Dr. Brandon Walker grew up in Astoria, Ore. – where the classic movie, The Goonies, was filmed. He had quite the career before dentistry, working as a Signals Intelligence Collector and Analyst for the U.S. Marine Corps. Throughout life, he has always asked a lot of questions and enjoyed disrupting the status quo. This is not what you’d necessarily expect from someone with a military background, but he finds value and growth in steering away from the herd. This mentality has led him to artfully question his dental school faculty, mentors, and now, all that he sees on social media.
Dr. Walker himself has a strong social media presence as @prosthabilities with over 8,000 followers. He was encouraged to start his Instagram account as a first-year student by Grad Pros resident Dr. Armand Bedrossian (@dr_bedrossian). While the platform has helped him grow as a clinician and expand his professional network, he warns that, “Some companies are using social media and young dentists to promote methods and materials with minimal scientific backing, like 5mm bulk-filled composites, where delamination of composite from the dentinal floor is common, as shown with OCT imaging by Dr. Alireza Sadr, et al. (2019).” He says social media can be an outstanding place to learn and find out about new methods and materials, but we must hold each other to high standards and be critical of outlandish claims made without scientific backing.
Dr. Walker’s passion for dentistry and the truth is evident within the first five minutes of talking with him. This passion and excellence has kept him busy teaching at the Institute of Injection Overmolding (@institute.io). He co-founded the institute in January 2020 to teach direct anterior/posterior composite with Dr. Jihyon Kim (@discingqueen) and Dr. Esther Yi (@estuhhhhdental). The institute was founded after many people encouraged them to teach hands-on courses at the Dental Influencers Alliance Conference (@influencedentistry) in Arizona.
Dr. Walker’s motto is, “When I want to do something, I just pull the trigger and do it.” The mentality is derived from 10 years in the Marines. He built the course website in one week with Squarespace, which draws attendees from all over the USA and beyond. It is limited to six doctors per course, with the intent to keep it very close knit and intimate, allowing all three instructors to tend to everyone.
Even though Dr. Walker graduated dental school in June 2020, he has been doing CE on the weekends since his first year. He also started two study clubs in school, bringing mentors in from outside to teach what they know about varied topics. He built a lab in his garage and would fool around with matrix systems, composite and materials in an attempt to figure out their limitations and become fluent with the materials. “It goes beyond just following instructions and the recipe,” says Dr. Walker.
For his courses, his goal is to get dentists to think critically, because every patient and every tooth is different. Courses have slowed down a bit with the pandemic, so Dr. Walker did temp work – and even worked in hygiene – before landing a lucrative associateship at the offices of Michael Korn, DDS. He recommends new dentists work part time as hygienists (if they can’t get a full-time job), which can open doors to eventually start working as an associate. It’s a great way to learn about practice management and insurance, and it’s important we humble ourselves especially in times like this, he notes.
Right now, in Washington hygienists can potentially make $50-70/hour due to personnel shortages and industry pressures. As a new grad dentist, you can take advantage of these opportunities while adding additional value if you do dental procedures like exams, fillings and extractions when needed. Being driven to keep learning and hustling to find work is important in times like these. It is all about seeking out opportunities, getting creative and always seeking ways to improve.
He closes by offering, “The greatest thing about our country is we all have the opportunity to pave our own path to success through good choices and an open mind. Ask questions. Take risks. And be brave.”
Luke Shapiro, DDS, received his undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in Spanish. He then went to dental school at Stony Brook and graduated in May 2018. He is now an orthodontics resident at Tufts in Boston. In dental school, Luke did research, focusing on 3D imaging, with his most recent project on the application of iPad 3D imaging technology. He was also very involved in the aesthetics club and ASDA. Luke is the leader of the dental student section of IgniteDDS. He is also the founder of @futuredentists Lucas.firstname.lastname@example.org