By Phyllis Hanlon | Photography By Chase Lanier
When James E. Paschal, Jr, DMD, MS, enters the classroom—industrial-sized broom and heavy-duty rope in tow—every preschooler grins to attention. Dedicated and passionate about his work, he is here for one of his favorite activities: passing along his enthusiasm for and knowledge of the art of tooth care with a heavy dose of fun and creativity.
A Matter of Fate
Unlike some individuals who know from an early age exactly where they’ll land career-wise, Paschal jumped from one professional route to another before choosing orthodontics. But if you ask, he’ll tell you it was really a matter of fate.
As a child growing up in South Carolina, Paschal spent many of his after-school hours at a doctor’s office where his mother worked as a nurse. His up-close-and-personal exposure to the inner workings of a private practice planted the idea of one day becoming a physician. As a high school student, he even considered the dental profession, but his family dentist discouraged that career path, citing changes in the field.
By the time he reached college, Paschal still leaned toward some type of position in health care. “I did a good bit of genetic research and thought maybe I’d enter that field,” he says, “but then I found out what writing NIH [National Institutes of Health] grants was all about and changed my mind.”
His indecision prompted him to take a litany of career placement tests. Not surprisingly, the results determined that he was best suited to be a dentist. Armed with this validation, he reconsidered the profession and applied to dental school.
After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, Paschal entered the Medical College of Georgia, where he earned his doctorate of dental medicine. He continued his education at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) and received a Masters of Science in biomaterials/prosthodontics. But what really led him in the right direction were three residencies: one in prosthodontics, another in general practice, and a third in orthodontics.
“During my general dentist residency I treated a lot of sick people, and the experience was phenomenal. It was strongly hospital-based, so I was managing the dental needs of medically compromised patients. Working collaboratively with attending physicians, we did medical rotations in the ER, anesthesia, ENT, and psychology, and became better armed to deal with many situations later on,” he says. “In addition, I gained experience treating patients in a hospital dental clinic, the emergency room, and operating room, and had the opportunity to manage medical scenarios that could only be experienced in a hospital setting. Through this experience in these various settings, you are less likely to be surprised if medical emergencies happen in your private practice.”
Following this residency, Paschal put his knowledge and skills to work in a private practice in Atlanta as a prosthodontist, specializing in restorative and implant dentistry.
It would be another turning point in Paschal’s professional life that would lead him into orthodontics. It came when he developed a professional relationship with Michael B. Stewart, DDS, an orthodontist in Atlanta. This was the first time he was introduced to the world of orthodontics in the private-practice setting. “I never had braces and knew nothing about that experience,” Paschal says. “Mike exposed me to a way of solving dental problems that I became very passionate about.” Just this little bit of knowledge piqued his interest, and his inexperience prompted him to explore the field. Hungry to learn more and an admitted “techie,” he was drawn to this niche area that he compares to a virtual video game in which you have to visualize dental problems in three dimensions and then create a solution.
In 2004, after completing an orthodontics residency at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, he joined Pickron Orthodontic Care, a large practice in Atlanta. He spent 3 years with the group, but longed for his own private practice. While he sensed that both dentistry and medicine were both moving toward a corporate model, Paschal also determined that there would be continued demand for boutique-style practices, like the one he envisioned building. “There will always be people who value service over the corporate environment,” he says.
|Practice Profile: James E. Paschal, Jr, DMD, MS|
Practice name: Paschal Orthodontics
Locations: Madison and Eatonton
Office square footage: 4,500
Number of chairs: 4 (with room to grow)
Years in practice: 8
Education: University of Rochester
Average patients per day: 45
Starts per year: 240
Days worked per week: 3
Top five products used: Damon Q, Damon Clear, Insignia, Invisalign,
The realization that he could appeal to a significant population in Georgia’s Madison and Lake Oconee region led Paschal to open Paschal Orthodontics in 2005. “I can do things the way I would like to see them done if I were the patient, and being the owner offers me this opportunity,” he says.
Adolescents comprise 80% of his practice, but Paschal also treats adults. “By industry definition, my practice falls within the national norm,” he notes. In spite of his predominately young patient population, Paschal does not believe in a “kid-centered” design for his office. “We have a contemporary design. It’s a fun atmosphere with a clean look,” he says.
Patients can choose from several different treatment options at Paschal Orthodontics, including Invisalign, Insignia, and the Damon bracket system. With a penchant for computers, Paschal’s eyes light up at the mention of Insignia, what he considers one of the most technologically advanced systems in the orthodontic world. This “virtual environment” enables him to create custom brackets and wires that complement the patient’s orthodontic needs through digital planning. “This system increases treatment efficiency and reduces treatment time,” Paschal says. “Digital Orthodontics is where our profession is headed, and I truly enjoy being a part of it.”
Technology has played a major role at Paschal Orthodontics from its inception. Paschal made sure when he opened his practice that state-of-the-art equipment would be the standard. “There are computers at every chair, and we have a 100% paperless system,” he says. As an example of the practice’s commitment to conserving its use of paper, it uses a laminated card to take a patient’s history. That card is then scanned into the computer, eliminating the need for a stack of papers. Patients can also sign up for e-mail and text appointment reminders.
The practice is also awaiting delivery of a 3D scanner and has been taking digital x-rays since 2006. As other technological tools become available and affordable, Paschal plans to add them to the practice.
