‘What I wish I’d known then’ – Eric G. Jackson, Sports Dentist

As part of the ‘what I wish I’d known then’ BJSM blog series, Eric G. Jackson was interviewed by Corina Bello [1]

Name: Eric G. Jackson, DDS

Workplace: Downers Grove, Illinois, USA

Career Path: General Dentistry

Personal interests: My 4 children keep me quite busy

Personal Sports Career: Illinois state high school basketball tournament 1996 and 1997

What attracted you to the specialty you now work in? Especially, what lead you to your huge commitment in and interest for sports dentistry?

I think the single biggest factor that led to my involvement in sports dentistry is the people.  Sports dentistry is filled with phenomenal people. The players and coaches, the stadium or venue filled with fans, and especially the professional colleagues that make up the medical team.  I consider myself very lucky to have made so many lasting friendships through sports dentistry.   

How does a typical day at work as a sports dentist look like? What kind of athletes do you see, are there any trends regarding which type of sports (eg. contact sports like boxing, ice hockey) you see most often and what about leisure athletes?  

My dental practice is not limited to sports dentistry so most days I am not directly working on only athletes.  We are a family dental practice that has been serving the needs of our community for over 40 years.  During my tenure as the official team dentist for the Chicago Bandits professional softball team I obviously worked closely with the players and staff.  We also see quite a few leisure or recreational athletes as well as student athletes from surrounding areas. These athletes participate in a wide variety of different sports.

What was the best decision you ever made?

The best professional decision I ever made was easily my decision to apply to dental school.  This is an amazing profession that affords its members such a vast array of opportunities as well as the ability to tailor make your daily professional life into exactly what you desire.  Some dentists love sports dentistry and are drawn into that subfield.  Others love cosmetics, public health, geriatrics, pediatrics, and so many others.  You can own one single small office, or many offices, or choose to never own an office at all.  It is an amazing profession that has given me so much.  I am very fortunate.

What was the biggest risk you ever took? How do you feel about it now?

The biggest risk I ever took was buying my dental practice in 2009.  I was young, and probably a bit underprepared for the business and management side of buying a dental practice, but it quickly proved to be one of the best things I could have done in my professional career. Hard work, perseverance, and a working alongside amazing coworkers are three essentials to success and I was fortunate to have all three.

What 3 things are you most thankful for in your medical career?

The first would be the fantastic people I’ve met along my professional journey. From patients to colleagues, I have been very fortunate to both work with and deliver care to some absolutely amazing people.  The second would be dental organizations.  I love how organizations allow like-minded colleagues to come together professionally but also personally.  I feel my abilities as a dentist really started to grow when I became active in a variety of organizations.  Finally, I am thankful for the ever-advancing technology and techniques of our profession.   From intraoral scanners and milling units to Cone Beam CAT scans, technology and techniques are allowing dentists across the world to deliver better dental care than ever before.  It’s a very exciting time to be in the dental field.

What is your greatest strength?

Professionally, I think only of my strengths is diagnostics.  I’ve always enjoyed being able to have a patient sit down and work together to figure out a diagnosis and course of treatment.  I’ve always likened it to being a detective like Sherlock Holmes.

What is the most challenging project you have ever undertaken?

Managing my practice during the COVID-19 pandemic was certainly one of the most challenging projects I’ve every professionally undertaken.  In the end, I feel we were extremely successful in our efforts but arriving at that point took quite a bit of hard work and effort.  It would never have happened without my stellar staff, especially my office manager Tammie.  Simply put, she’s a rockstar who’s insight and game planning were essential to our successful navigation through the twists and turns of the pandemic.

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself – say between the age of 25-30 years-old?

I’d tell myself to “Trust your gut instinct.”  Dental professionals are often meticulous, obsessive, detail-oriented individuals.  These traits are a benefit when providing dental care to patients, but can sometimes be a hindrance in other situations.  Sometimes there isn’t time, or there isn’t the ability to meticulously dissect an issue in business, or in life, to the same degree that you might chairside.  By giving my younger self this advice, perhaps I’d streamline some decision-making processes, or at least make them less stressful than they were. 

What tips would you give to students/junior doctors to improve their career prospects?

First, commit to being a lifelong learner.  We live in an era where research and information is both produced and disseminated so quickly, we as dentists have an obligation to consume knowledge more than any era before.  Doing so mutually benefits both dental practitioner as well as patient.  Second, be sure to take a few business classes prior to dental school.  It will allow you to see daily issues in two different lights, as a healthcare provider as well as a businessperson.  Effectively blending these two viewpoints also benefits both patient and dental practitioner.  Finally, become active in professional dental organizations.  I have gained some of the best knowledge and met some of the best friends through these groups.  Young dentists befriending and learning from older and more experienced dentists is fantastic and once again, benefits both patients and dental practitioner alike.   

[1] Corina Bello, MD. Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, University of Bern, 3010 Bern, Switzerland; corina.bello@bluewin.ch (C.B.).





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