Dr. Skoulas runs her own dental practice in San Francisco. She holds a bachelors degree from UCLA, an MBA from Pepperdine, and a D.D.S. from Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. We sat down with her to hear a bit about hopes, dreams–and of course, dental hygiene.
Tell us a bit about how you found your way to dentistry
I wanted to work in healthcare but I wasn’t sure what direction was the right one for me. I knew I wanted to do something to better the lives of others and do something good for the world–to create some kind of humanitarian impact. I decided that med school wasn’t right for me but the small business aspect of dentistry (and entrepreneurship opportunities associated with it) really appealed to me.
Let’s back up a smidge. We’d love to know a bit about your family, where you grew up, and what you were interested in as a kid.
I grew up in Cupertino, California in the South Bay. My background is Greek and my parents moved here when they were 25 to create their version of the "American Dream." When I was a kid, I loved volleyball and singing. It’s funny– growing up in Cupertino, I remember that my elementary school had the first apple computers. I remember playing Oregon Trail and remember learning how to type on those cubey macs! I have a younger sister who lives in Los Angeles and my mom still lives in Cupertino. It's fun to go back to our childhood home (and to see how much it’s changed!) whenever I get a chance.
Can you teach us something about dentistry/oral hygiene that we might not know?
If you have children and a tooth becomes dislodged, place it in milk to keep it moist! This will allow for replacement of the tooth into the socket if you can get to an emergency room pretty quickly. Call your dentist or endodontist to be seen within 30 minutes for the best reattachment when replaced. The tooth will end up needing a root canal but at least it won’t be lost!
What’s your favorite part of what you do?
I love the interactions with my patients and I feel very fortunate to call many of them friends. We’ve created a community here in San Francisco. I also love the artistic touch of the profession. Aesthetic dentistry can be very rewarding in giving someone the perfect smile that they have always wanted.
What have you found to be most challenging about having your own dental practice?
I decided to go the startup route instead of purchasing an old practice. This came with both challenges and rewards. It was definitely the right direction for me. Starting from patient zero and building to 1,000 patients in almost three years has been tremendously rewarding, but the combination of patient management, practice management, and clinical treatment, can sometimes take a toll on my sleep!
What's something outside of work that inspires you?
I recently started rowing as a member of the SF Dolphin Club. I find being on the water, sometimes watching the sunrise, and playing fun music, to be pretty inspiring. Taking some time to myself during a busy week allows for me to feel recharged and ready to accomplish my goals. I also find that being on the water helps to trivialize problems–allowing for a perspective shift. I find that really inspiring.
Do you remember a really really good piece of advice you received?
Be patient. (I definitely lack patience when it comes to fulfilling my dreams).
Do you remember any bad advice you’ve received? How’d you know to ignore it?
My goodness. I can recall one really awful piece of advice that came my way in the first three months of dental school. An instructor told me that he didn't like that I had decorated my cubicle with pictures of my friends (it was a sorority picture that I guess rubbed him the wrong way). He told me I should quit dentistry because I wasn't serious about learning–somehow conveyed by my pictures of women having fun.
I remember thinking that you can’t let one person’s opinion discourage you or push you down. Something that may come off as different to someone else, may be exactly the reason you’ll be successful in the future. You don't have to fit a mold. That differentiation is better and definitely more advantageous for you in the long run.
We’re all about information. Was there a time you learned something that made you go “aha!”?
The importance of crystal clear communication. Through my years practicing as an associate, I learned that nothing is more important to your patients, your staff, and your colleagues than all being on the same page. The way you communicate can really set you up for success or failure.
Read any good books lately? We’d love to hear about your faves.
I recently read The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. I can't believe I hadn't read it before! It's a quick read but it has some great wisdom for dealing with business and personal relationships. I also read Aziz Ansari's Modern Love, which is a great read on dating for millennials. (It’s even better listening to his voice narrate on Audible!)
With a kickass career, how are you thinking about family down the road?
I have high expectations for myself in every aspect of my life. I want a family, eventually, but I definitely have a vision of what I would like that to look like and I never settle in regard to anything.
How do you think fertility information can empower other women?
Knowledge is power. Therefore, the earlier women can learn about their own fertility, the more options they will have available to them in the future. Women who check in on fertility set themselves up for successful future pregnancy by understanding how their body works and any risks at an early age.
What have you done to lift other women up? Have you learned anything that can help?
Organizing women (and all dentists) for the transfer of clinical knowledge and practice guidance, is crucial. When I first started practicing, I was Vice Chair on the Committee of the New Dentist for the California Dental Association and continued to stay involved in the dentistry community, locally. We put a lot of work into getting more women involved in local and state organized dentistry. This included organizing a state-wide brunch for women dentists where we discussed challenges and progress for women in the profession. Together, you have more power than if you go at it alone (particularly in dentistry which can be isolating for small business owners). In a profession that has been male dominated until the last ten to fifteen years– it’s incredibly impressive and comforting to know that women are supporting women, through mentorship, job placement, and friendship.