A pair of New York City dentists share a practice, a startup, and a family. The couple says the partnership is hectic, but rewarding.
Two of New York City’s leading dentists have been practicing together for more than 10 years.
That may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but then consider that Keith Arbeitman, DDS, and Angelika Shein, DDS, are also husband and wife. More importantly, their relationship dates all the way back to high school.
“The marriage partnership came long before there was any sort of professional direction,” Arbeitman says, laughing.
It does, however, create for interesting chemistry at home.
“If anything, sometimes you want to get away; you want to have someone to come home to and get away from your job,” Shein says. “We don’t really get that as much. We may get a little more overworked than the average couple, but it hasn’t been much of an issue.”
Shein has been interested in science since she was a child, and always enjoyed being creative and working with her hands. She calls it the artist outlet. Arbeitman is no different. Science took him in the medical direction, and dentistry gave him the freedom that can sometimes get lost when working in a hospital.
But even though their personal and professional goals have meshed nicely, they both recognize the importance of periodically turning off the professional side.
“We make an effort to get as far away as possible, as often as possible,” Arbeitman explains. “We have young children, and our weekends are completely dedicated to them and their various athletic endeavors. So that offers a good escape. And we have certain times of the year where we know we’re going to get away, and those are the times that we really cherish.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Shein says there are many benefits to working together.
“We always have someone else who understands what we’re going through, which is a huge advantage,” she says. “And we always give each other honest opinions.”
Two years ago, recognizing a change in the complexity and volume of dental emergencies among residents in assisted and skilled nursing communities, Arbeitman and Shein launched Go! Dental Services, a company that provides on-site oral dental services to residents of those communities.
“We were at a point in our career where we were wondering what else was out there,” Arbeitman recalls. “We had a successful practice, but there were other interests that we wanted to pursue. We began thinking on a large scale that there might be a need for dental services in assisted living. And we were right.”
It began almost as an experiment with five facilities, has grown steadily to 20, and will probably reach 30 facilities by the end of 2015. And as Baby Boomers age into assisted living and nursing facilities, the need is likely to increase.
“It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s also been a lot of work, starting up a small business when you already have an existing small- or medium-sized business that keeps you busy from 9 to 5 every day,” Arbeitman says. “But that’s actually been part of the excitement for us. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, and how do we make it happen? How can we rise to that challenge?”
Arbeitman says that he and his wife think of themselves as entrepreneurs as well as dentists.
“We always keep our ears open for any opportunity.”
But the bottom line is dentistry and the care they provide.
“Everything we do has to be grounded in business principles,” he says. “You can’t turn a blind eye to what it costs to run a business. We’re in Manhattan. Whatever it costs to run a business, it's magnified in a city like New York. The two questions we asked ourselves at the start were: can we be efficient and cost effective; and at the same time provide a much needed service?”
The service is definitely needed. Patients needing a dentist rarely have their problems solved in a single visit. For individuals in an assisted living community, that means multiple trips to a dentist. But if the dentist comes to them, it’s a value-added that the patient and their family greatly appreciates.
“We’re dentists,” Shein says. “We want to help people. But we’re business people, too.”
Shein laughs when asked how she and her husband like to spend their free time.
“You know how they say your forties are the rush hour of life?” she asks, rhetorically. “Well, that’s kind of how we feel.”
Shein works part-time at the couple’s practice, so when she’s not there and the kids are in school she enjoys spending time with friends, playing tennis, and exercising. Jogging in Central Park and reading help her to get away.
“We’re not golfers,” Arbeitman adds. “There’s no time in our lives for that right now. But the goal is for there to be time for that at some point.”
For now they’re family oriented. Their two children, ages 10 and 8, take up much of their time.
“And they’re not going to be that age for very long,” Arbeitman adds, “so we try not to do too many things outside of work that would take us away from them.”
Proud, and Thankful
Arbeitman says he and his wife have a great deal of pride in the practice they’ve built, and that they’ve done so during difficult economic times.
“We have a wonderful team of people that we work with,” he says. “We have people that have been with us for five, seven, 10 years. We’re very proud of the relationships we have with the people that we are surrounded by. And that’s something that our patients feel also. So I guess it comes full circle.”
He also feels very fortunate with the type of practice they’ve been able to build; one that focuses on aesthetic and restorative dentistry.
“There’s virtually no insurance meddling or dictating how we treat people,” he says. “There’s a lot of luck that comes with that.”