Spring 2015

Building Patient Trust

Rule number one is to listen, advises keynote speaker at Bates-Andrews Day

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Ancy Verdier, the keynote speaker at Bates-Andrews Day, says sometimes "we doctors talk too much." Photo: Matthew Healey

Ancy Verdier has had quite an education in the first decade of his career. He has perfected the smiles of the rich and famous in the Hamptons on Long Island and put down roots in the less-tony but up-and-coming city of Worcester, Massachusetts. Along the way, he has learned that it takes more than technical expertise to be a complete clinician.

Verdier, A96, D03, DG06, shared his story with current Tufts dental students in March during his keynote speech at Bates-Andrews Research Day, which showcases student research from the previous year. A triple Jumbo, he has an undergraduate degree in psychology, a D.M.D. and a postgraduate certificate in periodontology. After graduation, he joined a practice in East Hampton, New York, and later opened his own office in the area. Still keeping that practice, he became a partner at another practice in central Massachusetts, where he moved with his family.

By any measure, he has been successful. He says a fulfilling career as a dentist requires three things: clinical expertise, patient engagement and a practice based on science.

While he says Tufts gave him excellent clinical skills, it took a while to figure out how much he needed to connect with his patients. First, he learned to listen.

“We doctors, sometimes we talk too much,” he said. “You know the first thing I do when a patient comes in? I don’t pick out a probe and a mirror. I sit down right next to them, and I say, ‘Why are you here?’ ”

If a patient has bleeding gums, he takes photos for the patient to see; he finds it more effective than holding up a mirror. He has filmed informational videos about innovative treatments and put them on his website (www.worcesterperiodontics.com). He sees educating his patients about procedures and the reasons behind them as crucial parts of his job. “When a patient says that is it too expensive, it is never about the money,” he says, noting that if the patient truly understood that the procedure would save their teeth, they would do it. “Patients will only see what they perceive as valuable.”

Incorporating evidence-based dentistry into his practice was something of a homecoming for Verdier. As a dental student, he did several research studies and was familiar with the steps involved, and the value of such studies. Yet when Tufts invited him to use his practice as a research site for testing out new products for Procter & Gamble, he was surprised by how much he got out of the experience. His patients were impressed that he was working on the cutting edge; he felt newly motivated to be innovative in his own work, and he was reminded of how important it is to stay on top of the current research.

Now when a sales rep from a company comes through his door, he doesn’t hesitate to ask if they have done a systematic review of the product, or if he can talk to someone who has already used the product in his or her practice.

“They don’t come in and lie to me anymore,” Verdier said.

On Long Island, he started a study club with other dentists to discuss journal articles and best practices. When one of them has a particularly intriguing case, a handful of them might join in on the consultation. “Five dentists standing around the patient treatment planning—how special does that patient feel?” Verdier asks.

Thus, reconnecting with research has also helped him connect with other dentists. “Dentistry, I’ll tell you, can be very lonely sometimes,” he says. “Sometimes you need to get together.” —Julie Flaherty

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