Social Media Matters
But while Paschal and his practice jump on the technology bandwagon, he admits the small community in which he practices has been slow to adopt social media. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from setting up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. He notes that until 3 years ago, these social media outlets drew little attention. But when young teens began using Twitter and Instagram, he knew he was targeting the right population. Lately, Pinterest has grabbed the attention of his female patients, so he fully intends to pursue that venue next to promote his practice and build its online community.
However, Facebook still ranks as the gold standard. “Facebook is a way to personalize relationships with patients, parents, and potential patients when they are not around our practice,” he says. Facebook friends never know what to expect from this lively and creative office. “Today, we took crazy photos of us wearing glasses and mustaches, and posted it on Facebook,” he says. “Facebook is a vehicle to keep us top of mind.”
Like many other practices, Paschal’s offers promotions and specials to entice new patients. “We don’t reinvent the wheel, but get ideas from discussions with friends. We run a T-shirt contest and give away three or four iPads every year,” he says. “Do those promotions get us new patients? Who knows, but it gives us visibility. Maybe it’ll spur a discussion when someone is talking to a friend.”
Canine Comfort and the Human Touch
One of the biggest attractions—besides the professionalism and expertise at Paschal Orthodontics—is the presence of its canine office “workers.” Paschal explains that when he and his wife, Michelle, who works in the office with him, acquired a labradoodle puppy, they kept the pooch in a crate in the office. When some of his younger patients seemed reluctant or nervous, he brought them in to see the dog and all anxiety disappeared. Many of his adult patients also welcomed the calming presence of this unique approach.
Barley, now 5 years old and weighing in at 65 pounds, and newcomer Bentley, continue to freely roam the office. “They are our mobile rugs. It’s not unusual to find them in the waiting room, greeting patients. They provide a therapeutic effect. Patients are focused on the dogs and don’t notice the other things around the office. Ninety-five percent of the time, Barley distracts the patients with his lovable personality,” Paschal says.
In fact, Barley is such an integral part of the practice that he’s been put to work “writing” the practice’s blog. “This was our office manager’s idea. You’d be surprised how many responses he gets,” Paschal quips.
In addition to his indispensable canine team, Paschal employs several humans who help to keep the office humming. His four dental assistants, whom he has personally trained in orthodontics, have all been certified in this specialty area. Dental assistants Lauren Craig and Brittany Banks joined the practice in 2008 and 2011, respectively. Most recently, dental assistant Taylor Croft became a team member in 2013. Cathy Stell has served as patient coordinator since 2009, and Lisa Torino, also with the practice since 2009, manages the office and coordinates treatment. Paschal anticipates bringing two more team members on board in the summer. “We offer patients concierge treatment. From door to door, our staff guides the process,” he says, emphasizing that they have incredible in-depth knowledge of every patient who crosses the threshold.
Professional and Community Involvement
Professionally, Paschal intends to continue delivering the best care possible to every individual he treats. “I aim to treat patients with the kind of attention and care I would want,” he adds. “I want to continue to have business success so I can employ more staff and grow the practice.”
A part of growing professionally has included getting more involved in the future of the field itself. Paschal, who is licensed to practice in both Georgia and New York, was appointed clinical assistant professor of dentistry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York in 2009. More recently, he began lecturing at various conferences and meetings across the county on digital orthodontics and marketing. Paschal is an active member of the American Dental Association, the American Association of Orthodontists, Southern Association of Orthodontists, Georgia Association of Orthodontists, and the Eastern District Dental Society. He has been a member of Omicron Kappa Upsilon Honor Society since 1993.
While professional activities consume much of his time, Paschal still participates in several community organizations and events. His practice frequently sponsors local athletic programs and festivals. “We’ve been actively involved with the local schools, especially since budgets have been cut. We deliver bags of supplies—glue, paper, pens, and pencils—to the schools. When we found out the teachers were spending $400 to $600 of their own money each year, we surveyed the teachers and collected the things they need most,” Paschal says.
As for that preschool classroom visit, Paschal and his team make regular appearances on “Career Day.” As strong proponents of educating the younger generation about the importance of good dental hygiene, Paschal and his team also visit schools to teach the youngsters about proper tooth care. “We show them how to brush and floss by using a few volunteer preschoolers as teeth, a big broom as the brush, and then rope for the floss. You should see the kids just smile and giggle using this method,” he says. “We like to make it fun.”
Unlike his former dentist, who discouraged his entry into the field, Paschal’s enthusiasm and passion for this career path is evident, and possibly infectious. “I’m very excited to expose kids to this incredible job.”
At the end of the day, though, Paschal is a true family man at heart. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Michelle, and their children, 11-year-old Will, 9-year-old Chesley, and 6-year-old Colby, when he is not in the office. “They are my focus. I hope to be a good husband and father,” he says. The family often goes camping together, and evenings and weekends will find Paschal at the field cheering his children at a soccer match, baseball game, or gymnastics. Now that his family is getting older, he hopes to involve them in some of his other passions: sailing, snow skiing, and scuba diving. Paschal also sees more travel in their future. “We’d like to expose our children to new adventures,” he says.
Although his service area boasts a population of approximately 52,000 and has four orthodontists in the geographic region, he reports that his practice “excels in a very small market.” For Paschal, there is no question he is where he wants to be. “It’s a trade-off. I love the lifestyle I have for my children. We are out of the big city and living in a village concept.” OP