Center Stage – DSO Influencer, Dr. Marc B. Cooper

For the past nine years, Group Dentistry Now has been committed to the success of emerging dental groups & DSOs and the people who work for them. 

In January 2019, we began recognizing DSO influencers with our annual ‘DSO Influencers to Watch’ list. Since then, we have pivoted from an annual list to a regularly featured article, Center Stage, which highlights an individual DSO influencer. 

Who is a DSO influencer? Someone who impacts and influences not just their dental group, but the DSO industry at large. With well-honed leadership skills, they inspire positivity, exhibit vision, and display entrepreneurial energy. Outside-the-box thinkers, they have extraordinary business acumen and philanthropic interest.  

Dr. Marc B. Cooper has been in the dental industry since 1966 – that’s over 56 years – as a dental student, dental resident in periodontics, a basic science researcher in immunology, clinician, practice owner, academician, coach, consultant, adviser, trainer, futurist, thought partner, entrepreneur, author, speaker, and conference maker. Dentistry is his tribe, of which he is now an elder.

Dr. Cooper has worked with nearly every stakeholder in dentistry – private practice, partnered practices, small groups, small and large DSOs, third parties, clearing houses, suppliers, dental schools, professional organizations, think tanks, entrepreneurs, capital investors, splinter groups, and state and federal governments.

Over his career, he has worked with dentists and their related stakeholders from the U.S., Canada, Panama, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Israel, U.K, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Portugal, Cambodia, and Singapore. He believes that a global perspective allows for better vision.

His work in the dental industry was a professional platform that allowed him to work in other industries over the years; hospitals and hospital systems, physician groups (IPAs), pharma, safety, venture capital, aerospace, medical insurance, business incubators, banks, nonprofits, hospice, psychedelics, and AI/IT. All were valuable teachers. Lessons learned impacted his perspective of dentistry as an industry and how all the parts relate.

Dr. Cooper is currently President of MBC Consultants, Inc. (Est 1985) and Chairman and President of The Contemporary Elder Institute (Est 2018).  MBC has two divisions. CEI provides programs and interactions that shift late-age professionals from older to elder. MBC Consulting delivers customized online programs such as Leadership Development in Other and Developing Leaders in Others.

GDN: What do you see as the biggest challenge for DSOs?

Dr. Cooper: DSO’s biggest challenge is becoming what they’re not – integrateable.

Dental-medical integration is a fait accompli. It is now irreversible. Specific components are leading the charge – medical advances in AI and IT, the healthcare system bleeding money, rising incidence, and earlier onset of chronic diseases widening the gap between Life Expectancy and Health Expectancy, coupled with diminishing access to a growing population.

Major and monied industry players now recognize that dentistry can directly contribute to reducing or resolving many issues impacting their particular enterprise and the entire healthcare industry.

Healthcare in the U.S. costs $4 trillion annually, whereas dentistry costs $200 billion yearly, less than 5%. Therefore, integrating dentistry into the system for just US$200 billion would save the system ten times what dentistry costs.

Furthermore, besides saving the system billions, integrating dentistry into primary care would produce significantly better health outcomes in nearly all chronic diseases that consume 80% of the medical dollar.

The economic relief dentistry would provide, the improved health outcomes, and expanding access are a no-brainer for the other key industry players. But, first, DSOs must redefine, restructure and rethink themselves to succeed in an integrated ecosystem. Integration, another form of consolidation, is now on its unstoppable march.

GDN: Who are some leaders you look up to (past or present) and why? What book has provided you with the most inspiration?

Dr. Cooper: My definition of leadership is those individuals who bring a future present now—those who can take a possibility and turn it into a reality. In the DSO world, I consider Rick Workman, Pat Bauer, Steve Bilt, Doug Brown, Andrew Matta, Steve Thorne, John Snyder, Robert Hunter, and Michael Monopoli in this class. It takes tremendous courage and fortitude to take a stand and have that stand become actualized in the world.

Over the years, it has become clear that information has a limited shelf life. So what is written about today might not be appropriate for tomorrow. I’ve been in business long enough to witness books going from the hottest best-sellers, presenting their leading-edge models, to faded backgrounds in only a few years.

Given that change is constant, books that enable me to stay ahead of the change curve, to incite new thinking are the driving force in my book selection.

Today, on my nightstand: Being Human by Martin Ball, Culture Built by Brand by Mark Miller and Ted Vaughn, and The Reiki Business Book by Pam Allen-LeBlanc. My audiobooks at this moment are Breath by James Nestor, Experiments in Truth by Ram Dass, and Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.

GDN: What advice would you give a new dentist? An emerging DSO?

Dr. Cooper: My best advice for new dentists is don’t base your decisions on the advice of those who don’t have to deal with the results.

The advice I could provide to new dentists would make no sense to them at their stage of development. New dentists are preoccupied with a short-term future. Their perspective is centered on personal income, debt repayment, diagnostic and clinical skill improvement, fascination with technology, and location of where to practice. Their entire approach to these concerns is transactional.

My work is epistemological, not transactional. My work is far less about what dentists need to “have” or what dentists need to “do” but about who dentists need to “be” to succeed. Unfortunately, at a new dentist’s stage of development, “being” is not in their top ten Google searches.

I’ll wait five years; by then, they will have the background of experience to look in the mirror for why it is not working.

My advice for new DSOs is to be successful in the industry’s future, develop your “corporate” leadership skills, build transferable assets, win in your market, and develop meaningful relationships with much larger DSOs and other system players.

Like every other industry, dentistry will continue consolidating, and the more prominent players will continue expanding their reach and financial power. So my advice to small and medium-sized DSOs, get very good at what you do so you are attractive to the larger DSOs – because that is your future.

GDN: What do you think the next five years looks like for the DSO industry?

Dr. Cooper: So many possible political, scientific, and economic uncertainties exist. Uncertainties will increase, which will press the smaller DSOs to seek refuge in larger DSOs that can handle the volatility and stress of change.

In five years, DSOs will be more than 60% of the provider side of the dental industry, with medical-dental integration becoming a dominant force.

DSOs will have expanded responsibilities besides dental disease management and repair. Chronic disease management will also be in on their lines.

DSO’s IT will be directly linked to the patient’s electronic medical record and, therefore, the entire healthcare system. Oversite will change. Quality assurance will be redefined. Specific diagnostic codes, tests, and treatment recommendations will be reinforced with prompted referrals to various healthcare providers in the patient’s network. The dental clinical data, radiographs, MRIs, and treatment are immediately uploaded to the patient EMR, where AI will do its thing.

More and more DSOs will have physicians, nurse practitioners, and phlebotomists in their offices. At the same time, some larger healthcare systems and large medical insurers will contract or even merge or acquire existing DSOs.

Medicare will now be part of dentistry and dental reimbursement, impacting every DSO aspect. Just look at its impact on medicine and soon pharma. But, again, this will happen in dentistry, another force pushing smaller DSOs to join with larger DSOs or, by then, some DSO-IPA-Hospital hybrids.

Previous DSO Influencers: