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Episode 24
An interview with Dr. Miguel Stanley
April 11, 2022

Chuck Cohen interviews one of the 32 Most Influential People in Dentistry Dr. Miguel Stanley, Founder/CEO of the White Clinic – Lisbon, Portugal

On February 27, Dr. Miguel Stanley drove a van packed with medical supplies, baby formula, and diapers 2,500 miles (from Lisbon, Portugal to Poland). He contacted with a friend and colleague of his (located in Kiev), who then connected him with a dental distributor to provide and organize immediate care for Ukrainians.

Dr. Miguel Stanley - The-Daily-Floss
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Transcript:

Chuck Cohen: Hi, everybody. We’re very pleased to have Dr. Miguel Stanley, one of the world’s foremost dental clinicians based in Lisbon, as our guest today on this podcast. Before we get started on this specific story–and it’s an exciting one that Dr. Stanley is going to tell–let’s get a little background on Dr. Stanley.

So, Miguel, you are the founder of the White Dental Clinic and a movement called “Slow Dentistry.” Could you give us two sentences on that so that we understand your background?

Dr. Miguel Stanley: I’m a passionate dentist that loves doing the right thing. I don’t get to choose how to filter the science or the clinical evidence for a buck. So, I’m all about ensuring that doctors do the right thing and that doctors on my team do the right thing. White Clinic uses technology and practice management to really deliver high-quality care consistently. I love to do that.

I love to lecture around the world on combining technology with clinical practice and workflows and future materials and all of that. We’re a private practice, not a DSO. There’s only one. No shareholders, no investors. And that’s pretty much it.

On another note, I’m the founding member of Slow Dentistry Global Network, which is currently in over 54 countries, and you can visit slowdentistry.com. And it’s a nonprofit foundation based in Switzerland, so very regulated by the Swiss Tax Authority.

Basically, we receive a yearly membership for clinicians that believe that seeing fewer patients a day helps them practice better. Why? Better mental health, better practice management, more time in the workflow to include technologies, etc. But most importantly, to disinfect the treatment room in between surgeries or treatments.

For example, one of our cornerstones uses rubber dams on 100% of root canal treatments, which we know dentists don’t do to save time and money. And so, slow dentistry is all about ethics and practice management.

We really support clinicians, and we have sponsored companies that also make donations because they believe that we have to do the greater good. And that’s pretty much what I love to do every day.

Chuck Cohen: Awesome. Well, it’s great to meet someone who loves dentistry as much as you do. In the conversations that our team has been having with you about being a member of our “32 Most Influential,” one of the things that came out is this amazing story about your rescue mission to Ukraine. Or should I say Ukraine? We don’t see “the Ukraine” anymore.

I understand that your wife is Ukrainian, and you just embarked on an amazing story and an amazing mission. So if you could start at the beginning and just tell us the story, we’d appreciate it.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: I had never really understood what Ukraine was until I met my wife. I mean, I live in Portugal, which is a very small country that is the most western country in Europe. It’s now trending. It’s really happening in this part of the world with the west coast of Europe.

The distance from Portugal to Ukraine is–from Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Ukraine–it’s 3,000 miles away. It’s like driving. I don’t know, from L.A. to New York or something like that.

With that said, I had no connection to the country. And then, I met my wife 10 years ago, and I went to visit the city of Kyiv, and I was blown away by this incredible city. I mean, it’s just beautiful, very modern, very, you know, up and coming.

I’ve been learning about the fall of the Soviet Union. My wife was born in the Soviet Union and then, at the age of 14, became a Democrat. And it’s a very young Democratic nation, and they really are different from the Russians in the sense that, you know, they’re fiercely fighting for freedom.

You know, despite whatever you want to say, they have democratic elections, and they wanted to be part of Europe, and that’s pretty much it. In 2014, there was a threat to that democratic election, and there was this, you know, the horrible quasi revolution, and it got quelled. And basically, it’s like, “Look, we want to be free, we want to be independent, and we want to be European.”

We take a lot of our liberties for granted. And I know that right now because, in Europe, we follow politics in the US. US politics dictate global policy. Let’s face it. The better your secretary of state is, the better the world works.

And you know, it’s been challenging in the last decade, to say the least. Whatever is coming out and I’m not, you know, I don’t choose sides of fences. I’m a dentist. I don’t know, and my vote doesn’t count in America, so it doesn’t really matter. But with that said, everybody is pro-democracy in the free world, right?

