Dr. Stephen Haverkos
Someone recommended, due to my past experiences and passion for what I do, that I should share my thoughts in a blog. I always thought blogs were for recipes, technology gurus, or financial advisors, what do I have to offer as a hometown orthodontist? What do I even “blog” about? I have spent several weeks thinking about potential topics and although there are many fun and interesting topics within orthodontics, I decided to start with a blog about why I chose ortho.
Whenever someone talks to me about why I went into the profession, many people make assumptions that it is due to the money. I believe for many orthodontists that is the case and it does pay well. I chose this profession after a prior career, a very good career with a good company, Procter and Gamble. I was a power and controls engineer and project manager for P&G. Basically I was nerd who worked on computers and managed multi-million dollar projects and construction teams. I worked in Bounty and Charmin so I could tell you more than you ever care to know about paper towels and toilet paper. It was a good career with an even better company. Due to the profit sharing plans and promote from within culture, the income opportunities with the company were limitless if you were willing to put in the work to move up the corporate ladder. So when I say making a career change to dentistry and orthodontics, money was not a driving factor. I potentially could have been more “well off” if I had stayed with my P&G career, but I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. I worked long hours and travelled more than I wanted to. I worked with amazing people which is the reason P&G has been and will always be successful. However, I knew that if I stayed with P&G, the company will always set your priorities and will always be wanting something from you. I wanted a different path where I felt I had some control and I could do something that directly impacted people.
So again, why ortho? My dad is a retired orthopedist and I was raised with our kitchen being used as a treatment room. Friends and family on the west side would frequently come over for my dad to evaluate a broken bone or remove a cast. I would help out with minor tasks when I was younger in order to feel like I was a part of their care. My dad was the team doc for Elder for many decades. I would stand on the sideline with him and help in anyway I could while he would examine players for sprains, strains, and broken bones. For the longest time I wanted to be a physician. Unfortunately changes in medicine changed my dad’s outlook of his career choice. As a result, I became less interested in medicine and evaluated other possible career paths.
When I went to the University of Cincinnati (Go Bearcats!), I majored in Biomedical Engineering. I enjoyed learning how things worked and felt engineering was a good fit for me. I had awesome job opportunities while I was in school at Johnson and Johnson and Procter and Gamble. I also evaluated other professional schools, but I found an interest in dentistry. Dr. Reddy was my parent’s next door neighbor and he has always been a mentor of mine influencing me to consider dentistry. I shadowed many general dentists but conversations with Dr. Reddy made me decide to apply to dental school. However, I was burnt out with school and although I had interviews at dental school, I decided to take a job opportunity to start a career at P&G.
Fast forward 3-4 years after graduation and I am working crazy long hours at P&G. I wasn’t happy and felt I had made a mistake. I felt as though I should have pursued the dental field. I reconnected with Dr. Reddy and several conversations with him made me feel like I should reconsider my career path. I knew dental school was a desirable field and very competitive to get accepted. I wasn’t even thinking of considering pursuing a specialty like orthodontics, I just wanted to get accepted to dental school. I shadowed my former dentist, Dr. Lenz and his good friend Dr. Dorr. I really enjoyed watching their patient interactions and getting to work with one’s hands to provide a direct service to help people. My wife, Stephanie, was instrumental in allowing me to pursue a different career. She knew it would mean we would lose my very comfortable income to plunge our family into an insane amount of debt. It also meant our life plans would drastically change for the next four years as I trained in dental school. With all that being said, she encouraged me to pursue it. She’s the reason I was able to make the change and commit. I quickly started to dust off the cobwebs of all my old chemistry, science, organic chemistry textbooks (yuck!) from college to study for the dental admission test (DAT).
Fortunately a summer of working long hours at P&G and even longer hours studying for the DAT I was able to get accepted at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. Compared to the hours I was working at P&G, dental school wasn’t so bad. I would work 80-100 hour work weeks at P&G so going back to school felt like my life slowed down. I also had a renewed focus and drive for what I wanted. I learned that because I enjoyed what I was doing, I could more easily excel in my studies. As a result, it opened some doors for me. I originally wasn’t planning on pursuing a specialty but I had kept in touch with Dr. Reddy and he kept repeatedly telling me my background in engineering would be a great fit for orthodontics. When I took my first introduction to orthodontics class, I quickly realized he was right. I was able to use my background in engineering to quickly grasp and understand the physics of moving teeth. The best part about it is the direct impact to a patient, especially their confidence. I loved it and studying and learning more about it became my passion. I was fortunate to get matched at Virginia Commonwealth University Orthodontic and Dentofacial Orthopedic Residency program. I spent two years there immersed in orthodontics learning from faculty from all over the world. It was an awesome experience that has prepared me for private practice.
All the while I continued to connect and learn from Dr. Reddy. Little did I know, it was his plan all long to get me to come back to the west side of Cincinnati to run his practice. I official purchased and transitioned the practice in 2019 and it has been an awesome ride. Every day I get to directly help people and see their faces light up when they see the change in their smile. I believe I have the best job in the world. I am energized by the challenges associated with treating difficult dental cases. The patients on the west side are such great people and it is an honor to get to serve them. I am blessed with an amazing team who loves what they do. We treat kids and adults and my team wants the interaction to be about more than straight teeth. We strive to really get to know our patients and what is going on in their lives. We love celebrating the highs in their lives and supporting them if they are going through hard times. We are a hometown, family focused practice. We want everyone to feel like they know us and that we know them as family.
So when I am asked why I pursued ortho, my answer is so incredibly cheesy. I honestly don’t think I could find anything else that I enjoy more than building genuine relationships with our neighbors and making people smile.