An interview with 40 Under 40 honoree, Dr. Kianor Shah, Desert Dream Dentistry & Spa, CAApril 15, 2021 Hosted by Chuck Cohen
An interview with 40 Under 40 honoree, Dr. Kianor Shah, Desert Dream Dentistry & Spa, CA
Meet the movers and shakers, power brokers and thought leaders accelerating change across dentistry, healthcare, business and media. Hosted by Benco Dental’s senior executives and experts from our company, each episode delves deep into how the brightest minds are shaping dentistry’s future through remarkable innovation—and how you can position yourself for personal and professional success in this fast-changing world.
An interview with 40 Under 40 honoree, Dr. Kianor Shah, Desert Dream Dentistry & Spa, CA
Interview with Dr. Kianor Shah
Chuck Cohen: Hello, everybody, and welcome to another edition of the podcast, where we interview some of the most exciting young dentists in America. Today, I am very honored and flattered to be with Dr. Kianor Shah, Palm Desert, California, one of the movers and shakers in dentistry across the United States. Dr. Shah, welcome. Thank you very much for being here today.
Dr. Kianor Shah: Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for having me. Much appreciated.
Chuck Cohen: Please call me Chuck. No worries. All good. I didn’t go to dental school. I don’t have a title. Thank you.
Chuck Cohen: So, Dr. Shah, tell us a little bit about your background, where you grew up, where you’re from, and how you ended up as a dentist in Palm Desert.
Dr. Kianor Shah: I grew up in Germany, mostly around the Frankfurt area, where I went to high school, and then undergrad, I went to Western Illinois University. I went from a very metropolitan area to an area where it was more of fishing and hunting and that kind of thing. For dental school, I went to Southern Illinois University. Then, after a few years of private practice in Illinois and owning some offices, I moved to California for additional fellowships and other training that I’ve conducted. I’m getting an MBA in California.
Chuck Cohen: It’s great. Not a lot of dentists have an MBA and a DDS, so congratulations. That’s great. You’re very involved in this project [00:01:19]to run [0.1s] the top dentists around the world. Can you talk about that a little bit? I find that fascinating.
Dr. Kianor Shah: We see it more as a movement versus a conventional recognition list. It’s a hundred annually. Starting in dentistry in the last two years, we would select the biggest movers and shakers that are doing projects that are of benefit to other doctors. It’s based on the blockchain concept that goes on in the financial sector, where we’re trying to create a three-pronged academic, administrative, and financial approach between doctors.
Dr. Kianor Shah: It has grown very rapidly and exponentially. That’s one of the verticals, that we bring them together, sort of a mastermind group and projects develop out of those groups and ideas come out of those groups. It’s a very nice way of also having some camaraderie with our colleagues.
Chuck Cohen: How many years have you been doing that?
Dr. Kianor Shah: We started the doctor-to-doctor concept right around 2013 when I was involved in the fintech sector, and I was looking at the model of blockchain and how it was exploding, and the bank started buying into it. It was sort of a two-party scenario where people collaborated, one was lending, one was borrowing, and it was all done directly without all of the third parties and the fees and all that comes with it. And it was very lean, so I thought maybe we could bring this into health care and eliminate all of the extra that’s out there to be better off financially, academically, and so on.
Chuck Cohen: Got you. And so you’ve been doing it since 2013. Is it generally the same doctors who are on the list or do you have a different list every year? And if so, how does that list get selected?
Dr. Kianor Shah: The first one came up in 2020. We launched it on January 1, 2020.
Chuck Cohen: That’s great.
Dr. Kianor Shah: And years before we were preparing what is now 22 different D2D or doctor-to-doctor projects that are ongoing, easy to find on any social media platform with the #doctortodoctor. So, this year there will be 5 different classes, 100 doctors each.
Dr. Kianor Shah: For the selection criteria, we have a very nice system of chairs and regions and also a dream team, a group of 75 doctors that are in the background helping, organizing, and sharing. The dream team sort of nominates. Anybody can nominate, but a lot of the nominations are coming out of the dream team.
Dr. Kianor Shah: Then, we collect those. We separate them categorically, and then they get reviewed by the regents. Then, we make the selections based on various criteria of continuing education research.
Dr. Kianor Shah: You don’t have to be clinically practicing innovation, but anything that benefits doctors and patients or humanitarian work. So, there’s a lot of criteria we look for. But ultimately, we’re looking for doctors that have taken a leadership role within the supply chain and can help us expand this operation.
Chuck Cohen: Well, that’s very exciting. It must be a great networking opportunity. So, well done. Anything that gets dentists talking to each other I think is always valuable. So, well done. Very cool.
Dr. Kianor Shah: The dentist down the street is not our enemy.
Chuck Cohen: Of course not. I keep saying that, and I think most dentists understand that, but not every dentist.
Chuck Cohen: Let’s get back a little bit to your career and your practice. Tell us a little bit about your practice in Palm Desert. I think you’ve got a fairly large practice. Talk about that a little bit.