We want people to have freedom of speech at least. I mean, your Bill of Rights in America 200 years ago is the most amazing document ever written. You know, it’s the ultimate expression of freedom right now.

Chuck Cohen: Thank you.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: It’s amazing. America is the greatest country in the world because of it, and it should be defended. Freedom of speech should be defended. No matter how nasty it is, it needs to be defended, right?

Chuck Cohen: Yes.

Dr. Miguel Stanley Now, I’ve never really been a politician. I mean, I fight for a bit in dentistry, but I do it positively. I’ve never been active politically. I’ve never even gone, Chuck, I’ve never been to [00:05:51]manifestation [0.0s], and I’m not one for big displays of, you know, these things.

But about a month before the bombs fell in Kyiv, well around Ukraine, my wife started getting a bit nervous, and we started rumors that it was about to go down. And then we saw all of those troops on the border of Russia, and everybody’s like, “No, no, no.” And you know, Biden’s team is like going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” The president’s going like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

And since we’d come out of two years of COVID and half of the team were going, “yeah,” and the other half was saying, “no,” we kind of didn’t really know who to believe, right?

Of course, the CIA and the American White House were completely right about, you know, that this is going to happen. And I don’t think, ’til the day before, that anybody really believed this would happen.

Chuck Cohen: I agree.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: But we’d got some, and that’s the, excuse my language, the damaging thing about calling fake news. We live in a society, Chuck, right now with fake news. It is absolutely real, and it’s happening with the propaganda in Russia and all of that. I’ll get to that in a bit.

With that said, my wife says, “We need to get my family out.” So, I flew her father, her sister, and her young baby, who’s five, and we flew them to Portugal to safety. We said, you know, “Just sit tight.” And there were about three weeks before it happened.

About a week before, I think it happened on the 24th of February, the 25th of February, or the 26th. We were like, “It’s not going to happen. Let’s send them back home,” because they were staying with us. And I had this inkling, “No, they should stay,” and they stayed.

But my father-in-law, he’s 68 years old, and Chuck, he’s had two heart surgeries. Twice, his heart has been out of his chest. He’s 68, so he wouldn’t even make the military reserves or conscripts, whatever you’d call it. And he starts getting very nervous and says, “Look, I need to get there. Please buy an airplane ticket, whatever. Just get me to Poland,” because they suspended flights and all of that.

And on a Saturday, the bombs fell. They invaded. And I saw my father-in-law freaking out. And I’m like, the best way to get him there is to drive him. So I call my dear friend Mike, who’s one of my best buddies. I said, “Mike, would you drive with me to Poland tomorrow?” He goes, “When are we leaving?” I was like, “Yeah!” And so I called a rental service.

I rented the biggest people carrier because I was like, “Do I take lots of supplements and food and pharmaceutical products with me and come back empty? Or do I bring back refugees?” The United Nations had said they were predicting four to five million refugees, and the numbers were 100% right. I mean, people know what they’re talking about. They were completely right. And so I got out a nine-person carrier, like a Mercedes or whatever, I rented it.

I came to my clinic. I emptied the stock of emergency medical supplies like sutures, survival emergency kits, anesthetics, and anything I thought might be necessary for a war scenario. Also, thinking that the displaced would be young women with babies, we got diapers and baby milk. And then I went to a pharmacy, and I loaded up.

I have a friend of mine, a dentist who is quite a well-known speaker from Kyiv, and he texted me and said, “Miguel, we need this,” and he put a list because we knew pretty well what the hospitals were going to need. And that’s what I did, Chuck. I filled the van, and we drove to Poland with my father-in-law, and that’s how it started.

Chuck Cohen: Really? So, when you got to Poland, was there trouble getting over the border into Ukraine, or did you stay on the Poland side?

Dr. Miguel Stanley: Well, on the way, I made a little Instagram video. I have quite a few followers on my Instagram, and all of a sudden, it went viral. And like, 150,000 people saw this video in the first few hours, and then all of a sudden, people were texting me, “How can I help? How can I help?”

And I have to say, the outpour of support from strangers and just from everybody. After two years of human isolation where people weren’t that connected, it just filled me with an overwhelming sense of just gratitude for humanity because I was kind of giving up hope.

Chuck, I was giving up hope. And all of a sudden, it was like this atrocity brought humanity together again, and it just gave us the energy to go. We got support from some people in Germany, dentists that just said, “Miguel, pull up at my clinic here,” and we even had to rent another van and get another group of people.

