Chad Schulz followed in his father Sidney’s footsteps, building a career in dentistry, with a dream of joining him in private practice. But when he graduated, Chad found his path to practice ownership shaping up differently from his father’s journey. And that wasn’t the only surprise, as Sidney learned from his son and made a career move that brought their paths closer together. Today, both doctors own individual Aspen Dental practices in Wisconsin, about 90 minutes apart. In celebration of Father’s Day, we’ve asked them to share their thoughts on their dentistry careers and how the profession has strengthened their father and son bond.
Becoming a Dentist, Just Like Dad
I became a dentist because of my dad. I can’t remember wanting to be anything other than a dentist—okay, for a short time, I wanted to be an NBA basketball player, but that wasn’t in the cards.
My childhood was full of dad’s enthusiasm for his work. Even in my early days, I was his apprentice. Dad always let me shadow him, training me as a dental assistant to work with him in the summer.
From those early days together, I distinctly remember how he treated patients. He would even call them after extractions or root canals just to see how they were healing. Not everyone does that.
As my enthusiasm for my dental career grew, I knew how hard it would be to emulate the example he set, particularly putting patients first. When I formally set my sights on dentistry, heading off to dental school, my dream was to join dad’s private practice after graduation.
As graduation got closer, we both saw things were changing. Growth was just getting harder with more competition, and the costs to keep updating technology in a practice were creating new considerations.
Seeing these changes, one of the most important things Dad did for me as a professional and as a father was to encourage me to explore my options and find the best path to fulfill my private practice aspirations without pressure.
So I did just that and set my sights on finding a path that would give me experience and let me grow as a dentist. As I participated in campus recruiting events and did my own research, I got to know Aspen Dental and Aspen Dental Management Inc, the dental support organization (DSO) that provides outsourced business support services to dentists in privately owned Aspen Dental offices.
It didn’t take long to figure out that practicing in the Aspen Dental network would be the best choice for me after school. Every time I connected with them, I was impressed and genuinely surprised that they cared about me as an individual and as a professional.
I could see that I would be supported with education, development, mentoring, and business support in my career, from financing to marketing in running my practice. I also saw a clear path to ownership.
Since I signed on with Aspen Dental, I’ve had no regrets. I’ve developed great relationships with talented dentists, especially Dr. Katherine Leyes in Appleton, who led my seven-week immersion.
I’ve been able to take advantage of development programs (they have an amazing focus on implants with leading specialists), and through the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve had so much support, from understanding local compliance to personal protective equipment.
On top of all this support, my dad, hands down, is still my best mentor, and I’m fortunate he’s always a phone call away. We talk nearly every day on our drive home. It’s been a lot of fun and means so much to me, since we’ve always wanted to work together.
A New Beginning Inspired by My Son
I got off to a rocky start in dentistry. I didn’t have a true mentor early on, and like many dentists, I learned firsthand that being a solo practitioner in a private practice can be lonely, especially at the beginning.
I remember thinking to myself that if I ever had a child who got into dentistry, I wanted to be able to provide that support. I think it has worked out that way with Chad since he graduated from dental school, and I’ve been lucky to learn so much from him.
I was so proud when Chad went to dental school, after spending summers together in my office, and our goal always was to practice together. As Chad got closer to graduation, though, it was becoming clear that practicing together would be difficult.
I encouraged him to explore his options, and the more he learned and the more he shared about his experiences with Aspen Dental, I could see his decision shaping up.
As he moved into practice, I saw that he was getting the support as part of the Aspen Dental network that I had missed coming out of dental school. Reflecting back on my career, I’d invested a lot financially and in elbow grease in my own development and education and in working with consultants to help grow my practice while balancing patient care. Chad had that support on his first day in practice and could pass it on to his patients in terms of quality care.
We began to joke that maybe I should check out my options, and soon that joke became a very practical consideration. I did my own research, considered my options, and decided to sell my practice and become a private practice owner of an Aspen Dental office in Oshkosh, a 40-minute drive from my home in Neenah.
There have been a few chapters in my dental career, a career that has been so meaningful and fulfilling. Dentistry is changing, and like so many others, I am learning new things every day. That’s one of the reasons why I value the support I get from the Aspen Dental network, where we say it’s about so much more than just dentistry.
I am so fortunate in my personal and professional life that my son is a young professional who has the ability to quickly grasp and understand new things, and I can tap into his knowledge. Even though we aren’t working together in the way that we had planned, I couldn’t be happier that we have a strong connection and are part of a network where we can follow paths that match our goals.
For me, that’s building my practice in Oshkosh while Chad does the same in Wausau, with lots of growth potential. Maybe one day, I can transition to part-time and work with Chad, if he needs me.
Sidney Schulz, DDS, is the dentist owner of an Aspen Dental office in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and has been practicing since 1987. His son, Chad Schulz, DDS, is the dentist owner of an Aspen Dental office in Wausau, Wisconsin, and has been practicing since 2015.
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