Each year since 2017, one doctor within the Spear community is presented with the Rick Canady Award, an honor reserved for dentists who “exude endless dedication to both learning and teaching, serve as a leader in his or her dental community and consistently provide value to peers both inside and outside of Spear”.
Last year at Spear Summit, practice owner Brian K. Dennis, D.D.S. was selected as the 2020 winner of the Rick Canady Award. It takes no more than a few minutes interacting with Dr. Dennis to see why.
The New Mexico-based general practitioner joined Spear Education in 2008 when he attended the Facially Generated Treatment Planning workshop on Spear campus. Since then, Dr. Dennis has immersed himself in all things Spear by regularly chiming in on Spear Talk, attending meetings with two study clubs, working with doctors on Spear campus as a workshop mentor and growing his practice through Spear Practice Solutions.
Dr. Dennis has a knack for capitalizing on learning opportunities wherever he can find them – and he shares this passion for education with his wife, Kim, an elementary school teacher of 39 years.
“[Education] is part of everything [my wife and I] do. Whether it's recreation or sports, we do a lot of research and take lessons – anything to make it more enjoyable,” he says, adding: “The learning curve is part of the process and part of the fun. If it's all easy, it probably isn't worthwhile!”
Dr. Dennis' positive attitude served him well at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when his practice was forced to close. He developed strategies to stay in-touch with patients virtually and, eager to continue learning despite campus workshop cancellations, he began exploring online learning options through Spear in more depth.
Nearly a year after being named the 2020 Rick Canady Award Winner, we caught up with Dr. Dennis to learn more about how he stayed connected with his community and his educational goals through the pandemic – and what he looks forward to most as a member of the Spear Education community today.
How do you define 'leadership' in dentistry and in what way do you believe education plays a role?
Dr. Dennis: “Leadership is a role that's constantly evolving. I think all of us are leaders in one way or another – we are leaders for the people around us, our families and the people we work with. It's important to be consistent, maintain integrity and set a good example for everyone around you. That's what I feel leadership entails – setting an example and treating people how you would like to be treated.”
You were selected to receive the Rick Canady Award in the middle of 2020, arguably one of the most challenging periods to be a dental practice owner. How did the pandemic impact you as a clinician and community leader?
Dr. Dennis: I didn't want our patients to hear "we're closed," I wanted patients to hear, “we're here for you." We couldn't do preventive and routine services, but I came in with my wife Kim every day for 10 weeks to answer phones so if someone had a dental emergency, we were there for them.
“We stayed on top of [updates about] the virus and did what we could to make our office safer for patients. I participated in a lot of discussions on Spear Talk about what other doctors were doing to incorporate things like extraoral suction devices and surgically clean air filters for any airborne viruses.”
Why is access to the community through Spear Talk so valuable to you?
Dr. Dennis: “There are a lot of brilliant minds associated with Spear Education. I'm consistently blown away by the depth of knowledge everyone has – through the online membership to visiting and resident faculty. It's cumulative knowledge of decades of experience from different people and from different perspectives. It's so exciting when you show a case to a periodontist and they say, “well, let's look at that,” and an endodontist says, “well, you need to be careful of that.”
“As general dentists, we may not have that detailed level of knowledge in those specialty departments – you just can't keep up with everything these days. There's too much going on! There were so many things that were impossible to do in dental school that we're doing now.”
How did you stay on track with your learning goals through the pandemic, and how did your perspective and approach to education change during that time?
Dr. Dennis: “I enjoy face-to-face, hands-on learning because I tend to be more engaged and less distracted when I'm there in person. But that has shifted because I think the emphasis on quality virtual programs has improved. I think Spear is a leader in online learning because instructors break [topics] down into smaller, bite-sized pieces of information. Everything is organized in a methodical way – one part leads into another and another.
“I also think some dentists are shy and I feel really honored when they reach out to me and ask me something [directly through Spear Talk] – it's just a special gift they're giving me to be able to respond to them. In dentistry the problem is not everything works 100 percent of the time for every patient. You might try one thing and it doesn't work – it's nice to have something else up your sleeve to try for a good result. I love having that opportunity to connect [and share those ideas] online.”
Now that workshops are back on Spear campus, what are you most excited about in terms of your education?
Dr. Dennis: “The most exciting [thing about campus] is about the personal relationships you've built with everyone – not only the resident faculty but visiting faculty as well. It's funny because recently there was a Spear Talk thread about what doctors do to help relieve the stresses of dentistry, and one of the things for me is coming out to Spear campus!
“You don't have to worry about running the office, you don't have to see patients, and I always learn a ton of stuff. You get to work with the best people in dentistry today, and that is such a gift. That's what I really miss – the personal, face-to-face interaction, the joking and learning from other people.”
The Rick Canady Award will be presented to a Spear member this year at Spear Summit 2021. If you are a Faculty Club member and want to nominate a leader who is invested in education and mentorship within Spear Education and their community, reach out to your Customer Success Manager for more details.
About the Rick Canady Award
The Rick Canady Award is an annual honor for Spear members who “exude endless dedication to both learning and teaching, serves as a leader in his or her dental community and consistently provides value to his or her peers – both inside and outside of Spear.”
If you know a doctor who embodies these characteristics and are eligible to attend Spear Summit this year, consider nominating them for the Rick Canady Award.
Dr. Rick Canady's legacy
The Canady Award is named after Dr. Rick Canady, who passed away at age 56 after a battle with cancer. In addition to being a dedicated clinician, mentor and lifelong learner who was actively involved with Spear Education since its inception, Dr. Canady was also the first general practitioner to lead a Spear Study Club, which were previously only led by specialists.
Today, doctors can nominate other members in the Spear community who embody the same dedication to lifelong learning and community growth as Dr. Canady through the Rick Canady Award, presented each year during Spear Summit. Visitors to Spear campus in Scottsdale, Arizona will also find a lecture room named in Dr. Canady's honor.
Past Rick Canady Award winners
2019: Jeff Lineberry, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., F.I.C.O.I., A.A.A.C.D.
Dr. Lineberry graduated from Western Carolina University with a bachelor's degree in biology and earned his D.D.S. at the University of North Carolina.
A member of Spear Visiting Faculty and Faculty Club, Dr. Lineberry is dedicated to continuing education and mentoring clinicians in his community. He is also a moderator on Spear Talk, a clinician-only discussion forum for Spear Online members.
Dr. Lineberry emerged as a strong advocate for mental wellness in the dental practice with his popular Spear Digest articles, “How Dentists Can Cope with Compassion Fatigue,” and “Let's Be Real: Dentistry is Mentally Challenging”.
2018: Michael L. Johnson, D.D.S., P.C.
Dr. Johnson is committed to continuing education, mentoring and volunteering. Through Open Wide, the Mesa, Arizona-based dentist has made numerous trips to Guatemala to provide hands-on mentoring to local dentists and dental students to address patient needs in some of the most impoverished areas in the developing nation.
2017: Andrew Cohen, D.M.D.
Dr. Cohen graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor's degree in psychology, then earned his D.M.D. at the Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry.
The Visiting Faculty and Faculty Club member — who practices in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia — is dedicated to mentoring dentists from all around the world, is a contributing author for Spear Digest and a moderator on Spear Talk.
Karen Hewell is the Managing Editor for Spear Digest.