So, by the time we arrived in Krakow, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, on the border of Ukraine, like maybe 100 kilometers away, we had two trucks full of pharmaceutical supplies. That’s the base of where the United Nations, UNICEF, and I guess a lot of [00:11:23]spooks sponsored [0.7s] started setting up operations.

That was where everything was happening, and we were told, “Don’t cross the border. It’s not safe.” They were scared that the Russians might want to take out the supply chain, and the supply chain literally went on that road. Moreover, there was an 87-mile-long exodus of people trying to escape Lviv, which is the last frontier city to Krakow. So, we thought, “Well, we could get in, but we might not be able to get out.”

The second thing we did was speak to guys like you. I mean, seriously, dental distribution companies. So, there’s a guy in Poland called [00:12:16]Wojciech Feck. [0.5s] He distributes some dental products to Poland. He’s an unsung hero. This guy basically has a small enterprise with maybe 20 people working for him.

He stopped his operations and got his entire team using their network of sales forces and all of that to help. And so we deposited all of our pharmaceuticals with [00:12:42]Wojciech, [0.0s] and he had got a team of Ukrainians to get all of the medicines into Ukraine safely. Moreover, even putting stickers on the boxes shows how organized they were.

He said, “This is your delivery.” And then a week later, “Here’s your delivery” with the sticker being opened in Ukraine. Why? Because they were so worried that people might not make donations for fear that the product wouldn’t get to the destination. It was amazing.

So, all of a sudden, very quickly within 48 hours, this amazing group of dentists and dental distributors and people with enterprises like Benco all got together on the border, helping each other. And it was just an amazing thing.

Chuck Cohen: It’s amazing. So, you stayed on the Poland side. You never went to Ukraine. Did your father-in-law want to go to Ukraine, and did he go?

Dr. Miguel Stanley: So, [00:13:32]Wojciech [0.0s] organized with the group of Ukrainians that had managed to do operations. It sounds like a movie. 11 ambulances from Copenhagen, which is in Denmark. So, they had organized 11 ambulances to drive through Denmark, through Germany, and stop in Poland.

I drove my father-in-law to this town a bit north of Warsaw, I’m sorry, of Krakow, and dropped off my father-in-law with [00:14:04]Wojciech. [0.0s] He jumped into these ambulances, and they drove him safely across the border to Lviv.

Then, he promised us he’d stay in Lviv, which is kind of safer. We found out two days later he was in Kyiv. So, he went into the fray. He went into the mix of things. The guy’s got cojones, Chuck.

Chuck Cohen: He does. That’s amazing! So is he still in Kyiv as we record this?

Dr. Miguel Stanley: I’m laughing because I wish I had a fraction of his bravery. He’s the father of my wife and the grandfather of my two daughters, who are half-Ukrainian. I get emotional talking about this.

So, he has a car there, like an SUV, and he’s been running errands between the front lines and back because of what you saw yesterday… Timestamp: today is the 6th of April 2022. Two days ago, evidence and images came out of a city called Bucha, where there were human atrocities.

Chuck Cohen: Atrocities, yeah.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: I’m going to try not to get into this. My wife grew up there. This is 20 minutes from Kyiv’s capital. It’s not random or in the middle of nowhere. It’s where my wife spent her summers.

She got calls from friends that she went to school with saying that, you know, kids have been raped and killed. This is not on the news. This is really, really happening. And it’s beyond atrocious what’s going on.

With that said, he is actually going there and taking support, food, and supplies. And Chuck, as a surgeon, I am trained to remove problems and focus on healing.

I believe that humans instinctively want the best for each other, and if we have cancer like what’s happening now, there is treatment, and it’s going to be tough, there will be pain, and it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to need a lot of healing, but it’s going to happen if we all come together and help fix this.

Honestly, the dental community has done so much—unsung heroes in Poland, which absorbed the biggest wave, Romania, and Slovakia to some extent. But the Polish people, what they have done to absorb these refugees into their homes. Around Europe as well. The support from America, from everywhere, has just been so important, so important to the Ukrainian people.

Chuck Cohen: So, as far as you know today, your father-in-law is safe. He’s working on behalf of the Ukrainian people, trying to do the right thing. It’s an amazing story that really talks about how much a man can love his country, how much we all love our country, and how much we love our fellow people. Going into a war zone to try to be helpful is amazing.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: I told my wife yesterday. I said, “I want to go back.” I mean, I always thought, you know, I grew up watching Hollywood movies, right? You’d see these action heroes running into danger, and I would never do that. I would never risk my life. Yeah, but there are these moments in time where destiny is bigger than yourself. And the reason is bigger than yourself.

