Career Path Interview: Jack Nguyen, DDS
Jack Nguyen, DDS
The Quick Company
On the surface, the dental profession does not seem like it would offer a variety of career paths but in reality, there’s much more than just what’s on the surface. Recently the team at the Articulator sat down and discussed the diversity the profession has to offer. From private practice and DSO to academics and public health, even entrepreneurship and innovation, there are countless options for dental school graduates or career dentists looking to make a change and find their passion within the industry. But don’t just take our word, we sat down with seven dentists from different journeys in the industry to learn about how they found their way within the profession. Despite their differences, at the heart of the interviews were two common denominators: the importance of not settling until you find a position that truly makes you happy and taking time away to reset whether through education, family, exercise or a hobby. Hear more from Dr. Amisha Singh, Dr. Geebellue Mensah, Dr. Nicole Furuta, Dr. Arthur Yagudayev, Dr. Amy Rosinsky, Dr. Jack Nguyen and Dr. Brett Kessler in the pages to come.
Dentistry was a second career for you. Can you share a bit about your background and how you ended up in the dental profession?
My background is originally in biotech research and I worked for a time in the industry before deciding to apply to dental school. Before applying, I had a few years of work experience and even received my master’s degree. I completed my DDS at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.
I graduated dental school in the midst of the mortgage crash which is what motivated me to move to Colorado where I joined a practice as an associate. However, after looking at my student loans I realized it made more sense financially to join a DSO practice for a few years. Ultimately I opened a scratch-start practice in Central Park.
You recently took a big leap, selling your private practice and dedicating the majority of your career to product development and innovation. Can you share the process you went through to develop the MicroTray?
I make an effort to write down my one, three, five and ten-year goals. While working at my second practice, I brought up the idea of writing a patent. My fiancé pushed me to act on it sooner rather than later. At that point, I started brainstorming on a problem to solve in dentistry. I would discuss with fellow dentists, the most painful points of our day-to-day work and bring up ideas to other practitioners in the industry and there seemed to be a consensus on where innovation was needed.
Once I settled on the product idea, I went down the rabbit hole of researching patents and realized I was going to need the help of professionals to accomplish this goal. After meeting with several patent attorneys, I clicked with one and things really took off from there. The patent agent connected me with product development engineers and things took off.
It was an eye-opening experience taking an idea, articulating it on paper, then translating it into engineering language. It took years of refining and re-refining the idea to turn into the tangible product it is today—which is actually nothing like the original idea I came up with.
A few years into the process, I decided to take a step back from clinical dentistry, sell my practice, and devote more time to the new business, The Quick Company. I still practice as an associate a couple of days a week but the decision has really allowed me more time to focus on this new journey.
Is there something you learned through the process that you wish you would have known when you started?
That’s a big question! The biggest thing was learning to not try to predict or control the timing. It was a long and sometimes slow process—some weeks I felt like I was going 100 miles per hour with marketing, package design, materials and more. And then there were months I felt like I wasn’t doing anything because you are waiting on licenses, engineers, the FDA, etc. There was a lot of waiting on others which I wasn’t expecting or used to.
On the same note, what advice would you give a fellow dentist that has an idea but is anxious to do anything with it?
Write things down! Articulate the details as best you can, then set it aside and reopen it in three months. If it’s still interesting at that point, then you should consider pursuing it—especially if you are losing sleep over it. With the microtray, I was thinking about it every night —almost an obsession—even after six months or so. I’ve been working on the microtray since 2016 and it only launched this year!
Talk to as many people as you can whether in dentistry or not. As an entrepreneur, every conversation is useful, either immediately or somewhere down the line. Some of the most interesting conversations I have had with other product developers were hearing about ideas that have failed. Learning about how and why things failed, the signs of failure and how the person got through it—those conversations have been so invaluable.
Now that you are immersed in the world of innovation, is there anything you believe the dental industry as a whole would benefit from?
There is a double-edged sword. One of the coolest things about dentistry is even without all the bells and whistles and huge investments in the latest and greatest equipment, a dentist can still provide great quality of care to patients. On the other edge, it’s important to openly try new products and provide helpful feedback.
I think dentistry as a whole is about 20 years behind technology-wise. Things that should be commonplace in dental practices are still cost-prohibitive. Intra-oral cameras, for example, came into the market later than they should have, with less technology than your average smartphone. Fortunately, those who have made the leap by incorporating new technology into their practice have helped drive down prices for everyone. The next few years will be interesting as companies with both dentists and engineers work to innovate new technology faster, thereby creating more competition.