Dr. Kianor Shah: Actually, I used to have large practices. I do better out of 2 chairs now than I did out of 30 with 12 doctors and 90 some employees back in Illinois. I focused more on my patients. Now, I do full-mouth rehabilitation. So, 2 chairs, 3 days a week, I do better doing that, than working 6 days a week with 30 chairs and 12 doctors, financially.
Dr. Kianor Shah: And a lot of people ask me how. It’s all about giving the patients the care that they really seek, taking time with them. They observe. They know when you’re running from room to room doing anesthesia and then coming back. In my model, 10 patients maximum a day; listen to everything they have to say; stay with them for the whole appointment; schedule them; understand their issues; schedule them for a big day for treatment; and get to work. And they love it. They become friends. They leave great reviews. It works out pretty good.
Chuck Cohen: That’s fabulous. Talk a little about your obstacles. Everyone has obstacles in their career, in their journey. What are some of the obstacles that you’ve encountered and how did you get around them or over them or through them?
Dr. Kianor Shah: When I got out of dental school, I was very naive in business. Business is a little art and talent of its own. There are certain rules in business that emotions and feelings, those kinds of things, have to be sometimes put aside to make the best business choices.
Dr. Kianor Shah: When you come out of dental school, you’re all in the fantasy state of perfect practice and benevolence and autonomy, and all the things that we learned aren’t necessarily what go on in the private sector. So, that MBA really helped me. Actually, I wish I would have gotten with more senior colleagues to take their advice and learn from their mistakes. I could have saved millions at the early stages.
Chuck Cohen: No doubt. I find that’s definitely true. Learn from other people’s mistakes, learn from other people’s investments, things that worked well, and haven’t worked well. What’s one of the things you’ve learned from others or by watching others that you’ve adopted in your own career, in your own profession?
Dr. Kianor Shah: Well, I have seen a practice after I came to California in some 300 different offices. That was my thing, to travel and do all the endo and oral indoor neurosurgery, and then at nighttime, I would do the MBA.
Dr. Kianor Shah: Every one has a unique scenario. So, I got to really interact with them. Some of them are in their 60s and are going to work probably until the end of time for them. Some of them are in their 50s, and they’re settled. Their student loans are paid off. They have their houses and cars paid off. So, it’s very unique and interesting to learn what financial decisions they made in their lives and their careers to get there and their struggles.
Dr. Kianor Shah: Some struggled with debt and not having people to turn to and that results in problems at home, substance abuse, and mental problems. My suggestion would be, never keep it inside, reach out, and learn. But personal financial decisions are going to make it for you. When you wake up, and you’re in your 60s, it’s either going to be somewhere comfortable or you’re going to be in the clinic doing denture adjustments.
Chuck Cohen: So true. Go ahead, sorry.
Dr. Kianor Shah: But having dealt with and conducted a transaction with tens of thousands of dentists out there, you know better than I what happens to a lot of them.
Chuck Cohen: I mean, you see good stories, and you see bad stories. I like what you just said. I think if I could summarize it in a few words, it’s: ask for help. Get some experts. There’s a lot of advice out there. But my observation is the dentists who do well tend to be the ones who find the right place to get advice, ask the right people, and then, they listen. Then, there are other ones who either ask the wrong people or don’t spend enough time researching or don’t listen, and they end up usually with a bad outcome. Fate has a way of really working its way out.
Chuck Cohen: So, you’ve accomplished a lot at a very young age. What advice would you give young dentists who are getting out of dental school today? Your career path has been very interesting. The MBA, the traveling dentist in California, running a big operation in Illinois. You’ve had a lot of experiences. What kind of advice would you give to those dentists who are just graduating from dental school?
Dr. Kianor Shah: Find a balance early on. The balance between continuing education, whatever was going on at home, and whatever is going on at the office. If you go too much in one direction, the other two are going to suffer. So, you have to find a balance.
Dr. Kianor Shah: Some some guys would just go every weekend to continue education. They just keep, “Give me, give me, give me, give me.” But then at home, they would have problems, with the kids and the family. It’s very prudent to have a balance in life. It’s not a race. You’re going to fall maybe 10 times. But you are going to get back up if you have balance. If you don’t have balance, there’s a chance you’re going to stay down.
Chuck Cohen: That’s good. What are some of the things that you’ve done to get that balance in your life?
Dr. Kianor Shah: I started doing the six-day practice a week. I was like, “Wow, why are they all sitting on their butts? I can make so much money just working, working, working.” That wasn’t good. I like to practice for three days. I like to do other businesses that I’m operating, for two or three days.
Dr. Kianor Shah: I like to spend more time with my family. I don’t take the laptop home. I don’t do clinical notes at home. When the time shuts down, it’s time to shut down the office and attend to other obligations that we have in life.
Dr. Kianor Shah: So, it’s a progress. For everyone, it’s different. Some people are into working out, some in the morning, some in the afternoon. I still walk. I get all of my ideas and things that I do walking in the mountains, regularly. I walk a couple of miles, when I can, before practice. If I don’t make it, then after practice. But I get up there, and that’s where all these ideas come about. I get to reflect on my next move or the next thing that I want to do and then do the extrapolations. It’s lovely to walk, run, or work out. You get that sort of energy that you need to get through all the challenges.
