One Dentist's Journey from Practitioner to Practice Owner

“I like challenges,” said Josephine Chang Pallotto, DDS. “And I actually enjoy learning something new every day. Even when I make mistakes I admit it wholeheartedly to my team, and I make it known that we’re all learning and nobody is perfect."

When Josephine Chang Pallotto, DDS, was in dental school she never thought she’d be a business owner.

“I didn’t think I could handle it,” she recalls. “It’s a daunting task.”

That was until four-and-one-half years ago when she purchased Pallotto Dental Care--from her father-in-law.

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After 35 years in practice, Pallotto’s father-in-law, Nicholas J. Pallotto, DDS, was approaching retirement. All was in place for his son Anthony, Pallotto’s husband, to purchase the family practice. Everything changed when Anthony was offered an opportunity to work in a different office that pertained more to his specialty—prosthodontics.

“It was a natural transition,” Pallotto says. “The next person in line to take over would be me.”

But unlike being the heir to the throne and having the crown handed to you, Pallotto knew there would be significant challenges—not the least of which was securing and repaying the loan.

“That’s always a scary thought because you’re taking on even more debt after dental school,” Pallotto admits. “So far it has been great. But I know there is still a lot to learn.”

Career Switch

Pallotto always knew that she wanted to work in healthcare, and started pursuing a career in medicine in college. But after 5 years volunteering in a hospital, she decided it wasn’t the right fit. She explored other avenues in healthcare, including nursing and pharmacy, but everything clicked when she took a weekend dental course for undergrads at UCLA.

“That’s how I discovered this was the field for me,” she says.

Her time spent volunteering in the hospital, as well during a general practice residency at a hospital following dental school, has served her well.

“I love talking with patients,” she says. “And I feel very comfortable in that environment talking with nurses, physicians and pharmacists about medically complex patients, such as what they can have done in their mouth while undergoing medical treatment.”

And the transition from being a member of the team to owning the team, while challenging, is going well. That, Pallotto says, is because she enjoys being the leader of the team.

“I like challenges,” she says. “And I actually enjoy learning something new every day. Even when I make mistakes I admit it wholeheartedly to my team, and I make it known that we’re all learning and nobody is perfect. We’re all just trying to do the best we can for our patients.”

Teaching Enthusiast

Pallotto has always loved the academic atmosphere. In dental school she was a teaching assistant, as well as a mentor for the first-year class. More recently, she was part-time faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Dentistry, but had to stop after the spring 2016 semester due to a scheduling conflict.

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“I know I’m going to go back when my schedule permits,” Pallotto says. “You have the most up-to-date information in the field at your fingertips. And you have a great group of colleagues to bounce ideas off, and to learn from when you’re teaching. And I love the fact that students keep you on your toes. They teach you too while you’re teaching them.”

Despite not teaching at the university, Pallotto still has an education orientation. She’s in the process of organizing an oral cancer walk that she says will be a great way for the community to come together for a good cause.

Oral cancer, unfortunately, is described as one of the not-so-popular cancers,” Pallotto says. “I think in our field it’s very important to get the word out.”

The 5K walk will be held in May 2017, and is focused on education rather than competition.

Balanced Lifestyle

Pallotto has competed in 2 marathons, but the toll they took on her knees prohibits her from any further participation. So, she’s become a yoga enthusiast. Staying healthy, she says, is important.

“You have to have a balance,” Pallotto explains. “You can’t work all the time. And I’ve found that being active really helps bring that balance to my life. You can’t think about work (while doing yoga) because you really have to focus or you could hurt yourself.”

Pallotto brings her dedication and awareness of health to her patients and her practice team. In fact, it’s in the family. The practice manager, who is also Pallotto’s mother-in-law, is a yoga instructor on the side.

“When I took over, one of my main goals was to bring health consciousness into the practice, and to encourage our team members to stay healthy and active as well,” Pallotto says. “We all try to implement that into our daily routine.”

Being tired at work and not being able to function, not being able to be on her A-game for her team or patients, is unacceptable to Pallotto.

“That in itself is a reason for me to stay healthy.”

Feeling Lucky

When it comes to patient care, Pallotto says it may sound corny, but she truly loves putting smiles on her patients’ faces. She knows that many of them are nervous about visiting the dentist, and not necessarily happy about having work done.

“But when I’m able to make someone feel better and improve their oral health, and make them okay with it, that to me is my favorite part of the healthcare aspect,” she says.

As for being a business owner, she loves having taken on that role. Now she’s thinking of continuing her education and getting an MBA.

“That aspect of dentistry wasn’t brought to our attention in dental school,” she says. “And that personally is rewarding because I’m learning something new and different.”

But it’s the dental field in general that Pallotto says is the most fulfilling.

“There are so many things you can do with your career,” she explains. “I love being able to teach, being able to lead, and being able to treat and care for people. And I feel lucky to be in the field, doing what I’m doing.”