“No matter how much you prepare or how hard you work you have to realize [there are unknowns] so you have to have trust in yourself, in the economy, in everything.” – Mohammad Haque
Please enjoy the transcript of Episode 015 with Mohammad Haque (Mohammad opened up his own dental practice) in its entirety:
Dan: Episode 15 of Prologue Profiles. I’m your host Dan Feld. My guest today is Dr. Mohammad Haque.
Three years out of a dental school, Mo opened up AesthetiCare Dental, his own practice in Queens. You’ll hear Mo discuss his desire to help others, his emphasis on building and maintaining trust and how there’s no better time to achieve your goal than right now.
Mo Haque: Hi, this is Mohammad Haque. I’m a dentist. And you’re listening to Prologue Profiles.
Mo: The world is a dance floor—it’s my dance floor, actually. Dan knows this because we’re the best tag team dance troop in the history of dancing.
Dan: That’s a fact.
Mo: I think people would, their minds would literary explode if they saw us dancing together.
Dan: It’s very post-modern, the fact that we’re diverse. [Laughter] Unassuming is the word.
Mo: I call it un-interpretive dancing…
Dan: I think if we looked like dancers we would be the worst dancers. [Laughter] It’s just that we look like the worst so the fact that we can like move to the beat…
Mo: Yeah, you’re absolutely right.
Dan: So, Mo, we are now sitting in the lobby of AesthetiCare Dental in Queens which is yours.
Mo: Yeah, this is my baby. It’s been about two, three years in the making. It’s a private dental office that I opened, it’s been like 3 weeks now. And I feel incredibly blessed to be in this position.
I could look at every inch of this office and tell you about it and how much thought and love went into all of it. Sometimes I feel like I care about the office more than the actual treatment that I’m gonna do [Laughs]. Not that I actually do but I put my blood, sweat and tears into this place.
Dan: So you’ve chosen to work in healthcare…
Mo: If you want to make a living in this world you have to be in the business of something. And I felt like if I was going to be in the business of anything, it was going to be in the business of helping people. Because as the end of the day, if I did my job, someone was hopefully helped by what I did that day. So that’s what drew me to healthcare in general.
Dan: Where do you think your desire to help others comes from?
Mo: My father happens to be a dentist. And I would just watch him and just see how much joy he got from his daily work, his grind, every day in and out. And going with him I would see how patients would respond to that. Especially when the patient has a big overall change, they had no teeth and they have all of a sudden a full mouth of teeth. Drastic changes, they happen more often than you realize. And so you have people who look 15 years younger, people who weren’t smiling and start smiling again. And these little things actually create a huge difference in their lives, in their confidence, in the way they interact with other people. If you can provide that for somebody, that confidence, that’s essentially the greatest gift you can give somebody.
Dan: What was the age when you decided that you wanted to become a dentist?
Mo: I was considering medicine as an option when I was around 17, 18 years old in high school. Oddly enough my father or mother never really mentioned dentistry to me, ever. It was just something I was around growing up, but not something that anyone ever specifically said you should do this. I was looking into it and I said you know what, if I’m going to do anything with my life, I’m going to do something where I’m engaged in an activity that I’m constantly working in, working with my hands. It’s one other thing I really enjoyed doing in high school. I always loved working with my hands. And so when I went from there I knew that I wanted to do something in healthcare.
And so I kind of put it together and I was like I’m either going to be a surgeon or a dentist. And so I thought about surgery, to go into medicine and become a surgeon, and I realized that dentists do something very similar, they work with their hands every day, it’s not essentially the same in that you’re not cutting people’s bodies open and maybe it’s not as dramatic. So I think I guess I took the easier way out which was dental school.
Dan: That’s how you see it?
Mo: Sometimes. I have a lot of respect for MDs and for surgeons especially. Our degree is called a Doctor of Dental Surgery so there is a lot of surgery involved, it’s a very minute area, you’re working on teeth which are very small, you’re getting in there with very small tools. So the need for control and hand-eye coordination is huge. And I like that.I like being able to create something on a daily basis.
