Interview with Dr. Wayne J. Saunders, DMD

by Cat Adduci

“Try not to become a man of success but rather become a man of Value.”

Words brilliantly spoken by Theoretical Physicist Albert Einstein.

This quote resonates in my mind thinking back to speaking with Dr. Wayne J. Saunders, founder and managing partner of one of the largest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Implantology Centers on the East Coast.   While many believe that when owning a business, one puts the success of the business first, Saunders takes a surprisingly refreshing and innovative approach.

“We offer care.”  Saunders blatantly states, as if it is the obvious answer to the question of what is most important.  “We are different than other businesses because we are health care providers before business owners.  Any business takes pride in what they do, but throughout the day, we are doctors no matter the success of the business. Caring for our patients is not only important, it’s the entire point.”

He sits forward in his seat as if his favorite band is about to take the stage – a nice stance to see when someone is talking about their business.  “I wanted to do something on my own.  This is my hometown. Opportunity arose with St. Luke’s Hospital becoming a level one trauma center, and they needed coverage.  With a strong footing in a hospital, I was eager to open my practice.”

Saunders tilts his head and admits, “I was nervous about competition.  There were plenty of talented oral surgeons in the area and still are.”  He quickly continues on sitting further up in his seat as if reminding himself of his own physical and mental backbone.  “There is always room for someone who is good. You see a busy business and you can’t chive away from competition.  With that mindset and the determination to offer high quality care at a price that was affordable, I knew it was my job to be successful in order to offer the people of the Lehigh Valley this service.  From the start I wanted to offer immediate access. and help patients who need to be seen, when they can be seen.”

The practice was innovative in its’ approach to medical marketing.  “Dentistry and medicine is changing and you need to keep up with it.” He laughs when mentioning how many medical commercials and billboards flood the area, and it is hard to not do the same. “You need to have a presence. You need to be dynamic. You need to change as times change.  I was never directly criticized regarding advertising, but at the time when I started it was not yet common.  My thought was advertising is cumulative.  It may not be immediate, but it may help us in five years, and help us attain brand recognition.”  He grins and takes a sip of water.  We both know he doesn’t need to point out that he was correct.

A slight shoulder shrug accompanies his statement when asked about business struggles.  “The biggest struggle externally is insurance.  I feel as though many are quick to criticize doctors for the price of treatment, however insurance companies have high premiums for individuals.”   His tone becomes genuinely humble. “It is extremely difficult to help our patients be able to afford our treatments while paying for the expense of the surgery itself.”  A long sigh accompanies a list of items he mentions that contribute to treatment fees.  I can only listen in disbelief, watching the concerned expression grimace over his face.

The growth of the practice is clearly a point of pride for Saunders, but not without circling back to his patients.  “In this day in age, in the medical world, there is strength in numbers.  When dealing with upcoming changes to healthcare, you have more of the ability to stand up for your patients’ care in volume.”  He continues with words of caution. “The key is having volume without sacrificing quality of care.  I like the doctors I am with, my partners and my staff.  These are people who not only take pride in what they do, but strive to give personalized care no matter our growth.”

I nervously tap my pen to paper asking Saunders about his regrets.  “ I have made mistakes, but I have no regrets.  I am very content, and very happy.”   I pause, eyebrows raised, before smiling as I continue to jot down my notes.  Never would I have expected a more perfect answer.

Dr. Wayne Saunders continues on more about more growth potential.   Instead of success, his mission is to continue giving the highest quality of care possible to as many patients as he is able to reach.  We finish up as he chivalrously takes the check and firmly shakes my hand.

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