I think, as a civilization, we’ve become really accustomed to our own comfort. We don’t challenge ourselves that much. You know, my grandfather fought the Nazis for six years. He was in the British Army. My mother’s British, so that’s why I speak English. My grandfather was from Manchester and enlisted at the age of 18, and he fought frontline Nazis.

So, I understand that, and I grew up listening to the stories, you know, and I was kind of like, “Man, I hope there’s never a war in Europe again.” And here we are with war in Europe again.

I think we all owe it to each other to be on the right side of this and help these people, not arguing about why it happened or who is to blame. But right now, we have to help these poor people and stop this madness and help these people get back on track. There are just a lot of political pundits going on, and that’s not the discussion right now. We have to help heal and stop the problem.

Chuck Cohen: It’s a frightening situation, and one of the things that makes this one so interesting to me, at least, is it’s so obvious who’s right and who’s wrong. We can talk about its politics, but it’s an unprovoked attack. And it really inspires me that you’ve gotten so involved in this.

Now getting back to the story itself, you have these two vehicles in Krakow. When you came back, did you bring refugees with you?

Dr. Miguel Stanley: Oh yeah, we brought along two families. I had no idea who they were. We brought two moms. They didn’t know each other.

Let me try and explain: these are people that, three days before, had cell phones and bank accounts and microwaves and ovens and TVs and Netflix, right? They’re not like hopeless, desperate, you know, refugees. I prefer the term “displaced” because they’re not economic refugees.

So, they’re looking for family members, and I located an asset, a Ukrainian guy. And we started speaking, and I said, “OK, listen, find me women and children that need to go to Portugal.” So, they’d had this help group that was immediately set up, like a WhatsApp chat group among them. And he said, “Listen, tomorrow, anybody wanting to go to Portugal, I’ve got eight seats.”

The next day, at 8:00 AM, I got this young woman with two children. The youngest girl was 8, and the other boy was 12. Then there’s another mother, and her boy was 14. And so, they just literally, Chuck, they had a plastic bag with some underpants in it. That’s what they had.

You know, these oligarchs have boats of 200 million, 300 million dollars. I’d never expected humanity to get such a reality check so quickly.

Long story short, we (me and my friend Mike) put them in the Jeep. And the trip back was hard because with kids, you know, you have to stop. Then there are COVID rules, and the COVID rules were changing from, you know, we went through Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, and France.

Like in Germany, without an N95 mask, they wouldn’t be allowed even to a roadside bathroom. So that made getting them food and stuff very complicated. They didn’t have biometric passports, and it was insane. This is 2022. We’re discussing putting rockets on Mars, and we’re having these problems.

Then, there was another discussion that we could get into a bit. But anyway, these people are now safe with families of friends that had been established in Portugal. The kids have already gone to school. The Portuguese government opened an emergency fund for these families.

I’ve now employed–this is in the last month–I have three Ukrainian dentists employed in my clinic from the town of Kharkiv. So, they can’t work as dentists, so I’ve employed them as assistants. They don’t speak any other language, but I’m giving them a job because they have husbands and children. The husbands have stayed in Ukraine because men are not allowed out. So, we’re supporting them that way. Directly, we’re helping a lot of people.

Because I did that journey, I learned quite a bit, and I think one thing that I learned was nobody knows how to act when they want to help. So think about that. It’s like I got thousands of messages. I only managed to read like 10%, but it’s like, “I want to donate. Where do I donate money?”

There’s a huge distrust in charities. Huge distrust. “Will my money get to the right recipients?” It’s like, “If I give money to the Red Cross, will my money get to the right people?” You know, I think there’s a huge distrust in charities.

People do not know how to pack goods, so, for example, to separate baby foods and diapers from pharmaceutical products. Because one goes, one will stay with the refugees, and the other will go to the front line. So, they were mixing everything together. And then that would take a huge time to unpack and repack.

So, those were lessons that we were teaching people. Also, people were packing out-of-date pharmaceutical products, like antibiotics from the 80s and sutures from 2015 and stuff like that.

Chuck Cohen: This is not a yard sale.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: That was happening. That happened a lot.

Chuck Cohen: So, what did you learn from the whole experience? What are your takeaways?

Dr. Miguel Stanley: There’s one thing that I had a lot of challenges dealing with. In 2015, there was a huge influx of asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Syria. You know, there were wars that had happened there, and they were not allowed in. So, I think if you watched the news, there were a bunch of Syrian and Afghans on the border of Russia with Poland, and Poland was like, “No.” Right? And it was cold and winter. There were reasons for that. And then this happens, and Poland’s like, “Come, come, come, come, come.”