There’s a lot of aesthetics involved so my interest in art comes out there a lot in terms of making something that isn’t natural look as close to natural as possible. You’re taking something that’s man-made and trying to convince others that it wasn’t made by a human being. And I feel like we underestimate how much of our face and our smile we really rely on for our happiness and confidence. If you’re smiling, if you’re interacting with people and they see you in a positive light and you see yourself in a positive light, it infiltrates into like all the parts of your life.
Dan: Now, when you decided to become a dentist back when you were 18, was the idea to open up your own office, your own practice?
Mo: Yeah something I actually failed to mention is one of the other reasons I went into dentistry over medicine is most dentists are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to own their own practice. I knew I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to set my own hours, have nobody to tell me what to do, kind of control my work life and be responsible for everything myself. If you look at most dentists, most of them either own or partnered up with somebody and have their own office. And even though it’s a lot of work, it’s a realistic possibility.
Dan: So you found this space, how psyched were you?
Mo: I loved it. It’s tough to find a place to buy and I knew that’s what I wanted to do just because for longevity it makes sense. So when I saw the ‘For Sale’ sign on here on a busy road in Queens, one of the busiest roads in Queens, in a mixed population area and I mean that in term of working class, middle class working families, that’s the target for me because I knew I wanted to have a diverse population of people. Just because that’s my own interest in terms of serving diverse ethnicities and cultures and because for the longevity of business it’s better. Because if you’re diverse in the patient base, depending on the economy or the way insurances change, you’ll always have some form of business coming in.
Dan: So when you found the space, what about the financial obligations and the capital? Did you have that ready?
Mo: I mean, that’s why I was busting my butt for 2 years, essentially a year and a half, working six, seven days a week. I worked really hard, I didn’t spend a lot. I lived at home which was huge and I tried to save up as much as I could.
Dan: What’s like a typical day for you as a dentist?
Mo: Typical day, you get ready for the patients, you see what procedures you’re going to be doing. You see if it’s new patients or existing patients. If it’s existing patients you kind of brush up on what they’ve had done, what you’re planning on doing that day. And then you’re just ready when they come in through the door. You have your staff ready, you get all your instruments ready, everything is all ready to go and when the patient comes in you greet them, you explain to them what’s going to be happening that day.
It’s very important that people know what’s going on in their own bodies. And you never take it for granted even if you told them last time and the time before that. You always remind them “This is what I’m doing today. This is why we’re doing it. And how are you feeling?”
If everything’s good to go, you go forward. You’re busy with several patients all day. When you’re seeing patients you’re busy. The good thing is when you are not, you get a little bit of downtime. There’s not really that much to do all the time. There’s some upkeep in the office here and there, but you get to enjoy your downtime as well.
Dan: So Mo, what would you say you love about being a dentist?
Mo: I think the thing that I love the most about being a dentist is being engaged with people on a daily basis. Especially when they know you, when it’s like your old patients and they come in and they see you and they ask you how you’re doing and they tell you how comfortable they were last time.
And so many people are afraid of the dentist and they always remind you of that that. People always remind you that they’re afraid of the dentist, constantly. Even when they’ve been seeing you they’re like “Yo I always hated the dentist” or “I’m always afraid of the dentist.” And when they tell you that, but then they are still willing to come into the room, smile, sit in your chair, and have you work with them and on them, it’s very gratifying.
Dan: And what would you say you dislike about being a dentist?
Mo: People’s expectations are sometimes different from your own, so whenever you deal with a lot of people all the time you do run into frustrating situations—Any sort of customer relations, customer care. And some people are just sometimes unreasonable and they’re difficult to work with. That stresses you out sometimes. If someone gives you a hard time, but you just take it with a grain of salt and sort of brush it off.
