Out of a flooded disaster came opportunity and plenty of lessons learned for Dr. Kerry White Brown.
The reception area of White Brown Smiles in Columbia, South Carolina, today bears no trace of the catastrophe visited upon it during a flood — a condition that’s testament to the steely determination of Dr. White Brown and her husband, Gregory Brown, to rebuild and improve the dental practice.
When heavy rains caused great swaths of the Palmetto State to flood, 19 people died; and damage was estimated at $12 billion. Into that last category fell Dr. White Brown’s practice, which flooded with up to five feet of water.
“We had just added a 2,200-square-foot addition,” she says. “New chairs were still in their boxes. The new equipment was all destroyed.”
She and her team quickly got to work salvaging what they could. Among their losses was a large number of physical patient records. “We’d been talking about going paperless, but this forced us to do it,” says Dr. White Brown, an alumna of Howard University College of Dentistry.
“We only had digital images, so we were unable to recover most of our patients’ charts, but this won’t be a factor moving forward. We have a true cloud-based system now, so I can access patient data wherever I am.”
Having gone paperless illuminates one significant silver lining: As her husband, a contractor, set about renovating, “I got to redesign the whole place: new wall covering, new carpet, new equipment,” Dr. White Brown says. “Some changes we made as we went along — because he was the contractor, I had that luxury.”
Just five months after the flood, Dr. White Brown and her team, who had been seeing patients at a second office across town, walked into their gleaming new 5,400-square-foot practice. She takes a philosophical view of the experience. “No one was hurt,” she says. “We made out pretty easy compared to some, who lost loved ones. I was grateful that all we lost were things. Things can be replaced.”
DR. KERRY WHITE BROWN’S DISASTER SURVIVAL TIPS
1. Have flood insurance. “Luckily, the management company that buys my policies had bought one with flood coverage,” Dr. White Brown says. “They help a lot of offices in New Orleans, so they make sure that everyone has flood coverage.”
2. Store paper records elsewhere. “Make sure you store receipts both in a computer and off-site somewhere. I had a lot of records in a file drawer with all of our supply material, and all of that was lost when we flooded.”
3. Make it a redesign opportunity — but plan it out. “If you have to rebuild, have your plans in front of the architect and the dental company you’re working with, and sit down together so you’ll know all the specifics. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Map out on the drawings exactly where each piece of equipment is going.”