Life after practice

After a varied career as a dentist, Jane Foggin (pictured right) decided to retire in 2008. When she sold her practice, Canon Street Dental Centre, to IDH (Integrated Dental Holdings) she went down an unexpected path that has led her to pass on her skills and knowledge to others. Here, she discusses her new found roles with IDH.

What roles have you had throughout your career?

To begin with I did some oral surgery house jobs. I also worked at Royal Dental Hospital. Then I worked at Great Ormond Street where I was a children’s registrar, so I was a hospital dentist for some time.

Then I had a family and my husband had to move down to the west country for his career. That’s when I went into general practice. It was a different career pathway in order to fit family and my husband’s career together. The plan was to go into general practice part-time and look after a family as well.

What made you want to sell the practice?

Again, it was for family reasons. I was 54 and coming up to that period of thinking about retirement. It was the right time.

Did you just want to slow down or retire completely?

I only ever worked part-time when I had my children, but it was an entirely NHS practice so it was fairly stressful. My husband was hoping to retire too. So I thought it would be nice to do it at the same time.

Were you concerned about it being a corporate sale?

By the time my business partner and I decided to sell the practice it had six surgeries with quite a good contract value. Nobody in the practice wanted to take it on, so I knew it was probably going to be a corporate sale.

Initially, there were some concerns about selling to a corporate. I’d heard all the bad stories just like everybody else. But these concerns were ironed out with IDH, so I felt comfortable selling to them. 

I found that the acquisitions team at IDH was very amenable to talking over and sorting out whatever glitches I had about the sale. For example, I wanted to keep our practice manager, which the team made possible. The team wanted to make the sale as accommodating as they could within various constraints that IDH has. 

It was decided that you would stay on at the practice.

I didn’t want to start a new patient list somewhere else. 

I could have moved but I spent the last six or seven years building up Canon Street. I’d created relationships with patients and I didn’t want to start again; it’s hard work starting in a new practice, and so I thought: ‘Well, I will stick it out for another five years.’

Did you enjoy running Canon Street?

I did but it was a sharp learning curve. It was a full-on commitment, not just with the clinical side but the management was another post in itself. We used to have meetings on Sunday mornings and commitments like that – it was all encompassing.

My partner has much more of a business mind than I do. 

Now I just do the clinical side and I enjoy doing that. So, now I’m a foundation dentist trainer and I started that just as we were selling the practice.

Did you have to take any exams to be a foundation trainer with IDH?

I had actually qualified to be a foundation trainer before coming to Canon Street. But when you do foundation training the trainee is actually making a contract with you as an owner.

I had to let the deanery know I no longer owned Canon Street, as I now had no control in running the practice. But IDH has always been very supportive and wrote letters to the deanery saying anything they could do to make it work they would. IDH has always bought any equipment needed and made sure rules were followed that the deanery introduced.

I think it’s become more common for corporate practices to work this way. But at the time there was only one other corporate dental practice in the area. 

Then you took on a role as clinical support manager.

I applied to do the clinical support manager job about 18 months ago. And I’ve been doing that one-day a week. It involves going around to various dental practices and working with the clinicians and helping if they have any issues to raise. Or, we may have picked up some issues in the practices, perhaps concerning X-ray taking or their clinical notes – it can be anything.

How do you juggle these three roles?

Obviously my clinical dentistry is set aside but the foundation trainer and the clinical support manager roles are very similar. They are basically about mentoring; you are offering the experience that you have gained over your career to somebody else and helping them. And I think the fact that I am a practising dentist myself means I have a good and realistic understanding of their job. I know what the difficulties are and I understand the issues they are struggling with.

What do you get from mentoring?

I have found that mentoring young dentists has been great. They have become friends of mine. It’s nice to see them develop in their career.

In terms of the mentoring as a clinical support manager there is another side to the job. IDH has a few dentists who are EU graduates who often struggle with the NHS system and the ethos of it. So helping them understand that is rewarding.

What have you learnt from your many roles?

I always learn something clinically; some of the people I work with are better at certain things than me.

Also, there is this perception of our EU colleagues that some of what they do is not as good as it should be. But I’ve not found this to be the case. A lot of them have very high ideals and expectations.

Would you do anything differently with your career in general?

I think for me personally I wish I had taken on more roles at a younger time. I put my family first but there are opportunities out there and taking these doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing your family life. I’ve probably left it a bit late in the game but hopefully other colleagues will do it earlier.

Have you passed this advice to the younger dentists?

IDH is recruiting more clinical support managers because it has decided that this is a good idea. And a lot of them are younger than me. One of the girls who started the job with me had only been qualified for seven or eight years, and now she’s eclipsed me. 

What would you tell someone about IDH?

I would say that the company is constantly changing and learning and it does listen to its dentists; it is now addressing issues that may have been there in the past. IDH is making sure it is providing a good environment for them to work in.

What would you say about your roles with IDH?

I would recommend them to everybody. I think helping the next generation is always a positive thing. The dentist trainer learns as much from the trainees as the trainees learn from the trainer. Both roles can be a positive aspect in your life balance.

Jane Foggin qualified from the Royal Dental Hospital in 1978. After working in the hospital system she opened Canon Street Dental Centre with her business partner in 2002. The practice was sold to IDH in 2008. Now, Jane works as an IDH foundation trainer and a clinical support manager.

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