Dale Misiek, DMD, grew up planning to follow in his father's footsteps and become an engineer. His father had other plans.
When Dale Misiek, DMD, was in high school his father, an engineer for Southern New England Telephone, frequently helped him obtain part-time jobs working with the utility’s line crews. At the end of the day, his father would pick him up and they’d drive home together.
During the summer prior to entering college, Misiek’s father asked if he’d given much though to what he wanted as a career. Misiek wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter engineering. His father had other ideas.
“Have you ever thought of going into dentistry?” Misiek recalls him asking. And he backed up the question noting that their family dentist had his own office, owned his own business, enjoyed his work and lifestyle. “That kind of put the bug in my ear.”
And it’s a good thing it did. Today Misiek is a nationally known oral surgeon at the Carolinas Center for Oral and Facial Surgery in Charlotte, NC. His efforts on behalf of his patients and the underserved are second to none.
Misiek went straight from residency into private practice. And while he loved the patient interaction, he and his colleague didn’t see eye to eye from a business standpoint. So when he was offered the program director position for the Advanced Education Program in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at his Louisiana State University alma mater, he seized the opportunity.
“I hadn’t thought a lot about academics,” Misiek admits. “But once I took the job, it kind of opened my eyes to other things.”
What he saw was the large number of people in his community who had no access to care, and it hit home.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be in a specialty where I get remunerated very nicely,” he explains. “And I feel like, my gosh, I can’t be totally selfish. I need to give back, because there are so many people who, through no fault of their own, don’t have access to care. And I want to be able to provide them with something to meet some of their needs. Maybe not all of their wants, but certainly some of their needs.”
Misiek serves as a member of the board of directors of several oral and maxillofacial surgery organizations that provide charitable and educational opportunities locally, regionally and nationally. He also regularly volunteers at the Men’s Shelter in downtown Charlotte.
“When I go to the Men’s Shelter in Charlotte, the people there are so grateful for just having the opportunity to come to some place where they can have their needs met,” Misiek says. “I treat them all like I treat my private patients. They’re good people; people trying to straighten out their lives. And anything I can do to help them be more productive in society will give me a lot of personal satisfaction.”
Combating an Epidemic
Misiek is also leading an effort to educate the public and combat the opioid epidemic that is affecting North Carolina and the nation as a whole.
“You can’t go a day without hearing something in the news about people overdosing or some other crisis regarding the explosion of illegal opioid in this country,” he says.
Misiek believe the problem, at least in part, has arisen as a result of good intentions by physicians and dentists who are trying to help patients alleviate pain.
“Unfortunately, [healthcare professionals] who are busy are going to go ahead and prescribe medications not only to alleviate pain, but to keep patients from calling your office so you don’t have to deal with it,” he explains. “So, people got in the habit of overprescribing or refilling without necessarily re-examining patients.”
Misiek has started using a long acting non-opioid option called Exparel with patients requiring wisdom teeth removal. It’s a single-dose injection administered into the surgical site while the patient is asleep, and it eases inflammatory muscle pain that occurs with wisdom tooth extractions. Misiek believes the benefits are two-fold.
“I’m helping patients avoid the unnecessary use of opioid medication, and giving them an opportunity to have a much easier post-operative course, because they’re not having to deal with constant pain,” he says. “They can get by using ibuprofen, and normal anti-inflammatory therapy such as ice.”
The benefits, Misiek recognizes, go well beyond the treatment he provides to his patients. He says that with social media, patients are very happy to rate a dentist poorly if their expectations are not met. But they’re also very happy to sing their praises if the dentist exceeds their expectations.
“My satisfaction from working is not necessarily getting a paycheck every month,” Misiek says. “My satisfaction from working is the constant reinforcement that I’m doing something for people. And as long as I’m taking care of my patients and doing the best I can to find every possible mechanism to make their whole experience in our office as tolerable as possible, that gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.”
Connections and Second Chances
Misiek says he’s very fortunate to have received a second chance in life. After his wife passed away in 2011 following a battle with cancer, Misiek “totally immersed” himself in his work. Then 18 months ago he reconnected with a woman he had known professionally for many years. This relationship has blossomed beyond his expectations. She is now his fiancé and a fall wedding is planned. He says, “I have not been this happy in years.” It was her contact 18 months ago that directly got him involved with Exparel.
“Between my new love life, golf with some friends, and my three kids and three grandchildren—those things have kept me about as busy as I could possibly be,” he says. “I count my blessings every day.”
In short, it’s contact and connections that fulfill Misiek. And family aside, that’s what he gets every day from his patients.
“I think that’s what drove me back into private practice (from academics), because I needed to have that reinforcement that I was doing something that was helpful, and made people’s lives better,” he says. “That’s what keeps me getting up in the morning and enjoying what I do every day.”