A New Practice Gets Its Footing

BY Lisa Wells and Rick Deming | PHOTO BY Mitchell Goldstein And Lisa Wells

For Dr. Niki Fallah, 2016 and 2017 have been the culmination of tragic loss and eventual healing and joy. It was Dr. Fallah’s father’s dream and dying wish that she establish her own practice and follow in her parents’ footsteps of business ownership. Although Dr. Fallah’s father located the eventual practice site, he passed away before ground was broken. Dr. Fallah struggled with her decision to move forward, but honoring his wishes and legacy became her driving force. In April of 2016 in Millbrae, California, Mills-Peninsula Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics was born.

It is a spectacular, timeless, and inviting environment of glass, stainless steel, and curves throughout, melded with calming effects of wall murals of colorful poppies and photos of blue skies and wispy clouds on the ceiling. A plush-covered mushroom patch is in the middle of the open bay for the younger kids to sit and climb on. It is a masterful design and environment for kids of all ages.
Dr. Fallah is a San Francisco Bay Area native. Her parents founded Mills Montessori School, a 200-student school that has been in operation for decades. Dr. Fallah graduated from University of California (Berkeley) for undergrad, USC Dental School, and completed her residency in 2014 at UCSF. She also teaches at the Pediatric Department at UCSF and UOP.

Dr. Fallah grew up around dentists, including her cousin and his wife, Dr. Shawn Taheri and Dr. Roya Naderi, who completed their San Jose office in 2016 with Lisa Wells (Equipment Specialist) and Burkhart, after a fire had decimated their previous office.

Motivation
“I went into dentistry to provide health care while also being able to create a balance in my life,” said Dr. Fallah. “Pediatric dentistry was a passion that evolved once I realized how important it was to develop healthy oral habits, a process that was more likely to happen when patients are younger. I felt that it was important to create a positive experience for my young patients that would stay with them into adulthood. I knew I could make a difference.”

“My dad was the catalyst for opening my practice. He made my mom promise that I would finish honoring him by opening the office—a bitter sweet process. With the passing of my father, each day was a struggle, but with the support of friends and family, I was able to realize his dream.”

Inspiration
Dr. Fallah was “profoundly” inspired by Dr. Dorothy Pang, a pedodontist in San Francisco. “Dorothy Pang is the gold standard of pediatric dentistry. She was one of my instructors and became my mentor. Her 30 years of experience was invaluable to me. I have the utmost respect for her and always look to her. She was a huge influence.”

Dr. Pang had recently built her stunning office, also a Burkhart project, enlisting the renowned Dental Office Project Designer Mitchell Goldstein. Dr. Fallah knew she wanted to fashion her own practice similarly to Dr. Pang’s, including the combination of ortho and pedo that Dr. Pang and husband, Dr. Peter Lee, an orthodontist, had created in their adjoining offices. They helped Dr. Fallah with her plans to ensure there was a great flow, energy, and logic to her practice. “They took the plans home and made red marks all over them, and Mitchell was already in the engineering phase. I knew Dr. Pang would only do the right thing for me—and her changes were made to the plan.”

“Dr. Pang’s office was my inspiration. This was going to be a warm and inviting space where my team would be comfortable with a staff lounge, a spacious front desk area, and their own private bathroom. And, I knew this is how I wanted to spend the rest of my career.”

Team
Dr. Fallah chose “a team who worked extremely well together” including Mitchell Goldstein, Dental Office Project Designer (Design for Health), Eric Schmidt, Designer (Eric Schmidt Interiors), Paul Aboumrad (General Contractor), Silvio Karimi, IT Specialist (Lan Pros Communication) and Burkhart Dental (Lisa Wells, Equipment Specialist, Dave Gayner, Equipment Specialist, and Rick Deming, Account Manager). According to Dr. Fallah, “It was a collaborative process and the end result is an office that is warm, beautiful, and inviting for kids of all ages and their parents. The whole team was really great.”

According to Dr. Fallah, key players included her mom, Mitchell Goldstein, family members, Dr. Pang, and “you guys” (Burkhart). Dr. Fallah wanted to give special thanks to April Rosales (Office Manager), for helping bring her dream office into a reality; to her RDA’s (Maria, Mei, and Mona) who have been with her since the beginning, and helped set up the office; to Dr. Philip Yen for making her anesthesia cases seamless and successful; and, to her ortho team, Dr. Sona Bekmezian and Seerat Singh (RDA) for establishing and maintaining a fully functioning orthodontic practice within the office.

Office Layout & Design
“I knew Mitchell Goldstein (Design for Health) was the only architect I would work with. It was a time-consuming process with several visits to Mitchell’s office. He was extremely detailed and did not cut any corners. Mitchell respected the rules and policies of the city—and everything went smoothly.”

“Eric Schmidt, Designer (Eric Schmidt Interiors) provided great perspective and I chose all the finishes and colors for the final product.”

Tim Shadle, Burkhart Office Planner/Drafter, in collaboration with Lisa Wells, Equipment Specialist, provided all technical specifications for the dental equipment for the 2,500-sq. ft. space.

Construction Process
“Paul Aboumrad (General Contractor), is a well-run contractor and was a huge, huge component of the office. There was not one issue, not one problem.”

Equipment
Dr. Fallah visited two California Dental Association shows to narrow down her equipment choices, in conjunction with Lisa Wells and the Burkhart team. Check out the sidebar on the previous page for her specific equipment choices.

On her decision to go with a Vatech pan/ceph, Dr. Fallah stated, “I was not a follower. I made a decision that was right for me. Vatech is so user-friendly and Scott Jovich (Vatech Rep) makes himself available and is so helpful. And, the Nomad was a very good decision. The team is comfortable using it and it has worked out so well.”

