As a profession, dentistry attracts a diverse compilation of people from all walks of life. Because of that diversity; thousands of professionals with different interests, goals and motivations, and who subscribe to an extensive array of philosophies and methodologies; today’s patients receive tremendous care and the most expansive variety of treatment options ever available to them. The profession is an anthology of talented clinicians, but there are some who (seemingly) effortlessly also excel at incorporating the “human factor” into their patients experiences. There’s no magic formula or defined personality type – there are just some who dare to dream a little bigger and dig a little deeper.
I’ve been fortunate in my twenty years in dentistry to interact with thousands of people who are out there making a difference. You know many of them by name and by their clinical contributions but how often do you get to know the person behind the professional persona? For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity, I’d like you to get to know Dr. Hugh Flax.
By his senior year in high school, Hugh had narrowed his potential career choices down to two options. He would either become a rock star, or a dentist. Music has been and likely always will be a healthy obsession, but dentistry proved to be his true calling and we’re proud to recognize him as our current CoverDoc.
So, why dentistry? It may have had something to do with the fact that his mother was a highly phobic dental patient. Hugh remembers a time when he accompanied her on a routine visit to her dentist. His name was Dr. George Brooks. He was a gentle man who took extra measures and as much time as was necessary to make her comfortable and reduce the anxiety she felt about being in his office. His kindness and compassion made a profound impression on the future Dr. Flax. He was inspired.
Hugh attended Emory University and was subsequently accepted into dental school there. Though he was intensely focused on his education, he did manage to have his fair share of fun. Of course, music continued to be a big part of that fun, but he knew he had to balance fun and responsibility to become the caliber of dentist he wanted to be. At this point, he wasn’t sure exactly what area of dentistry would afford him the greatest opportunities to positively impact the patients he treated and give him the level of personal and professional satisfaction he envisioned. By keeping an open mind and being receptive to different ideas and opportunities, the answers soon came.
Throughout dental school, the caring demeanor that Dr. Brooks possessed was a recurring reminder of the way he wanted to relate to his patients. In the spring of his senior year, he took an evening elective with Dr. Ron Goldstein. It was during one of his lectures that “BAM!” Hugh knew that becoming a world-class cosmetic dentist was what he wanted and was meant to do. He graduated with honors in 1983, determined to achieve that goal.
Looking back, he considers the education he received at Emory to have been exceptional. His only regrets were that, in retrospect it was missing that “collegial environment.” (As in most dental schools, it was a competitive atmosphere, where the emphasis was on overall clinical acuity.) And after many years in practice and learning by trial and error did he begin to realize how helpful it would have been to have also received an early education in business, finance and even philosophy. This is arguably the most common complaint about almost any dental school. Business education in today’s world is critical, and many tough lessons are unfortunately learned firsthand through missteps and mistakes.
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL
Following dental school, Hugh was fortunate to have an opportunity to do research at LSU and complete his residency at the VA Hospital in, you guessed it, the music haven of New Orleans. While there, he also completed his research at LSU. The continued education was his primary reason for being there, and the experience was something that would prove to be solid gold in terms of its value to his career. The music and culture of the city were nice additional incentives though, and he took full advantage of the opportunities.
It was there that members of several zydeco bands befriended him and he eventually found himself playing in some of the bands. This was the life, dentist by day, musician by night, and all the challenges and excitement of both worlds. He remembers those times as though they were yesterday and cherishes the opportunities he had to meet and interact with members of rock and roll royalty. After one unforgettable performance, he stood in awe as two members from “The Talking Heads” came out of the audience to compliment his band on their music. That’s the stuff dreams are made of.
In 1987, he built his cosmetic dentistry practice in Atlanta with the vision of providing the absolute highest standard of patient care in an environment where patients would be comfortable, confident and secure. From the moment they opened the door he and his team work diligently and consistently to provide a positive experience for his patients. For him, it’s about more than just the clinical treatment his patients receive. Dr. Hugh Flax and Atlanta Aesthetic & Laser Dentistry are known around the world for the innovative techniques, technologies and treatment results they produce for their patients, but they’re just as notorious for their compassion and super star service. Patients receive VIP service at every appointment. From complimentary WiFi access to an impressive “comfort menu”, to convenient pre and post appointment communication his team prides themselves on providing exceptional experiences.
Continuing education is a priority for Dr. Flax, and to be among the best of the best, he has always made it a priority to learn from the most respected names in dentistry. He has consistently attended more than 100 hours of continuing education annually to ensure that he stays ahead of the curve. He includes Drs. Ron Goldstein, Peter Dawson, Gary Radz, David Hornbrook, John Kois and David Sarver among his many mentors and advisers over the years, and credits prestigious organizations such as the Pankey Institute, The Dawson Academy, and the Kois Center for helping him develop his talents as a clinician, author and international speaker and educator.
He is known across the US and around the world as an expert on advanced laser and cosmetic dentistry and through his courses, he has helped thousands of others to achieve exceptional results in their own practices. He admits that success doesn’t come easy. The respect he’s earned from his peers is well founded. Society sometimes breeds mediocrity. It’s up to each of us individually to demand more than that from ourselves. There’s never a time to stop learning. Simply put, you’re either a winner or a whiner.
His list of accomplishments is extensive and his active membership in more than a dozen organizations deserves acknowledgement. Early in his career, he knew that the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) was comprised of many of the top minds in the profession and he wanted to be counted among them. In 1997 he achieved accredited status, and in 2010, Hugh became the President of the AACD. In addition to serving the AACD, Dr. Flax has held numerous other leadership positions in local, state, national and international organizations.
For Dr. Flax, dentistry is about the whole person, not just what’s going on in their mouth. He is and has been instrumental in improving the lives of others on multiple levels. Even more exceptional than his clinical training and expertise is his commitment to making a difference for his patients. Another person who influenced him early on was the late Walter Hailey. Hailey’s vision evolved to become today’s Crown Council, and from 1998“ 2002 Hugh was actively involved with their “Smiles for Life” campaign to raise funds for cancer research at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Since 1998, Hugh has also participated in the “Give Back A Smile” program, which helps to restore the smiles of women who have been victims of abuse.
WALK THIS WAY
Throughout the many stages of Hugh’s career, he’s understood the importance of maintaining a good balance of mental and physical health. At various times, he’s embraced the concepts and practices of Transcendental Meditation, yoga and endurance training to stay fit and mentally alert even while burning the candle at both ends. (Today, he uses the P90X system as a way to stay fit and focused.) Staying in shape for his own reasons has prepared him, at least in part for a few major challenges along the way.
From the fall of 2000 through the summer of 2002, he put his lecture schedule on hold during his wife, Robyn’s battle with cancer. She and his two daughters (one of whom was born with a heart condition) have been his inspiration and are among his biggest sources of pride and joy. He’s a firm believer that God brings you only what you can handle, and he knows his family is stronger as a result of these challenges. In an effort to increase awareness and raise money for the causes nearest to his heart, Hugh became a corporate sponsor and top fund raiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. He trained hard and completed three half marathons and three marathons over a two year period in an effort to give back to the association who pioneered the treatment that gave Robyn a second chance. She’s now been in remission for ten years!
Today, the award-winning smiles created by Dr. Flax transform the lives of many of his patients. It’s gratifying and humbling to see patients find new levels of confidence and self-worth as a result of their new smiles.
The dental profession is blessed with caring professionals. In our book, Dr. Hugh Flax is not only a generous and progressive contributor to the dental community, HE’S A ROCK STAR.
For more info about Dr. Flax, visit flaxdental.com