In the office, at home, and in the community, it's all about commitment. Learn more about 2019-2020 WSDA President Dr. Denny Bradshaw.
It seems like Dr. Denny Bradshaw was born to be a dentist. His quick laugh, sincere smile and calm manner could put even the most anxious patient at ease.
Bradshaw came to the profession naturally. He grew up watching his father’s Pasco dental practice and spent the first 25 years of his career working with the elder Bradshaw until his retirement in 2011.
That’s not to say that the road to his own practice was always a straight shot.
“More years than not growing up, I wanted to be a dentist. I explored other options early in my college career,” he recalls. “But it didn’t take me very long to settle on dentistry.”
However, he now understands that there were limits to how much he could learn by watching his father in action.
Bradshaw recalls talking with another WSDA board member whose father was also a dentist. “You can grow up with a dentist and still have no clue what dentistry is really about. What it takes to run a small business, to hire good staff, to make good business decisions — all while providing great care, which is what it’s all about. That information isn’t easy to transfer; you have to do it to learn it.”
“You can stand around the door, but you don’t really understand,” he says. Still, he values the opportunity to have been exposed to dentistry in his youth and to practice alongside his father.
“Seeing a parent practice as you grow up gives you some core competencies regarding service. Health care delivery is fundamentally a service, where you are caring for people’s health.”
A COMMITMENT TO SERVICE
Bradshaw clearly cares for both his patients and his staff.
“I think the hallmark of a successful practice is treating your patients the same way you would treat your family,” he says. “I tell patients all the time that there are some things in your mouth that present black and white decisions, but there are a lot more that are grey areas. So, the best way for me to decide how to treat a patient’s tooth is to do it the way I would want my own tooth to be treated. If you can’t do that, you can’t have a successful practice.”
Bradshaw’s staff see and appreciate that caring approach. Most have been with him for many years, and some returned to the office after having taken time to be stay-at-home parents. Reedy Berg, who first met Bradshaw as his dental supply representative and has become a close friend over the years, calls him “one of the most loyal guys I know.”
“I’ve seen him back employees going through rough patches in their lives, and Denny stuck with them. And he proved to be right,” Berg says.
“The people in my office would say I’m very committed,” Bradshaw says with a grin. “And on some days, they say I should be
Humor (which he has plenty of) aside, Bradshaw’s commitment is also evident in his volunteer work supporting organized dentistry. Again, the lessons began close to home.
“I was raised in a family of volunteers,” Bradshaw explains. “While my dad wasn’t active in WSDA, he did a lot of volunteer work with our church. And my mom ran a nonprofit adoption agency. They were role models on the importance of volunteerism.”
Bradshaw’s own volunteer activities have focused on organized dentistry. “For me, it just made the most sense to focus on what I know.”
That focus began at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, where he was active as a leader in the school’s dental student association. Upon graduation, his engagement moved on to WSDA. His first volunteer involvement in WSDA was as a delegate to the House of Delegates, followed by working on the Pacific Northwest Dental Conference.
“When Denny makes a commitment, he’s 100% reliable,” recalls Dr. Robin Henderson, who worked with Bradshaw on five conferences. “In our experience on the PNDC Committee, Denny came to each meeting fully prepared to make the most of the committee’s time.”
Henderson says that her decision to leave the PNDC Committee also reveals a lot about Bradshaw’s approach to working with his peers.
“Denny is very supportive of those around him. I know he was disappointed when I told him I couldn’t continue working on the PNDC Committee due to the demands of building a new office. But despite his disappointment, he supported my decision. And he even surprised me by making the long drive to attend my open house!”
Following his work on PNDC, it was a logical next step to dive into the organization’s leadership track. But Bradshaw couldn’t leave the conference behind.
“I still work on PNDC,” he says. “I love that event and want to help continue making it better and better for our members who attend.”
Bradshaw was a driving force behind PNDC’s return to Seattle in 2020.
“In my tenure at the WSDA, I have not come across another volunteer member who has devoted as much time to becoming a subject expert on one aspect of the association as he has with PNDC. He understands the conference inside and out. He knows the strategic benefit of returning to Seattle; what it can do for the growth potential of the conference and, in turn, what that means for the WSDA,” explains Kainoa Trotter, assistant executive director of the WSDA.
“He sits on the WSDA Board and needs to attend those meetings, conference calls, and related activities, which alone is an incredible time commitment. But then, on top of that, he travels back to Seattle to attend PNDC Committee and Task Force meetings because he cares so much about WSDA offering quality continuing education to its members. That’s commitment. That’s the definition of giving back!”
EASTERN WASHINGTON PRIDE
As he prepares to step into his year as president, Bradshaw feels a responsibility to represent all WSDA members, but especially those practicing east of the Cascades. As a Tri-Cities dentist, he understands the extra time and effort it can take to stay involved when living and practicing in Eastern Washington.
