Dental school coach Mario Pavicic guides future dentists in launching careers

Mario PavicicYou’ve heard of football and basketball coaches, but what about a dental coach?

Meet “Coach” Mario Pavicic, adjunct assistant professor at the School of Dental Medicine, and a rarity in the dental profession as a newly minted International Coaching Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach (ACC).

Only a handful of dentists in the world have accomplished this coaching certification and now fill a small niche in the dental specialty, according to the ICF.  The organization has about 10,000 ICF-certified coaches worldwide, and the latest ICF’s figures show about 6,400 have their ACC.

“The title represents yet another feather in the cap of CWRU’s dental school practice management program,” Pavicic said.  “The students will be able to experience what a dental coach does and how he can help them throughout their dental career.”

“I’ve always wanted to help people become better,” said the 1992 dental school alumnus and a private practice dentist in Strongsville. He teaches the “Practice Management” course that teaches dental students the business side of running a practice.

“As a coach, it’s my job to help people find out what they want in life and how their professional lives fit into that dream,” he said.

Being a good coach, Pavicic said, requires listening to students and empowering them to find their own answers.

Problem solving is a skill they will have to use often as professionals, Pavicic said, because no two patients have the same situation, and textbook answers are not available for every dental problem.

If students struggle to find an answer, Coach Pavicic steps in to offer guidance.

“Today’s dental students know they have to be business savvy,” he said. “This is a big change from 20 years ago, when just being an excellent clinician was enough.”

Unlike honing dental skills in a clinic, Pavicic said students have little experiential learning about running a business and may need extra coaching in those first few years after graduation.

Pavicic said he tries to make classroom learning fun with inspirational videos and by introducing real-life patient and office scenarios that students discuss and resolve, then spin his “Wheel of Fortune” for rewards.

What Pavicic wants them to realize before heading out to the real world is that to be a successful dentist, you have to know who you are and what you want, and have your personal life in order.

For 10 years, he was a preceptor in the dental school’s clinic, where he monitored the students’ work with their patients. As his private practice grew, he had to give up the preceptor position but stayed on to run the Practice Management courses.

Pavicic learned about coaching after befriending another dental coach, who is an ICF master certified coach.

The ACC is the first level of coaching accredited by the ICF. To reach this certification, Pavicic completed 77 classroom-training hours on coaching competencies, 100 coaching hours with clients and 10 hours of work with a master coach.  He also had to pass competencies to continue.

Coaching also goes beyond the classroom for Pavicic.  “What you learn in coaching helps in every phase of your life, from interactions with your children to social situations,” he said.