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Practitioner Highlight: Dr. Mark McCullough

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Meet Dr. Mark McCullough, practicing dentist for over 20 years and Chief Dental Officer of MCA Dental Group. Dr. McCullough currently practices in Ottawa, Ontario. 

What inspired you to become a dentist?

I always knew that I wanted to be a dentist.  I was 12 years old when I decided that was my calling.  I really didn’t know where a career in dentistry could take me.  I spent a lot of time back then catching turtles, crayfish, frogs, and minnows.  My parents tried to suggest that maybe I should think about a career in Marine Biology as it was very difficult to get into Dental School.  That fuelled my fire even more and there was no changing my mind.

In high school, I was in the co-op program, and I asked if they could find me a dentist to shadow. I wanted to ensure that I would be truly interested in the field of dentistry.  After a placement in both a dental office and a dental lab, I was convinced that this in fact was the career path for me.  After I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario, I was accepted into Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto.  Upon graduation, I went back to my hometown of Peterborough, as an associate.  Dr. Don Foster, was my first mentor and it was here that I gained insight into what the dental profession could actually be.  Not only was he available for me to shadow, allowed me time to take continuing education, bailed me out if I got in over my head in a procedure, but he was revered by his team, his patients, and the community, all while running an amazing clinic, the largest in the area.  I quickly knew that I wanted to be just like him.

What aspects of dentistry make you excited to go to work?

I love the people.  The team, the patients, the associates that I have working with me.  It is certainly a strong driving force for me enjoying dentistry as both a career and a hobby.  You must love what you do!  You spend a significant amount of your life in your chosen career.  

From a clinical standpoint I have become proficient in most aspects of dentistry.  Currently most of my clinical time is spent on the surgical side.  Wisdom teeth, implants and surgery, all-on-4, sedation.  I also spend time mentoring as well.  I was fortunate to have found a mentor early, and it is important to me to provide the same.

What drives your desire to want to teach/mentor?

When I was a young dentist, I had the pleasure of being mentored for the first few years of my career.  While in Peterborough, it was Dr. Don Foster that introduced me to the concept of mentorship.  This was then solidified when I moved to Ottawa and found myself under the wing of Dr. Berne Reesor.  Berne focused his mentorship both on clinical skills, and the often-undervalued soft skills with people.  This was an invaluable skill that he ensured that I focused on.   Years later, upon reflection of my early days in the profession, I realized I was fortunate to have found mentorship, and the absolute value that it provided.  I quickly realized that I would do the same when opportunity knocked.  I have worked very hard to refine my skills as a dentist, it is fulfilling to share that knowledge.  It is so important for young dentists to learn of the many opportunities available in this profession. 

Can you share with us one of the more gratifying moments of your career?

In 2021, I donated my time through MCA to a special cause that would give one deserving person a total smile makeover.  When I offered to do this, I had no idea how much working with this patient would change my life.  Since he lives outside the city in a remote community, we had to condense our appointments into longer ones, which gave us the opportunity to spend more time together.  He had spent so many years in pain, not able to eat the foods he enjoyed simply because he was unable to afford the treatments he needed.  The cherry on top? We completed all the work the day before his daughter’s wedding.  Which meant he was able to walk her down the aisle with a perfect smile and enjoy the food at the reception without any discomfort.  We still keep in touch, and I will never forget the impact my work had on his life.

Why did you start MCA Dental Group?

Well, at the time I owned a several practices with a close friend of mine.  Our growth had slowed down and I was looking for a way to stimulate that.  I initiated some conversations with another good friend, Ken Craig, who is a brilliant entrepreneur.  After a few conversations and some initial strategy sessions, we decided to start our own support organization for dentists.  This would give me the opportunity to build the kind of organization that dentists would enjoy being a part of and involved with.  We have built an incredible team that truly cares about each other and the patient experience.  I am so proud of how far we have come and the amazing partners we have built relationships with along the way.

 

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