Chuck Cohen: Well, you live in a great place to do that. Palm Desert is so gorgeous. Just getting out and walking clears your head. That’s a wonderful advantage that you have. There’s no doubt.
Chuck Cohen: So, what advice would you have for other dentists maybe who are farther along in their careers, maybe in their 30s, and they want to get some of the recognition that you’ve gotten, and become a 40 under 40, or build an extra business or something? What should they do at that point in their careers if they’ve been practicing for 5 or 10 years?
Dr. Kianor Shah: They have to really assess where they are in their careers after five years. A lot of dentists that I know practice for so long, and they want to be able to practice as a hobby, not that they have to, but just to practice to keep the hand skills going. If you have reached the time where you’re stable, you’ve gotten a little further in life, maybe you’ve got a place, you’ve got some of your overhead covered, you’ve attended to your student loans, your wife or husband is pretty happy, I think it’s time to start looking at challenges around you.
Dr. Kianor Shah: I have multiple patents. And the way I did that, I was looking for things that annoyed me in the office, or at home, or whatever it is. Once you identify what annoys you, then you start looking at solutions because somewhere along the line, somebody missed something. Always. Nothing stays. Everything goes obsolete.
Dr. Kianor Shah: So, find problems around you. Get solutions for them. If it’s not the product, maybe it’s the service. If you want to do something better than somebody does, start a company. Start slow.
Dr. Kianor Shah: I started building offices year out of school and Kmart and then Myer and massive, large retail settings, and I was going too fast. Sometimes the base had to be very strong before you can get that tower up. So, the foundation has to be strong before you take the next step. That would be my recommendation. If you’re at that stage, start looking for residual income, other projects, and set yourself up for success.
Chuck Cohen: I love that idea of finding problems to solve. Isn’t that what all of us do as dentists? You’re looking at a patient’s mouth, you’re looking at the oral cavity, you’re finding the problems to solve. I think you’ve just taken that idea and made it a little bit broader and say, “Okay, what are the things that are problems in your life, in your practice, and in the way you practice dentistry that really annoy you, and then how can you go out and solve those problems for yourself and others.”
Chuck Cohen: I think that’s wonderful advice. So many great inventions and companies have found it just based on someone saying, “I have a problem, and I’d like to solve it.”
Dr. Kianor Shah: And when you start solving problems, and you start getting out and teaching, and then learning one, and doing one, and teaching one, then people nominate you for things like the top 40 and all other things. It just happens to happen naturally.
Chuck Cohen: That’s wonderful. So, talk about some of your personal inspirations in dentistry. Who are some of the people that have inspired you and taught you, and you look at their career and say, “Wow, that’s someone I want to emulate?”
Dr. Kianor Shah: I was going to all of these different courses when I got out of school. And one day I ended up in a Misch course, and Dr. Carl just struck me as a god. I was young out of school. The guy had written so many books. He was all over the place. So, I clung on. I made friends with him, and I went to more courses of his and kept following him. Dr. Misch was a great inspiration for me. So, find that person that you look up to, and then just don’t look back.
Chuck Cohen: That’s really great. And boy, I think Carl Misch is a great, legendary role model. I think a lot of dentists have been students of Dr. Misch for years, certainly a fine, upstanding guy and really a creative mind as far as implants are concerned. He’s a real good one to have picked.
Dr. Kianor Shah: Yes, that is how it all started for me.
Chuck Cohen: So, one more question, and then we’ll call it an interview. Tell everybody or share with everybody what’s your number one goal between now and when you’re, let’s say, 60, as an arbitrary number? Going forward, what is the number one thing you want to accomplish?
Dr. Kianor Shah: I would like to create this system with the help of my colleagues to impact the entire healthcare industry, not just domestically, but internationally.
Chuck Cohen: That’s awesome. Thank you, Dr. Shah. Thank you very much. Everybody, Dr. Kianor Shah. Great to have you. Palm Desert, California, a new member of our 40 under 40 club. Thank you very much for spending the time today. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Dr. Kianor Shah: I really appreciate your time, Chuck.
Chuck Cohen graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989 with a degree in English, and joined Benco as a territory representative soon after graduation. He’s taken on increasing responsibilities in the sales and marketing areas, becoming Managing Director in 1996. He serves on a variety of industry and community boards, including Wilkes University, the Dental Lifeline Network, and Jewish Community Alliance of Wilkes-Barre.
After three years as an IT consultant at Accenture, Rick Cohen joined Benco in 1994 to create Painless, the industry’s first windows-based e-commerce software. Since then, he’s taken on increasing responsibilities within Benco, focusing on Information Technology, Logistics, Clarion Financial, and our private brand. He is Co-Chair of the Benco Family Foundation, a trustee of WVIA public television and public radio, and a Director of the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation.