Alan Furness, assistant dean of patient services and assistant professor of restorative sciences, ran a private practice in Charleston, South Carolina, before joining the DCG faculty seven years ago. He elicits affectionate chuckles as he charges down the halls with a laptop in each hand, the better to multi-task when he reaches his destination. But his type-A fervor in no way diminishes the tight bond he forges with students.
What’s the biggest distinction between academia and private practice?
Interaction with students and colleagues is now built into my day. I really enjoy that. Also, academia is more challenging; you need to be a great clinician and a great educator and researcher as well. When I came here, I was very pleased to find a tremendously supportive environment with people sincerely interested in helping me succeed. This environment has also helped stretch me in a lot of ways. For instance, I used to fear public speaking. But when you keep getting thrown in over and over, you either swim or drown. I became more comfortable with it over time.
How do you cultivate rapport with your students?
I try to relate to where they are and give them tips to help them along their path. I’m interested in what they have going on; I play soccer with some of them, for instance. I also try to add humor to the mix when appropriate. I genuinely enjoy being around students and helping them.
How do you impart your philosophy of care to students?
I emphasize ethics: doing the right thing. I try to help students think critically about how to best meet each patient’s needs and live by the philosophy that if you take good care of your patients, they’ll take good care of you.