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Career Profile: Dentist - Stephen J. Sterlitz

Career Profile: Dentist - Stephen J. Sterlitz

Lieutenant Stephen J. Sterlitz, D.D.S., Dentist, Comprehensive Dentistry Resident, Naval Postgraduate Dental School, United States Navy, Bethesda, Maryland

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I chose to become a dentist because I liked what the profession represented: a constantly evolving field that provides challenges in science, mechanics, and psychology. No person or procedure is ever the same. To remain proficient, you must constantly build on your knowledge base and learn to apply it to provide the best possible service to your patients. I enjoy a challenge, and to do dentistry well, one must enjoy being a life-long student.

Education & License
• Bachelor of Science, English major/ Japanese minor, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
• Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan • Comprehensive Dentistry Resident, Naval Postgraduate Dental School, Bethesda, Maryland
• Licensed to practice in the state of Michigan
• Member, Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, Michigan Dental Association

My typical workday involves…

My typical workday in the clinic involves:

• Reviewing the schedule of patients to be seen for the day
• Meeting with each patient to discuss the procedure to be done and how to avoid future dental problems
• Completing dental procedures (time varies with each procedure) and
• Giving the patients post-op or post-procedural instructions

More on Dentistry


Median Salary: $136,960
Min. Education: Doctorate
Related Careers: Dental Hygienist, Dental Laboratory Technician

A typical workday when I was practicing dentistry full-time varied from seeing 8-10 people who needed dental treatment to performing 25-30 patient exams a day. As a dental practitioner, I worked a 36 hour work week from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

As a postdoctoral student, I spend as much time in class as I do in the clinic. I may only see 20-30 patients a month. I typically work 6 days a week and need the weekend to catch-up, study, and prepare for the next week. The schedule is extremely variable and I thrive with the variety.

What I like best/least about my work…

What I like best about my work is interacting with patients, listening to their needs, and using my education and skills to help them. There is a lot of problem solving in dentistry. Although one cavity may look like another, there are always other factors to consider when deciding how to provide the best treatment for your patient. Good communication is essential to discussing the treatment and making sure the patient has realistic expectations for the services we can provide.

What I like least about my work is the administrative duties required to keep a busy practice running: reordering supplies, and documenting the patient’s dental record with the procedure and material used. All together it takes up a lot of time and, in my perception, does not greatly influence the treatment the patient receives. The hardest part of my job is dealing with the limitations of my experience and training. I want to be an expert now! It is difficult to have a patient come in with his tooth in his hand just after you restored it. There is only one person to blame, and it is up to you to figure out how to make it work.

My career goals are…

My career goals are to continue to enjoy work, do the best I can, and keep all of my options open. I do not feel overly committed to a career in dentistry, nor do I feel that a career in the military is the only option for me. Life is a journey and not a destination, so I try to enjoy the ride as much as possible. My ego makes me work hard and do well so that I am considered for positions of greater responsibility and authority, but I do not have a set goal of where or what I need to be in 5-10 years. If things continue to go well in the Navy, I would like to be in Europe for 2-3 years then come back to the United States to lead the dental department on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Basically, I like to keep my options open and find that career and life happiness involve a state of mind, not a position or title.


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