So, people from the Middle East say, I’m a global citizen. I’m a doctor. I love everybody. I’m all about all religions, all races, all creeds. You know, all mankind is important. But because some people are angrier about that than others. There were a lot of people saying that that was endemic racism because we were allowing white Christians in, and we weren’t allowing other ethnicities that were Muslim. Of course, that’s how it appeared at face value.

But the truth is that millions of Middle Eastern refugees were absorbed into Europe. Second, these are immediate neighbors, and no matter what faith or religion you are from, “love thy neighbor.” These are people that have a thousand years of relationships and families and stuff. So, I really was unhappy to see that narrative happening a lot.

The second takeaway is that I think we need to teach young kids citizenship classes in education. You know, now there are a lot of narratives about what to teach kids in class. I’m not going to go there, but I think one thing you could teach in class is how to act when there is a global crisis. You know, how to act as a citizen. Just because you have a Twitter account doesn’t mean you can say things and do things. And if you want to help, learn how to help, all of that.

I think that’s something that, as a civilization, as a species, we fail at that. We don’t know how to act when there’s a global crisis, and I think we need to improve on that. I think, as doctors and dentists, we could be pillars of society and at least try and improve that.

Last but not least, I think we need to learn, as a society maybe, to use blockchain and artificial intelligence to track donations. I don’t have shares in any cryptocurrency, by the way. But imagine using that kind of way to help donate money in an emergency or crisis and make sure it gets to the right place. You can literally track that the person that wanted it got it. And I think that that’s something that might be very interesting in the future as well.

Chuck Cohen: That’s great. To those three lessons, I wanted to add a fourth one from hearing the story, and that is we are all just minutes away from having to leave with a plastic bag of our stuff. We all think that we’re all very secure.

And in America, we are very good at thinking we’re secure, as I’m sure you think you are. We all think we are in Lisbon. When you tell the story, these people had cell phones and their Netflix. Then, 24 hours later, they have pairs of underwear in a plastic bag.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: These people had BMWs, and some of them had Porsches. One of the doctors that I’m talking about, Dr. Nazari, I mean, you’ll know he had one of the most advanced dental clinics in the world. He’s a global speaker. That clinic is empty now. I mean, it’s gone. Now, he can’t provide for his family.

By the way, I’d just like to give a shout-out: I don’t know if you know of Quintessence Publishing. So they’re having, I believe, there’s an event happening now. So Christian Haase and the Haase family. It’s called Quintessence Live Aid.

Chuck Cohen: Oh, wonderful.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: And that’s happening on the 29th of April, featuring some of the best speakers in the world. I’m moderating one of those meetings. All donations and proceeds will go to helping the dental community in Ukraine because they’ve lost their livelihood.

But you’re right about how we shouldn’t be so safe. We shouldn’t take our freedoms for granted. This is what happens when you don’t have a free democracy. Some of the people that get into power are not good leaders.

All right. Look, democracy isn’t ideal, but at least it’s free. You know, what happened in Russia is that they let this bully go unchecked, and sometimes the bully needs to be punched in the face so he stops bullying, or he needs to be expelled from the school. But if you keep saying, “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK,” because he’s not bullying us.

This is what happens. And that happened in the 1930s in Germany. And we can’t let this happen. Never again. Here it is happening again.

Chuck Cohen: Dr. Stanley, thank you very much for sharing the story and thank you for everything you’ve done. We are going to get involved at Benco with the Quintessence event. I had no idea that it was going on. We’re going to make sure that we’re involved and supporting it.

Please keep in touch. I mean, this is a great story. Thank you for sharing it. I find it inspiring as a fellow member of the dental community. I’m so glad you’re spreading that story.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: I’d like to commend all of you at Benco Dental for multiple reasons. I love your company, the fact that it’s a family-run operation, and that you actually run it with your heart. I know the origins of your company, and I know that it’s a family business.

For me, family values are something that I think is essential in the world that we live in. It’s not all about numbers and the bottom line; it’s about having values. And I know that Benco Dental has very high values, and that’s why you do stuff like this. So, thank you, Chuck, for having me. Best regards to your family and your business.

Chuck Cohen: Thank you very much, Dr. Stanley. Good luck out there and be safe.

Dr. Miguel Stanley: I will. Thank you so much. Goodbye.


MEET OUR HOSTS

Chuck Cohen: Managing Director

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.

Rick Cohen: Managing Director

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.

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