A Fateful Encounter Results in Friendship, Shared Career
By Salwa Choucair
Both Harris Siegel, D.M.D., and Skip Dolt, D.D.S., believe in fate, destiny or kismet, whichever word best explains their 24-year friendship and 21-year business partnership, and it all began with a handshake on the first day of their residency program in the School of Dentistry at UT Health San Antonio.
“We tell our staff all the time,” says Dr. Siegel, who received his Doctor of Dental Medicine from the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University, “call it serendipitous, fate, or whatever, but 24 years later, I am practicing with my best friend who I met in this residency program where I wasn’t meant to be, and who I wasn’t supposed to meet in the first place.”
That’s where their story begins. The school Dr. Siegel planned to attend for residency cancelled its program due to funding cuts two weeks before the application deadline. Fortunately, UT Health’s post-doctoral certification in Advance Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) was recommended to him and he was accepted.
Dr. Dolt, on the other hand, had just completed his Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1993 from UT Health and had decided to stay in San Antonio after interviewing at various residency programs around the country and realizing the best opportunities were right where he was. When he met Dr. Siegel on that fateful day, he had just returned from his honeymoon in Europe.
“I tell patients all the time,” says Dr. Dolt, who received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University, “that it is rare to be living the dream. Dentists who get to practice with their best friend every day and do so in a practice they helped design. Harris and I have the same training; we are almost philosophically interchangeable; and we still enjoy collaborating on cases. It’s really a tremendous opportunity, and very few dentists have this opportunity.”
At the School of Dentistry, Drs. Siegel and Dolt each completed two post-doctoral certifications: the AEGD and the General Practice Residency (GPR) program. Dr. Dolt also completed a third year of the GPR program, serving as chief resident. Dr. Siegel was accepted as a chief resident for this third year as well, but had to leave the program right before it began to help his father, also a dentist, run his practice in Atlanta. It wasn’t long before Dr. Siegel’s father was ready to hand over the reins of the practice to his son, who immediately called his friend in Texas, Dr. Dolt, to join them.
Today, Siegel & Dolt Comprehensive Dental Care in Atlanta has a staff of 13 including an office manager, administrative staff, hygienists, chair-side assistants, and a ceramist. Their practice has 2,800 active patients with many third-generation patients.
For these best friends and business partners, it’s all about the relationships with not only their patients but their staff as well. It’s about community.
“My favorite part is turning a patient’s dental experience into a good one,” Dr. Siegel says. “We are lifelong health care providers, and it is funny when I see patients who knew me when I was a kid and who were patients of my Dad’s. It is a neat sense of community and fulfillment when you are taking care of people and their extended family and friends. You share the good times and the bad times, and you have a tremendous support network.”
Both dentists attribute their education at the dental school as a contributing factor in not only their success but also their focus on patient success.
“I knew how to do things when I started the AEGD program,” Dr. Siegel says, “but in San Antonio I met fabulous people. We were there in a golden era of general dentistry, modeled after the real world. They were very innovative in their approach. They taught us to care for people and solve problems. I still hear their whispers in my ear, and I cannot imagine practicing dentistry without this residency program.”
The duo decided to show their appreciation for the guidance they received at the School of Dentistry and the fate that brought them together with the Siegel and Dolt IV Sedation Room in the new Center for Oral Health Care & Research.
“In my opinion, there is nothing more rewarding than handing someone a mirror when they’ve completed a transformational treatment, and the patient gets emotional and gives you a hug,” Dr. Dolt says. “Each one of our patients has a story, and I’m grateful for whatever role I get to play in helping them.”