Installation
Regarding the installation, Dr. Fallah said, “You guys have been awesome. Newton Fong (Lead Technician, Burkhart Dental) is great to work with and so patient. He would always call and leave me a voicemail of progress made. Every Burkhart Service Technician is very nice and very professional.”

Advice
When we asked Dr. Fallah if she had any advice for doctors opening their first practice, she said, “Take your time, do your homework, and be patient with the process. Make decisions slowly and in an organized way. Hire a good team, an experienced team, who has your best interest at heart. If you try and cut corners, you pay the price later.”

Conclusion
Since opening her practice in April, 2016, Dr. Fallah has had some incredible experiences, including her engagement to Dr. Amir Schricker, a specialized cardiologist, who lives in San Diego. Dr. Fallah’s fiancé secretly arranged for a professional paparazzi photographer to capture the marriage proposal on a park bench in Manhattan’s Central Park. A social media frenzy followed with one of the photos used as the jewelry store’s central advertising piece.

Dr. Fallah said it has been a wild year, personally and professionally—following a couple of painful years with the passing of her beloved father.

When asked what was on the horizon for her, she said, “Amir and I will have our wedding at the historic Bently Reserve in the Financial District of San Francisco. As a tribute to her mentor, Dorothy Pang, Dr. Fallah said, “I hired the ‘Dr. Pang’ of wedding planners.” And, in a spiritual sense, Dr. Fallah said of her fiancé, “My father sent him!”

In Her Dreams

By: Cheryl Wika, photos by Dave Davis_dmd_5433-full

Providing the highest quality patient care for children of all ages and those with special needs is the key to success for Caitlin Barnes, DDS. Personal connections with her patients and exceptional care utilizing the most advanced technology has allowed Dr. Barnes to create a special niche for this Alaskan community.

Q. Would you share a little about your education as well as the journey that lead you to where you are today?
A. I grew up in Newport News, Virginia and was the first in my family to pursue a career in dentistry. I attended Virginia Commonwealth University for both college and dental school, enjoying my time there very much. The itch to travel enticed me to visit Alaska for an externship during my third year of dental school, and at that point I completely fell in love with the state. Following graduation I was offered a position as a general dentist in Barrow, Alaska, an area unique for being the northernmost city in the United States and also one of the largest Alaska Native communities. Barrow is known as “the land of the midnight sun” in the summertime, and also for its majestic northern lights during the long winters. I came to love the culture and beauty of this remote community, and during my time there also realized how much I enjoyed working with children as my patients. This is what inspired me to go on to complete a pediatric residency at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. Over the course of the next few years, I finished my residency, had many Alaskan adventures, and decided to call Anchorage my home.

Q. How long were you practicing before you decided to open your
own practice?
A. I have been practicing dentistry for nine years, the last five of which were as an associate in private practice. I reached a turning point when having a family of my own. I felt that if I was going to be away from my family, I wanted to be doing something that I felt passionate about. I’ve been lucky enough to take all the positive things I’ve learned from my previous opportunities in dentistry and apply them here. Starting this office has been a dream of mine for some time, and it has been so rewarding to see that dream finally become a reality.

Q. Was there an inspiration for how you wanted the practice to look and feel?
A. Absolutely! Alaska is such a beautiful place that it was easy to feel inspired. From glaciers to mountains to wildlife, there are so many aspects of where we live that I wanted to incorporate into the design of the practice. I especially wanted to showcase the aurora theme, as the northern lights are so uniquely Alaskan. From a practical standpoint, I also wanted my office to meet the needs of every patient from infant to teenager. In addition, we are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and welcome patients with special needs.

Q. How did you get started with this project?
A. Partnering with Burkhart, my vision was to design an office that would maximize treatment space while maintaining a private, comfortable feel for patients and their families. In addition to an open hygiene bay, my priority was to incorporate two “quiet” treatment operatories based on each patient’s unique needs, with a third “quiet” operatory that could be built out at a later date. Burkhart meticulously designed my office space, offering several layouts which incorporated all the details I envisioned. A very important feature that Burkhart assisted with was an efficient office flow. I felt it was imperative to create a separate entrance and exit in order to be conscientious of patient privacy. After several revisions, Burkhart assisted me with an optimal plan that helped turn my vision into reality. Anchorage Burkhart Equipment Specialist Louis Ullrich and Account Manager Arne Valdez carefully attended to every detail, creating the perfect space. I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result!

 
Q. How would you best describe your treatment philosophy?
A. I want every patient to feel comfortable and confident about their teeth. I strive to provide the highest quality patient care as well as an overall positive experience for every patient. I am excited to build long-lasting relationships with the families in my practice. I love hearing about baseball games, dance recitals and family vacations. What I enjoy most about being a pediatric dentist is watching every child grow up and truly being a part of that process.

Q. What advice would you give to a doctor who is building a new office?
A. The most important aspect of a dental office is location. We are adjacent to two pediatric offices in a hospital setting. We make it convenient for parents to bring their children to the dentist. Find a location that works for you and go from there.

The second most important aspect is identifying how many providers the space should accommodate. This determines the size of the office and appropriate number of operatories required. In addition, plan for success with the possibility to expand. Having room to grow is of the utmost importance.

Third, stick to a budget. When planning a build-out and purchasing dental equipment, prioritize the “must-haves” and the “nice-to-haves.” As the practice gains momentum, there will be opportunities to purchase equipment or incorporate design features that may have been out of reach at the start.

Last but not least, it is crucial to surround yourself with a successful team. The team at Burkhart made my practice start-up easy and streamlined. Louis Ullrich (Burkhart Equipment Specialist), Arne Valdez (Burkhart Account Manager) and Cheryl Wika (Burkhart Account Manager) have been extremely accessible throughout the entire process, and I couldn’t have asked for better service. Thank you Burkhart!

 

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