An Ohio dentist has spent his career along parallel tracks â€“ operating his own practice while teaching dental students the basics of business. One of his main lessons: Gratitude.
Mario Pavicic, DDS, ACC, came to America from Croatia when he was 1 year old. His family then settled in Brooklyn.
No, not Brooklyn, New York; Brooklyn, Ohio—a small west side suburb of Cleveland. And it’s worth noting that Brooklyn, Ohio has a lot of “firsts” going for it.
“We were the first city in the country to have a seat belt law, that’s our claim to fame,” Pavicic explains. “And then the first city in America to have a no-cell-phone-while-driving law.”
Imagine trying to enforce either of those laws in Brooklyn, New York.
Pavicic was fortunate early in his life to have two strong role models: his father, and his dentist.
“I always wanted to do something medical,” Pavicic says. “And my dad suggested that dentistry is a good choice because it has fewer stresses than the medical field. A nice life … a nice business.”
At the start of high school, he took the time to speak with his family dentist. That got the ball rolling, and Pavicic eventually applied to Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. He was accepted and started right out of high school. The premise was that he would take all the science classes required for dental school in his first two years and receive no grade lower than a B. Mission accomplished.
“And I never looked back,” Pavicic says.
But he has looked forward.
Today, Pavicic helps others take a forward-looking approach to the field of dentistry. In addition to partnering in the Strongsville, Ohio-based Five Points Dentistry practice, he teaches at Case Western Reserve, and heads up the practice management course area.
“I teach the third-year dental students about practice management,” Pavicic says. “In other words, business management. Everything from A to Z: how to run a practice, hiring and firing, scheduling, life insurance, and financial planning. You name it, we cover it.”
Pavicic also runs his own dental coaching business, providing assistance to private dental practices. He’s certified by the International Coaching Federation, and says he’s the only certified coach in the country also teaching at a dental school. The approach he takes with participants in his dental coaching sessions is the same one he takes into a course with seniors at Case Western Reserve.
“We go over so much more than just the dental business,” Pavicic says. “We can’t call it life management because the dental school accreditation board would be, ‘What the heck is this?’ But we cover core values, mission statements—everything you want to do in a private practice.”
A big believer in continuing education, Pavicic also lectures on high-tech dentistry and CEREC—a method of CAD/CAM dentistry for creating dental restorations. He explains that when he and his partner opened Five Points Dentistry they did so with a focus on high customer service and technology—because that’s what patients are looking for.
“We’ve been doing CEREC for 12 years,” Pavicic says. “I wanted to tell dentists this was coming before it was even coming. Even dental students are getting exposed to this. But the general dentists, a lot of them aren’t getting on board.”
Sports and Photography
Pavicic has been active in sports since his adolescence. He played high school basketball and college soccer. And he was going to play college basketball but broke his finger as a soccer goalie at the end of the soccer season, thus missing the start of basketball season.
“And going into dental school after two years as an undergrad didn’t bode well,” he says. “The dental school schedule was too rough to allow for the (basketball) practice times. So I played intramurals and we won the school championship twice.”
Pavicic still plays, but now he also coaches. He says that together with his three children—daughter Julianna who plays college basketball, and sons Matthew and Nicholas who compete at the high school and middle school levels, respectively—they’re a basketball family.
And then there’s photography, a huge hobby of Pavicic’s before the digital age.
“I used to develop my own photos,” he says. “I had a dark room, so it was pretty serious. And then I had a hard time switching over to digital because I never thought it would be as good as film. But it has become.”
Nature and wildlife photos are his favorite—other than the millions of photos of his children. And when he’s done raising his children in the next few years, Pavicic plans to “really get back into photography full force.”
Pavicic’s brother died of leukemia 17 years ago at the age of 41. Wanting to do something to keep his brother’s memory alive, as well as help others, Pavicic started the Boris Pavicic Leukemia Foundation, which helps raise money to aid community members battling cancer.
“We give to the families and people in need, not just to the cancer foundations for research,” Pavicic explains. “If a family going through cancer treatments has fallen on hard times, we pay their mortgage, pay their medical bills for a while. I have contacts in the hospitals, so they know to call me when they see a family in need.”
Pavicic estimates that in the 17 years he’s been running the foundation he’s probably given over $100,000 in donations.
“A couple of times the people we have helped have actually been invited to our golf outings, and they’ve come to the dinner afterward,” Pavicic says. “They’re able to stand up and thank everyone.”
Which is sort of the premise for his recently published book, “The Gratitude List” (SurfPoint, 2015), which guides readers on how to create a gratitude list, and integrate it into their everyday lives as a way of expressing gratitude to those who have meant the most to them.
It’s all part of why Pavicic says that he cannot think of a more rewarding profession than being a dentist.
“You can impact a lot of people,” he says. “I was at the physician’s yesterday, and it has gotten to the point where you’ve lost that family feel, especially with a lot of the physicians going into more hospital settings. With dentistry, you can still have that home family feeling.”