“Jumping the Curve” From Learner to Leader: The Power of Mentorship

by Gary Glassman, DDS, FRCD(C)


A “career” is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.1 But how does one ensure not just progress but fulfilment and happiness? Having worked as an endodontist for more than 30 years and completed more than 50,000 treatments, I have evolved and expanded my approach and philosophy from focusing on my practice and professional growth to mentoring others to assist them in advancing their careers and enhancing their abilities. Without even knowing it, I was “Jumping the Curve.”

Harvard University professor, novelist, and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is well-known for his research on various subjects, including the science of happiness and the degree of enjoyment experienced at each stage of life. He discovered that beginning in middle age, people in almost every profession see a reduction in their creativity and productivity, often resulting in decreased happiness. Psychologist Ray Cattell has further characterized these stages as fluid and crystallized intelligence concepts.2

The capacity to adapt to changing circumstances and manage complicated challenges is a component of fluid intelligence. To put it briefly, it’s the way that top-tier professionals use a youthful, agile mind. According to Brooks, this initial curve of intellect starts to move downward around mid-life when productivity and creativity begin to wane. A second form of intelligence, crystallized intelligence, is the store of previously acquired intellect. Like wisdom, it is linked to knowledge instead of unprocessed data and facts. This type of intellect rises with age, and what Brooks refers to as the “second curve” is largely dependent on crystallized intelligence. This crystalized intelligence is foundational to imparting learned knowledge and abilities to others.

In our world of dentistry and beyond, we call this mentorship. While the benefits of mentorship are evident for mentees, mentors benefit equally by remaining relevant and happy over time as they “jump to this second curve.”

In this editorial, I will discuss the enormous benefits of mentoring in dentistry and how it affects a mentor’s and the mentee’s growth on both personal and professional levels. I have directed my ‘brain bank’ of information and experience towards hundreds of hours of education – through the delivery of formal course material and countless engagements of hands-on practical mentoring.

It is crucial to remember that mentoring is a two-way relationship. Aspiring dentists can have their careers shaped by the advice and encouragement of seasoned mentors, who can help them hone the skills they need to succeed in the industry and negotiate its intricacies. Mentors could impart their knowledge, grow as leaders, and support the success and personal development of others, thereby providing a lasting legacy of their knowledge pool.

Dentistry is a hands-on profession that demands technical skills and excellent patient communication. Mentees can develop confidence in their capabilities by receiving direction and practice advice from a mentor who can help them develop their talents by identifying areas for growth and offering customized advice based on regular feedback and constructive criticism.

Making important real-time decisions is critical to patient management’s success, and mentoring can be helpful. Trained mentors can help mentees deal with difficult patient situations by imparting their clinical knowledge and offering advice on complicated cases. This mentorship also develops the mentees’ clinical expertise and instills a feeling of duty and ethical behaviour.

In addition to their clinical expertise, dentists need significant business acumen to manage a successful practice. Mentorship can provide insightful knowledge about the business side of dentistry, from marketing strategies to money management. This knowledge will direct the mentees to make wise financial decisions and, hopefully, allow them to create a prosperous practice. Mentoring makes professional growth and beneficial networking opportunities possible. The mentees can leverage their mentors’ broad networks within the dentistry community to broaden their career ties.

Beyond just offering professional advice, mentoring also offers emotional and personal support. Being in the dental field can be quite taxing and stressful. Therefore, it can be extremely helpful to have a mentor who is aware of the difficulties and can lend an empathetic ear. A mentor can provide guidance on striking a work-life balance and suggest stress-reduction techniques.

In summary, growth, progress, and success are fueled by the synergy that exists between mentors and mentees. Mentors and mentees build a mutually beneficial relationship through sharing knowledge, developing skills, networking, providing emotional support, taking responsibility for one another, and never stopping their learning. Mentors “jump the curve” from learners to leaders by finding fulfillment in leading and developing the next generation of professionals and finding value in their lives for many years. 

  1. Career, n. meanings, etymology and more Oxford English Dictionary. (2023). https://www.oed.com/dictionary/career_n?tab=factsheet#9948860
  2. Cattell, R. B. (1963). Theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence: A critical experiment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 54(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0046743

Dr. Gary Glassman graduated from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry, in 1984 and from the Endodontology Program at Temple University in 1987. Author of numerous publications, Dr. Glassman lectures globally on endodontics and is on staff at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry, in the graduate department of endodontics. Gary is a fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada, a Fellow of the American College of Dentists, a Faculty Chair for DC Institute and Chief Dental Officer for Dentalcorp Canada. He maintains a private practice, Endodontic Specialists, in Toronto. He can be reached at gary@rootcanals.ca.

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