DentalDentist Q&A

20 Questions: Adam C. Shisler, DDS

Adam C. Shisler, DDS, is a dentist in private practice in Houston, Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences/zoology from the University of Oklahoma (2006) and a doctorate of dental surgery from the University of Texas School of Dentistry (2012). Dr. Shisler is currently completing a postgraduate pediatric dentistry residency, which he expects to complete in 2014. He has completed externships in pediatric dentistry with several graduate programs, including The University of Texas School of Dentistry (UTSD) at Houston, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, and Tufts in Boston.
Dr. Shisler was the president of the American Student Dental Assoc. at UTSD and was acknowledged with numerous awards in 2012, including Texas Dental Assoc. Outstanding Senior Award, International College of Dentists Student Leadership Award, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Predoctoral Student Award, American College of Dentists Student Leader Award, American Student Dental Assoc. Award of Excellence, and Dept. of Prosthodontics Heinz O. Beck Award of Excellence in Removables. Dr. Shisler is a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Dental Assoc., Academy of General Dentistry, Texas Dental Assoc., Texas Academy of General Dentistry, and Greater Houston Dental.
When did you first decide to become a dentist? Why?
I had the opportunity early in high school to spend time with a dentist from my hometown in an externship elective class. As I observed, I realized dentistry was a combination of medical problem solving with hands-on solution orientation patient care in an environment that was entirely constructed from the personality and vision of the dentist. That model of environment was irreplaceable in other professions.

How/why did you choose the dental school you attended?

The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston is located in the largest medical center on earth. The opportunity to study and learn dentistry in such an environment was the greatest factor in choosing to stay in Houston for dental school. As a word of advice to those entering dental school or applying to dental school, the best dental school is the one you get into. The rest of the experience is all up to you. All dental schools have their ups and downs, their positives and negatives, but having an eager mind to maximize your learning experience and a positive attitude will make any school the best dental school for you.
What surprised you the most about dental school?
The constant emphasis to pay attention to every detail. Dental school has an immense amount of lab work and a high demand on exercising dexterity. If you do not innately possess the ability to hone in on details and your skill set does not contain manual dexterity, then dentistry may be extremely difficult and overwhelming.
Why did you choose to go into pediatric dentistry?
After college I chose to do a two-year teaching program with Teach For America (TFA). With TFA, I began my teaching career in a fourth grade classroom on the southeast side of Houston. In that classroom, I established my passion in working and teaching children. Dentistry was always my long-term goal and professional path, but for two years I learned how much joy working with children gives me. Once in dental school, I worked my tail off to have the privilege to specialize in treating the ever-challenging pediatric population.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a dentist? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?
Realistically, no I wouldn’t choose any other profession in the world. In an alternate reality, given an additional six inches of height, I would desire to be the starting second baseman for a major league baseball team, but I don’t see that happening.
Has being a dentist met your expectations? Why?
Well, still being in residency, it hasn’t met my financial expectations, but I am promised it will soon.
What do you like most about being a dentist? Explain.
Working with my hands. Every patient, every appointment, I try to achieve perfection. The crazy thing is that I can always improve and learn new and better ways to do a procedure. That challeng, is what I enjoy the most.

What do you like least about being a dentist? Explain.

There is nothing I can think of that automatically comes to mind, which I guess is a great sign.

Describe a typical day at work-walk readers through a day in your shoes.

In residency, we constantly circulate from one service in our out-patient practice to any of the pediatric medical services at the Children’s Hospital. So it’s always something new. A typical day starts with reviewing the electronic health record for the upcoming day’s procedures. Most of my morning patients are either medically-complex patients or high anxiety patients that require sedation for treatment. Upon their arrival, I’ll do a physical assessment to ensure the patient is healthy for sedation. The beauty of dentistry is that very few things in our scope are life threatening, so it’s not worth sedating a child for a cavity if they aren’t fit for sedation, we can always reappoint if the kiddo isn’t healthy on the day of. In our residency, we’ll do two or three sedations in a morning, take lunch, then in the afternoon see a barrage of mixed patients. Anything from new patients that have been referred from another dental office, to those who see other medical specialists in the Texas Medical Center and were recommended to obtain all treatment with UT Pediatric Dentistry.
On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
Residency is really tough to average, because we take 24-hour call at the Children’s Hospital. Some weeks are abnormal 60 hours plus, but most weeks are very normal 40 to 50 hours. Many nights I get a full six to seven hours of sleep and we have two weeks of vacation each year.

Do you have family, and if so, do you have enough time to spend with them?

Yes, my wife Emily is the smartest, most driven person I know. She is the director of English curriculum for a large charter school system here in Houston. Her job is very demanding as well. We have been married for nearly four years and we are still working on personal and professional balance on both ends. However, you never ever spend enough time with those that you love, we could always spend more.

How do you balance work and life outside of work?

Two years ago Emily and I got a gorgeous English cream golden retriever name Adrian. She is our balance, we love to spend any time we have together outside at the park, walking the Heights hike and bike trail or letting her swim out at my parent’s pool.

Are you satisfied with your income? Explain.

No, I’m a resident. I am currently making the state of Texas a lot of money.

If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain? Explain.

It is a financial strain. However, choosing the right advisors that can help Emily and I make smarter decisions now will benefit us later.

In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?

Continue to take risks. Always make new friends. Stay involved in associations/organizations. And forever remind the people you love that you love them.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were pre-dental school?
Every grade, every test, counts.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in dentistry today? Explain.
The cost of dental education. The high costs are creating an equation for new grads to unfortunately make decisions to practice in a way that unfortunately isn’t always best for the patient. It’s unfortunate that new grads coming out of school, due to their high loan amounts, really don’t have a choice in where or who they work for. This is perpetuating other problems, such as lack of qualified dentists in rural areas, the rise of dental chains with private-equity interests, and the encroachment of mid-level providers.

Where do you see dentistry in five to 10 years?

Dentistry will continue to benefit from advances in bio-materials. I’d love to see the influence of stem-cells within pulp regeneration or dental replacement therapy. Dentistry will also continue to benefit from advancements in imaging, and the increased presence of cone-beam CT will dramatically assist in many areas from implants to surgery.
As a profession, I’d like to see more done about the cost of dental education. If nothing dramatic happens to limit the loan market, I believe dental schools and new dental grads will be headed for the same over-saturated market that attorney and new law school grads face.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
As a resident, I volunteer every day! Joking aside, UT Pediatric Dentistry volunteers all over the city of Houston almost monthly at various health fairs, children’s benefits and oral screenings.
Do you have any final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing dentistry as a career?
Start or continue to spend time in a dental office. This will allow you to have a clear vision of what all the schooling, studying, and lab time will grant you. It’s important to have your vision in mind when you are studying late at night for the DAT, an organic chemistry final, or even your boards. With good grades, a positive attitude and a clear vision of what your long-term goal is you will be set for success in the profession of dentistry. Also, don’t ever underestimate the power of being involved in associations and organizations. Dentistry is all about networking and connecting yourself with the best and the brightest of the profession. If you aren’t involved in your university’s pre-dental club and the American Student Dental Association as a pre-dental member then you are not preparing yourself for success. Both associations and organizations can prepare you for achieving acceptance and realizing your goals in dentistry.

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