought, McDonough decided she wanted the same.
“I started shadowing my father, and I liked seeing the balance he had between working and having fun,” McDonough explains. “That’s how it all began.”
Despite her drastic change of plans, McDonough is still able to incorporate her passions for travel, writing and photography into her life and practice.
“There are a lot of aspects of dentistry that are really challenging, that push the envelope for me,” she says. “And I still have time to do a lot of different things that bring me enjoyment.”
A BUDDING ENTREPRENEUR
Today, McDonough and her husband own three Aspen Dental practices in Florida, but like her career path, that was not the initial plan. She was going to take over the New Hampshire-based practice, but after meeting her husband, things changed once again.
They moved to Florida, where McDonough started as a floating associate at Aspen Dental three days a week. Within six months, she was assigned to an office as the lead dentist. McDonough saw the ownership potential with Aspen, which she acknowledges was important to her career development.
“I think every person who goes into dentistry, one of the things they like is the autonomy,” she explains. “You can make your own decisions and form the practice that you want, and Aspen was aligned with all my ideas of what a dental office should be. Very different from most private practices, but in a more progressive direction.”
Aspen Dental has a huge nationwide network, which allows McDonough to travel frequently to talk about her field. The events are motivational, she says, and help provide dentists with guidance on how they can shape their careers.
“My husband and I have three other doctors who work for us,” she explains. “What we like to do when we hire a dentist is sit down and have a good conversation to see if this is somebody we’re going to be able to go to lunch with every day.”
McDonough and one of her dentists have coffee and lunch together every day. They talk about the dentist’s ambitions, areas where she may be struggling and procedures she might want more clarity with. These exchanges are valuable to McDonough.
“If I can’t see that in a potential candidate, it’s just not going to work with us because we are so involved with our dentists,” she says. “We really do care about our teams and have a strong desire to grow and develop them.”
Being a practice owner has its share of challenges and often requires a considerable amount of juggling. Frequent communication, McDonough says, is essential.
“Lunch is always with team members,” she says. “If somebody is having a problem, I want to sit down with them and talk about it. It takes time, but I still find time for myself every day to make sure that I can keep my clarity.”
SHUTTING OFF BUSINESS
McDonough says what helps her keep that clarity is having an equal partnership with her husband. People often think being married to your business partner would mean all work and no fun, but she says this is not the case.
“We really do balance each other in that way,” McDonough says. “At a certain point, it’s, ‘Okay, let’s shut off business because we’re at home now,’ and vice versa.”
To reconnect, the couple enjoys fishing or just getting out on the water. McDonough and her husband own a boat, and on weekends often travel 60 miles to the Bahamas. She says being on the water with her companion helps her refocus her energy.
“There’s no phone service,” she says. “That ability to completely disconnect from everyday life is so critical for me. My staff understands and respects that. They know they can email me and I’ll get back within one day, but this is my time.”
While owning three dental practices keeps her busy, McDonough sees herself acquiring additional facilities and hopes to continue building careers. And although she may not be the freewheeling photojournalist her teenaged self envisioned, the opportunities dentistry have provided allow McDonough to indulge her passions while helping others.
“I love the transformations,” McDonough says. “Where somebody’s terrified to have surgery, to have all their teeth removed from years of neglect, and I can be the one they trust to change that for them. And when they look in the mirror at the end of the procedure and have a new smile, that’s what makes it worthwhile to me.”