Why this dentist became a practice manager
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Why this dentist became a practice manager

Customer spotlight on Eddie Medina, Riverwood Medical.

We’ve all had those moments where we wonder what would happen if we could switch careers and do something completely different. Well in 2005, Eddie Medina took the leap from dentistry to becoming a practice manager – and has never looked back. 

We spoke with Eddie to discover his fascinating career journey, and unearthed the challenges and success that led him to being in his current role as practice manager at Riverwood Medical. 

Can you tell us where your career journey began?

At first, my dream was always to be an English teacher because I loved the language. But my teacher told me not to, and to go into something ‘better.’  

My career in dentistry was inspired by a visit to a dentist as a young child, when I saw the dentist’s name was the same as mine. I thought Dr Medina had a nice ring to it, and I could imagine being a dentist and working in that environment. So, in 1981 I studied Dentistry at the University of Chile, and in 1986 I became a dentist. It was a career I enjoyed for 17 years, and I predominantly practiced in the air force.

What made you decide to move from dentistry to practice management?

In Chile, together with my Dentistry degree, I did a degree in Health Institutions Management. When I came to Australia in 2002, I thought it was a great opportunity to use that side of my training and go into the administrative side of dental practice. 

I decided then not to continue working as a dentist anymore so I thought the practice management side would offer me a different type of challenge – from dealing with clinical issues to business management issues– definitely a more suitable role based on the circumstances I was facing then.  I retrained as a practice manager and started working for HCF Parramatta Dental Centre in 2005.

I was able to work in different dental centres, however I needed to grow and to expand my horizons. I decided to explore the medical industry so I ended up being a practice manager, but this time running a medical centre. In 2011 and thanks to the opportunity offered by the director of this practice, I started working at the Australian Health Care Centre. 

What did you find the most challenging about starting out in practice management?

When I came to Australia at 42 years old, I was facing two challenges. Firstly, switching careers meant understanding how to put all the systems, policies and procedures in place required for effective practice management. 

The second was mastering a new way of communicating in a different language. I even had to change my name to Eddie from my birth name Hernan. Spanish can be hard to pronounce and for a long time I was having to repeat myself over the phone or when someone needed to write my name down. 

I went through some very funny situations trying to state what my name was so I decided to be Eddie, after assessing different alternatives such as “Colin” and “the man” and I stuck to it until now. I wanted to assimilate into Australia as quickly as possible, so it seemed like the easiest option.

Have you had any regrets along the way, or is there anything you would do differently? 

I’ve never had any regrets in switching careers, none at all. I’ve sort of come full circle in a way, because before dentistry I was studying business administration, and my role now is very similar to that – but within the health industry. So no regrets! 

What are the key pieces of advice you’d offer to anyone who wants to start a career in practice management?

First of all, you need to enjoy what you do. Secondly, utilise your knowledge and your skill to maximise your potential, even if you come to practice management from another career path. Don’t waste time dwelling on what you’ve learnt in the past. 

Always be proactive to gain new skills and knowledge – and continue learning to better yourself. Apart from my qualification in Practice Management, I was able to finish the Advanced Diploma of Leadership and Management and I am now ready to continue with the Master of Health Institutions Management at UTS. All this, ultimately, led me to develop new management styles and continue to improve our current practice and the way we perform – so we can reach all the goals we are aiming for.

Thirdly, always look forward, never look back.