After almost two years of focusing on launching seven offices, effectively doubling the size of the dental group, Dr. James Willis, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Willis & Associates Family Dentistry, will be returning to clinical practice at our Cville Dentist location (2375 Commonwealth Dr A, Charlottesville, VA 22901, www.cvilledentist.com). Fahim Mohi, our Chief Marketing Officer, sat down with Dr. Willis to hear his story of his journey in the world of dentistry thus far.
Fahim: First question Dr. Willis, as principal of the dental group, you’ve doubled in size during COVID-19 when a lot of other businesses and dentists were shutting down, what pushed you to succeed in a time where most were struggling?
Dr. Willis: Well, I think it goes back to one of my core beliefs; my responsibility is to lead our group of doctors and team of individuals who are working very hard to give our communities and patients that we serve the best in dentistry. My responsibility to them is to put our dental practices and staff in a position where they can focus on providing our patients with the best dental care. Growing is a natural part of that, and it’s very difficult to tread water for me, so to speak. I believe you either sink or swim. COVID-19 was definitely a time of turbulent water for our group. And, the growth we had was because of our focus to push forward.
Fahim: Can you tell me a little bit about your journey as a dentist before you started leading a fourteen practice dental group?
Dr. Willis: I started at the WVU School of Dentistry Clinic in 2007 I believe, as a third year dental school student. I’ve always loved the craftsmanship and quality in the clinical aspects of dentistry. It’s very rewarding, whether it’s a single tooth or a complete smile, to see the change from damaged teeth to a perfect, beautiful smile. Everyone in dentistry knows that working in a clinic is hard work – but I’ve always loved it, as I’ve been a bit of a workhorse my whole life. I truly enjoy the grind. Fast forward to ten years later, I was working five days a week doing a tremendous amount of dentistry between our practices from Crozet to Augusta County. I’ve had some of the best patients in the world, worked with wonderful people, and honestly, some of my patients have ended up becoming my best friends for life! As we grew, it got to the point where I had to cut back some of my clinical time due to the load of launching the new offices all across Virginia and mentoring doctors and clinical staff. It was difficult to cut back on the restorative work, which I’ve always loved, so I am very excited to start full time clinically again this year.
Fahim: How has your clinical practice changed from when you started to now?
Dr. Willis: Well it’s funny how time flies – when I started, I was blessed with good clinical mentors and I had good hands, but my patients would look at me early out of school and say things like they ‘have pairs of socks older than me’. Now, I’m at the point in my career where I have the experience and I haven’t lost a step, so I feel like this is my prime and I want to do some of the best dentistry that I will have done in my career.
Fahim: What type of cases or dentistry are you most excited about?
Dr. Willis: Well we have the iTero element digital scanner in every one of our offices, and we’re adding conebeams this year – one for each region – so we will be able to do implants in-house. I’m most excited about giving patients the benefits of a fully digital workflow for their restorative needs. Of course, the smile rehabilitation cases are my favorite, I can’t wait to build some new smiles and change some lives in 2023.
Fahim: Can you tell me about some of your mentors that you’ve had in your career thus far?
Dr. Willis: From the beginning, circa 2006, Dr. Howard Farran and Dr. Scott Luene were big influences on my practice management. I do have to say that Dr. David Galler, who actually just educated our entire group at our Winter Summit, made a big impact on my niche of providing digital orthodontics and Invisalign to our patients, and that’s only getting better.
Fahim: And to conclude our interview, any New Year’s resolutions or goals that you have for 2023?
Dr. Willis: I’m just wishing for health and happiness for my family, my staff, and my patients, and we want this to be our best year yet!