Dan: What about yourself are you trying to improve?
Mo: I feel like I’m someone who people can trust and that’s what I’m trying to develop. The biggest thing about dentistry is that it’s a very invasive place. Your mouth is very personal, people take it very seriously and it’s not a comfortable place for someone else to be without your permission. So I have to go in there, to people I barely know, and start number one diagnosing problems that they have and telling them what they need and more importantly just having my hands physically in there. And people are very uncomfortable with this and so developing a trust between you and another person so much so that they allow you to sort of invade their personal space is, I take that very seriously.
Dan: What would you say has changed now that you have your own practice compared to when you were working for a dentist?
Mo: There’s a lot more stress involved. When you are working for somebody, you get paid off of a commission so the busier it is, the better you do as a dentist. However there is a guaranteed salary, there’s a base salary. So when you’re working for somebody the salary is there, the income is gonna come your way as long as you go to work every day, put your time in, that check will come.
When you go dive out on your own, it’s not like that. You’re waiting for people to come in, you’re waiting for customers to come in and refer you to their family and friends. So the known aspect of knowing where your income is coming from and diving into the unknown and really a trust in yourself and the system, in the business, it’s a big change.
Dan: You’re sitting here now in your own dental office—no sweat, you’re chilling.
Mo: [Laughs] No, there’s a lot of sweat.
Dan: What’s been the biggest challenge getting to this point, sitting in that seat right now?
Mo: Having trust that the business will pick up. And that’s a constant reminder to yourself. And that the work you’re putting in will create fruit any time soon. And it’s one of those things where if you built it they will come. But there’s a lot of unknown in any sort of new situation. And no matter how much you prepare for it, or how hard you work for it, you have to realize that you will never know the result. So you have to have trust in the situation, in yourself, in the economy and everything.
Dan: So how is that challenge a part of your life?
Mo: It’s something I constantly think about. It’s something that permeates into sort of everything I’m doing right now. I’m constantly worried and thinking and preparing for what I’m going to do the next day for the office. What can I do to get more clientele, to get more business? Because at the end of the day, it is a business and if it doesn’t run efficiently it’s not running and you’re not getting clientele that we need, it’s not going to achieve what I had hoped for.
Dan: Did anyone tell you not to open up your own practice?
Mo: Yeah, I mean, the people were talking about the economy in terms of it not being a great time to open any business. Especially for small businesses, it’s not a time where they’re flourishing. And I knew that. But this is the only time in my life that I knew I would have an opportunity to do this. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have a lot of expenses, so I’m able to take the responsibilities, the financial burden that is coming.
So who cares that the economy sucks? I’m young in this economy so I’m going to do what I need to do. What I’m I going to do wait until I’m older for an economy that may or may not come? This is the situation I’m presented with, who cares? I’m still going to go forward and just do what I need to do for my betterment.
Dan: What else are you looking forward to?
Mo: I want people to look to me and be like that guy knows what he’s doing. And if I have a question, I’ll ask him. And I’m not there yet and I hope to be there eventually and that’s through more effort and energy and study and coursework and things like that. So that eventually I can…I want to be an expert in my field. I’m just a…I’m a student right now.
Dan: So Mo, what advice would you give to someone who knows what they want to do, has a set goal for themselves and wants to achieve it?
Mo: Anything that’s worth doing requires a lot of work. Anything that’s easy is not worth doing. It doesn’t matter what your endeavors are, what your dreams are. If it comes too easily to you, then that’s not the right dream for you. You need to put your nose to the ground, you need to work really hard and whatever it is that you want, you will eventually achieve. And if you don’t, and if you tried your best, at least you know you did.
Some things take years. Some things don’t happen in a week, some things take five years, seven years, 10 years and it’s great to be here finally after 10 years of hard work. And I had a dream when I was a little kid and I’m just getting to the beginning of that. Now I really need to really take it and run with it and this is just the first step.
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