In June, we proudly welcomed Dr. Robert Toews—founder of Life Dental clinics and son of dentalcorp Partner Dr. Bill Toews—to our network. We sat down with the father-son duo to discuss how their family’s passion for dentistry and patient-centered care came full circle through partnership.
A family affair
Dr. Bill—as his beloved patients call him—was initially drawn to dentistry by external factors, namely his friends and girlfriend at the time who were all pursuing the same profession. The career path proved to be a natural fit for him as a multi-business owner with a knack for the sciences. “Dentistry was a perfect combination of entrepreneurship, science, and helping people,” he says. “Fortunately for me, I was good at it and loved being able to connect with my patients.”
In the years following his graduation from dental school in 1978, Bill went on to develop several successful dental practices. In 2007, he established Beaufort Family Dental in Comox, where he has since practiced as Principal Dentist for the past 13 years.
As the mounting pressures of running a business began to take a toll, he spent several years researching different dental service organization models, ultimately deciding to partner with dentalcorp in 2018.
“I was looking for a transitional partnership. I had tried several conventional arrangements, but nothing seemed to resonate with me. The different corporate models had me concerned with practice independence and autonomy,” he says. “In the end, I determined that dentalcorp valued dentists and their relationships with their patients, team members, and communities. Through partnership, I could manage my dental practice with seamless managerial support and know-how.”
He further emphasizes dentalcorp’s commitment to ethical and honest dentistry as a key factor behind his decision to partner – a dilemma that he believes is “challenging the industry today.”
After four decades in practice, Bill is still passionate about his profession.
“Dentistry offers lifelong rewards”, he says. “My patients have been loyal and supportive – they trust me with their parents, siblings and children. I have proudly cared for four generations of families, from one-year olds to centenarians. The diversity of my patients from all backgrounds, ethnicities, belief systems, and socio-economic realities has kept me in touch with my entire community. I am continually blessed by my patients’ willingness to include and value me in their lives.”
Raised by two dentist parents, pursuing a career in dentistry was a natural progression for Bill’s son Robert.
“I joke that I was genetically engineered to be a dentist. And the longer I practice, the more that seems to be true. It took a couple of years to fully understand how right dentistry is for me,” Robert says. “Years ago, I was on a chairlift in Whistler and a high school student asked me why I liked being a dentist. What I told him then holds true today: I like to help people. Connecting with people, diffusing their apprehension, and exceeding their expectations just feels good. We build so many great relationships in this profession and it is very rewarding.”
As the founder of two thriving practices in New Westminster, Robert has accomplished more in his career than many dentists twice his age.
Less than five years ago, Robert opened his first practice location with two staff – a receptionist and a newly graduated dental assistant. Within the first month, they beat their projections for the 18-month mark and have since enjoyed sustained success as one of the fastest-growing dental clinics in British Columbia. The practice has grown to include 30 team members and four dentists, treating over 8,400 patients.
Robert ultimately credits his rapid growth and success to a combination of luck, hard work, and great mentorship.
“It is possible to work super hard and have the best ideas, but it is difficult to achieve a great result without some good fortune,” he says. “When we built our first clinic, I had been practicing dentistry for nearly a decade working with great mentors who were highly successful. I also had a surgical care practice that allowed me to work in many clinics and learn from their best traits. There was also the aspect of choosing positive influences in business education, like following the work of Jim Collins and doing a condensed MBA style program for dental business. All of this was the foundation for our practice success.”
Robert highlights the integral role that compassionate care and patient experience have played in the success of his practices.
“Clinically speaking, I believe in helping people. I truly believe in it and have incredible discipline when it comes to helping patients as much as possible. This approach has worked very well in our community and I am so grateful,” he says. “I also believe that dentistry matters. I see it every day, often in patients with a new confidence-inspiring smile. Confidence and self-worth are critical to a person's well-being and we have the privilege to help people and see the results as their lives improve.”
Robert further cites the ultimate patient experience as the inspiration behind his award-winning clinic, Life Dental Carnarvon, designed by his architect wife, Carla Smiley.
“We let the patient experience guide our design,” he explains. “They enter into a bright and spacious waiting room. The operatories are all part of one large open space, lined up against the windows, allowing for views to the sky while lying in the dental chair. We hold the belief that whether someone knows that they appreciate design or not, there is something inherently calming about minimizing visual clutter. Every aspect of the clinic was designed to provide a space that would be appreciated every day by patients and team members.”
When reflecting on Robert’s career path and subsequent success, it’s no secret that Bill is proud of his son.
“He has been guided by a desire to achieve excellence. He has accomplished so much in his career already. His desire to teach and mentor others, his determination to offer patients an exceptional treatment experience, and his love of our profession are a real tribute to his heritage. To have Robert want to be a Partner in dentalcorp alongside myself is an honour,” he says.
While it is easy to see how one might view Robert’s move to join the network as following in his father’s footsteps, Bill maintains his son arrived at the decision entirely on his own.
“He has seen the development and support provided to all employees and Partners. He knows how our code of ethics is paramount, and he sees the possibility of dental innovation and creativity that is fostered in our group. He has also witnessed how the network has supported me and my entire practice throughout this pandemic with resources and systems that have allowed us to continue to operate in a safe and patient-centered way.”
Echoing his father’s sentiments, Robert explains, “My dad had a great experience and has felt rejuvenated in his career by being a part of this group. I could hear it in his voice, and it was so nice as a son to know that he is happy in this phase of his career. As for me, I started my practices with the resolute focus on making a lasting contribution to the community. It became clear that I would be able to make a larger impact through a larger organization rather than continuing my current growth trajectory. I believe that dentalcorp can help us achieve this result and that the ultimate beneficiary will be more happy patients.”