In the DSO World, Female Executives Are Uncommon. Founders Are Rare. Meet DSO Founder, Aziza Abed, RDH

Exclusive Group Dentistry Now interview with the CEO & Founder of Pure Health Dental Partners, Aziza Abed, RDH

GDN: Despite the dental industry being female dominated, it’s uncommon to see a woman at the executive level of a DSO, let alone a female founder of a DSO. This is fairly unchartered territory. What inspired you to start Pure Health Dental Partners?
AA: I think that out of all the industries where a woman can become an executive, it would be the DSO world. DSOs encourage talent, growth and DSOs have succession plans in place to help facilitate the team member’s next career path. Although uncommon to have a female executive, it is not out of the question. It’s all individually based.

I was one that has always been passionate about the field of dentistry. I was competitive in my roles. I’ve worked for DSOs since I was 15 years old. I always wanted to be the #1 hygienist, the #1 regional, etc. I always thrived on trying to be the best that I could be. I motivated my teams to reach and exceed their potential. I supported them and encouraged them to continue their professional growth. I made sure they had the tools to get there. I saw what worked and what didn’t. I knew what best practices looked like and now given the opportunity to create my own organization, I want to be the best CEO I can be to PURE.

My inspiration came from being in management for over 18 years, going through trial and error, and learning what an exemplary practice / organization could look like. I was fortunate to be influenced by some of the best CEOs and COOs in the industry at DentalOne. Keith Miller and Andy McBryde had the most direct impact on me. They taught me to have faith in myself and that I can do anything that I desire. My family, peers and subordinates over the years have all supported me throughout this entire journey and continue to be my biggest assets. I would never be where I am at today without them.

GDN: How did an RDH get involved with the business end of dentistry and how did you rise in the ranks?
AA:  I was very fortunate that I worked for an amazing executive team at DentalOne Partners who invited me to assist them with building a hygiene program. Doug Brown (former CEO of DentalOne, now with Affordable Care) encouraged me to pioneer the regional clinical advisor role. Regional clinical advisor (RCA) was a new role we created to continue the teachings of Mike Bileca and Practice Synergistics. At the time, I was completing my pre-med course of study to apply for dental school. I decided to take Doug’s recommendation and put dental school on hold. As you can see, I enjoyed the role and just continued to expand my scope in management.

GDN: It looks like you just literally ‘opened your doors’ May 2018. How many practices do you have in place? Current locations? Expansion plans? Future locations?
AA:  We will have two acquisition practices by the end of May and a lease for a de novo in the Cleveland suburbs and in rural Columbus. We are currently concentrating in Ohio, but will be expanding into other states. By the end of 2018, our goal is to have at least $5 million in net revenues with acquisitions and a de novo prototype. We want to focus on building our foundation, quality, systems and processes. Once we perfect our model, we will then look at growing incrementally. We have all the resources available to help structure and build our organization, so it’s just a matter of identifying best fit opportunities.

GDN: What is your strategy to compete against the large and established DSOs?
AA:  I’m currently targeting acquisition practices that have potential for growth and de novos in areas with limited DSO presence. Our current goal is to be a mid-sized DSO with $40 million in revenue in five years. If we reach that goal sooner, we will keep going as long as our efficiencies are well maintained.

GDN: Do you have an executive team in place? If so, who are they?
AA:  Executive Team: CEO – Aziza Abed, Chief Clinical Director- Dr. Brad McCormack, CFO- Brian Mackert, Director of Operations- Kamal Abed

GDN: What are your observations/impressions about previous DSOs you have worked for? What lessons have you learned from those DSOs that you will apply to your endeavor?
AA: The DSO model is the way of the future. I have always enjoyed working in and with DSOs, as they only want the highest standards of care for their patients. Due to the high volume of patients, regulatory agencies are always overseeing all the DSO’s services, hence the need for quality assurance in all facets of the business. DentalOne always had the patients’ and providers’ needs in mind. We developed many protocols and guidelines to ensure that we provided the best patient care. In my previous DSO experience, lab work was triple checked, OSHA was monitored, infection control surpassed industry standards, chart audits were completed, and regulatory compliance across the board was implemented as the norm. This guarantees the patient a gold standard of care. I plan on building these standards in our DSO as well. There are many other streamlined processes that we plan on implementing which will create a smooth patient flow system which will provide both the patients and team with an exceptional experience.

GDN: How is your business funded? Were there challenges to finding funding?
AA: PURE Health Dental is funded by private investors. There were no challenges to finding funding. I feel very blessed that I am surrounded by good hearted people that realized my value and opened avenues for me that I never dreamed possible.

GDN: You have worked in DSOs for the past two decades, how would you say the industry has changed in those 20 years.
AA: The DSO industry has changed drastically as far as the quantity of DSOs in the nation, but still has a way to go with changing the perception of not only the general population, but also that of the dental professionals. I remember back when Doug Brown and Dr. Ed Meckler introduced the DentalOne management team to the ADSO. There were only a handful of members. Now, there are over 180 industry partner companies supporting over 14,000 dentists. For as long as I can remember, there has been a stigma associated with working for a DSO by the dental professional community. I had many peers often ask why I worked for a DSO versus private office. At first, I would become a little defensive, appalled by the question, but seized the opportunity explain all the beneficial services we offered our patients and providers. By the end of our conversation, they often asked if we were hiring. I’ve seen improvement over the years, but unfortunately, there still lies a negative perception. We just need to continue spreading the word on all the great support we have to offer and keep the positive momentum going.

GDN: What has been your biggest obstacle with this venture so far?
AA: Finding acquisition practices where the doctor will sell to a DSO.

GDN: What has been your greatest success with this venture so far?
AA: Working with brokers and doctors that appreciate your vision and welcome your expertise in transitioning their practice.

GDN: When did you get the idea to do this and how long have you been actively working toward starting this DSO?
AA: The idea has always been in the back of my mind, but the opportunity didn’t arise until I presented a business plan to my investor friend who shared it with his partners. They believed in my vision and they saw the passion I had for the profession which led them to invest in me. I started actively working on the plan in Q2 of 2018.

GDN: Is there a significance to the name Pure Health? If so, what?
AA: Pure Health’s name was derived from the concept of treatment planning for patients based on total body health, a thorough review of medical history, comprehensive care and recommending natural based take home products, as well as vegan options where available. The goal is to achieve PURE Health-oral and systemic. Discussing their total health in relation to their oral health will add value to a patient’s dental visit. Giving them a diagnosis and prognosis will result in better acceptance and follow through of recommended treatment plans.

GDN: Any info you’d like to share on your personal life?  Family life? Hobbies? Interests?
AA: I thank God every day for my five sons. Three out of five have graduated college, two of which work in the dental industry. Two are still in undergrad. I enjoy cooking, working out, reading and spending time with friends and family.


Editor’s note: This interview was lightly edited for grammar and clarity. The intent was to make the interview easier to read and not to change the meaning of the interview.

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