Dr. Leslie Horn, D.M.D., is a periodontist based out of Lexington, Ky. Six years ago, she began leading one of Spear's earliest Study Clubs, and has been a leader ever since. We sat down with her to learn more about how her Study Club has strengthened her practice, enhanced her patient care and allowed her to connect with passionate dental professionals from diverse backgrounds and specialties.
Dentist to periodontist to Study Club leader
When I started dental school, my children were four and eight and I was divorced. I had to move from eastern Kentucky, so I had no family support system and specializing was the last thing (I was thinking about). I just wanted to get through school and start practicing so I could support my kids, but I got lucky; I got a mentor.
He invited me to his study clubs. He had his own small group interdisciplinary dentistry study club. He said to me, "You should do this, you should become a periodontist." Eventually I applied at the University of Kentucky (Division of Periodontology) and I said, "If I'm meant to be a periodontist, I'll get in." And I did.
I started my study club about six years ago. I had one of my top referring dentists approach me about becoming a Spear Study Club leader. At the time I did not know much about Spear, but since that time I have come to understand how incredible it is. There is a real passion here for becoming better and for helping dentists do better for their patients. That was really exciting for me.
For me, it is about more than just growing my practice; it is about being a mentor. The longer I have done it, the more running a Study Club has become part of the legacy that I'd like to leave.
The joy of leading a Study Club
It's so easy for dentists to keep doing the same thing they've been doing forever. And they can be very successful doing the same thing and not really growing clinically or in managing their team, or any of those things. And so, when I became immersed in Spear, it was like, "Yes, this is the way it should be done." There are so many resources available to Study Club members that go beyond the content in the meetings. From the online learning platform, which includes team training, to the patient education resources, Spear really works to support practices on every front.
Again and again I get to watch my younger dentists embrace the Spear philosophy and flourish. I've enjoyed watching not only so many dentists grow but, most especially, seeing their patients’ lives literally change in some cases.
Of course there is also no doubt I've witnessed my skills improve immensely, and I continue to learn. In fact, my practice has also flourished from being with Spear for the last six years. I have seen an improvement in not just the number of referrals but in the quality of the patients referred – in other words, how prepared a patient is when they come to my office. The patient has more knowledge because the dentist has more knowledge, and that makes the whole experience for everyone much easier and much better.
What has kept me with Spear all these years, though, is the excitement that I see in my referring dentists, lifting up the level of care that they have for their patients and being able to take on larger, more complex cases. And I get to be a part of the treating team. The bottom line is the outcomes for the patients are better, and that is what is most important.
Advice for future Study Club leaders
I get asked a lot about what advice I would give to Study Club leaders or new members. My advice to leaders would be to make it as inclusive as possible. I try my best to find ways to include most everyone who attends the meeting. For instance, if it’s an endodontist, we'll try to focus on something in their field. I also work hard to include everyone no matter how long they have been practicing. I say from the beginning, especially when I have a new member, "There is no dumb question. We are all here to help each other. We are all here to learn and do better for our patients, and that's what this club is about.”
“If I could go back in time to when I was younger and just starting, I would definitely expand my learning base and not just be pigeonholed in my own specialty. And that's what I love about the interdisciplinary approach.”
When I think about the “secret sauce” of my success in growing a thriving practice, it would be that both my referring dentists and my patients see how passionate I am. It’s not just how much I know, but how much I care about doing the very best. I don’t know how my referring dentists would see this if it wasn’t for my Study Club.
I do think that if I could change one thing, it would be that I wish I would have gotten involved in something like Spear much, much earlier in my career. If I could go back in time to when I was younger and just starting, I would definitely expand my learning base and not just be pigeonholed in my own specialty. That's what I love about Spear’s interdisciplinary approach – all of us can learn and get better.