“In Eastern Washington, there’s more travel to get to local component events, so it’s a greater time commitment. I’m proud to wear a badge representing Eastern Washington and the rural areas of the state,” he says.
While volunteer work in Eastern Washington may take more travel, Bradshaw is well prepared to make sure the trips go off without a hitch.
“He’s a great travel partner,” says Dr. Dennis Higgins, another Tri-Cities dentist who has teamed up with Bradshaw on continuing dental education programs and even family vacations. “When he travels, he’s a great planner. He takes care of all the details, including researching great restaurants and great wines at your destination. I think he has a bright future as a travel agent when his dental days are over.”
THE FAMILY MAN
Bradshaw’s commitment to his career is exceeded only by his commitment to his family. He has been married to his wife, Traci, for 32 years.
Their two children are both grown and enjoying successful careers in the Bay Area, although it appears the Bradshaw dental lineage will not extend to the next generation. Daughter Meagan works in marketing after completing her education at Washington State University, while her brother Haydin attended the rival University of Washington and is now a chemist.
“We’re a mixed household,” Bradshaw jokes. “Apple Cup weekends now have an interesting twist!”
Happy empty-nesters — save for their dog, a Brittany Spaniel named Griffin — the Bradshaws enjoy when the Tri-Cities’ weather allows them to be out in their yard and garden, often putting the resulting vegetables to good use in famous home-cooked meals they create together. They also enjoy dining out, sampling local wines, and experimenting with new cocktails formulas.
“Denny was a foodie long before that was a common term,” says Higgins.
The Bradshaws also enjoy traveling — Maui is a favorite destination — and no doubt benefit from Denny’s planning skills. They also can often be found attending live music events. A trip to San Francisco illustrates how they try to combine many of their interests: time with their children, a Phil Collins concert, and some great restaurants.
STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS
In 33 years of practice, Bradshaw has seen many new technologies come along and other changes emerge, but to him, the fundamentals of practicing dentistry haven’t changed.
“Caring for people is in many ways still the same,” he explains. “You need to listen to their concerns and fears. You’re still applying whatever technology you have at your disposal to address those concerns and meet the patient’s needs.”
It may sound like a simple formula, but it’s getting more complex all the time, Bradshaw says. In addition to the costs associated with cutting-edge technology, just keeping abreast of the latest innovations and techniques is an ongoing challenge. That’s why he considers continuing education opportunities, like those available at PNDC, so important.
“Watching dentists as they practice, those that stay most relevant are the ones that continue to learn,” Bradshaw says, recalling attending Frank Spear lectures and seeing a dentist in his eighties who came to every event. “He recognized that he was still learning!”
Beyond keeping up with the latest developments in the profession, external forces are a growing concern for all dentists, Bradshaw says.
“We have to resist intrusions on our practices. There’s more government regulation and dental benefits intrusion into patient relationships and the level of care we provide. It seems like everybody else wants to tell us how to serve patients. This impacts our ability to practice the way we want to practice.”
Bradshaw sees this as the biggest challenge facing WSDA: Keeping the practice of dentistry in the hands of dentists rather than regulators or dental benefits companies. And he recognizes that it’s a long-term battle rather than an issue that can be settled in a few months or even a few years.
One of his priorities for the coming year is to continue WSDA’s focus on improving the transparency and patient focus of Delta Dental.
“Denny’s commitment to improving patient care is sincere and overwhelmingly evident,” says Bracken Killpack, executive director of the WSDA. “He is currently one of three dentist plaintiffs, along with WSDA, involved in a lawsuit to drive important changes at Delta Dental of Washington that have been overwhelmingly approved by the member dentists.”
Additional priorities for Bradshaw’s presidency include dealing with dental workforce shortages and sharing information on various dental practice models so all WSDA members can understand their options.
“WSDA does a great job in advocating for its members,” Bradshaw says. “I’m happy and honored for the opportunity to be involved. I get a lot more out of my involvement than I ever put in.”
WHAT KIND OF PRESIDENT WILL DR. BRADSHAW BE?
For three friends and colleagues who have formed relationships with Dr. Bradshaw in different settings, their opinions regarding the success of his tenure were consistent:
“He has a calm demeanor that makes him a natural leader. It makes others want to follow him. WSDA is lucky to have him serving in a leadership role.”
Dr. Dennis Higgins:
“He’ll be very good, maybe even exceptional. He has lots of experience and lots of commitment to WSDA. He’ll keep fighting to protect dentists’ relationships with their patients.”
Dr. Robin Henderson:
“He has so much experience in the leadership of our association from his service on the board of directors. He cares deeply for the profession of dentistry and the best interest of patients.”