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Kylie: Today we’re in the company of Dr. Fern White, dental surgeon, founder of an all-female dental practice Beacon Cove Dental, creator of the Practice Your Passion programme for female dentists, and a qualified yoga teacher. Fern came to Australia by boat as a Vietnamese refugee with her family when she was just two years old. Throughout her life her family strong work ethic pushed her and her siblings to succeed. In this episode, we talk about how Fern went from a panic attack in the first six months of running her business the way everyone told her she should, to tapping into her own beliefs and wisdom to create a highly successful practice combining her extensive dental training and personal development tools like mindfulness, breathing and reframing. The combination of modalities represents new ways of dental care for clients and practitioners alike and actually makes going to the dentist an almost pleasant experience. Welcome Fern.
Dr. Fern: Hey, thanks Kylie. You well?
Kylie: Yes, really well and I’m even better knowing that you’re going to be on line with me for the next half an hour to 45 minutes or so, talking about your fantastic business that you’ve created. I should actually probably disclose that I am one of your patients.
Dr. Fern: You are one of my patients? You are.
Kylie: And I wouldn’t go anywhere else for my dental work because you are just an amazing dentist and we’re going to uncover how you actually approach your work and how you’ve made this fantastic business different from a lot of other practices and why that’s so important in business today and how you came to do that.
Kylie: I guess I’m covering more about yourself and what was really important to you and embodying who you really were in your business. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, I really just wanted to backtrack a little to your background before you were a dentist and how you came to be. And I wanted to talk a little about young Fern and what she liked to do as a child and how that might have impacted what you do today?
Dr. Fern: Well, when I started, young Fern, she was born post Vietnam War, in Vietnam and I was a refugee. And I came to Australia when I was almost two years old and I grew up in a very strict migrant family. My parents were strict Catholics and there were six of us and unfortunately for young Fern, she didn’t have the freedom too much to play.
Dr. Fern: And there was a lot of assimilation that had to be done with the Western culture and our Vietnamese philosophies. So my parents brought us up really strict and disciplined and they had to, six kids, they were looking after us all by ourselves. And I have to say that really when I was young, I was the eldest daughter of four other younger siblings.
Dr. Fern: And I really took on a very nurturing caring role, right? So that was something that I loved to do and I helped my mother being the eldest daughter with a lot of her stuff, cooking, cleaning, looking after the young. But in my spare time, when I was not studying or not helping my parents or not going to church, I loved to read.
Dr. Fern: So I would always be having my face in books and I’d be … My parents would come and see if we were all asleep and I’d pretend to be sleeping and under the covers I’d have my flash torch and I’d be reading, reading, reading and I always loved to read and get lost in fantasy. That was my favourite genre.
Dr. Fern: So, The Wishing-Chair, and The Faraway Tree, and all the Enid Blyton books and I loved learning, I loved being curious to new ideas, and just new ways of doing things, and having a lot of fun in the process. And I used to play school a lot with my brothers and sisters and I’d teach them things that I learnt, so that was what I really loved.
Dr. Fern: But I have to say that, one of my distinct memories, is actually of my mum and dad giving me for some reason the responsibility to help pull my brothers and sisters teeth out, the baby teeth because we couldn’t afford to go to dentists at that age. And I’d been such a champion getting my own little baby teeth out because I knew I didn’t want my dad to do it with the floss and I know it was terrible, right?
Dr. Fern: Like he used to get the floss tied around and yank it out and sometimes it wouldn’t come out and you can imagine for kids. And so we grew up extremely poor and then when we look back now and everyone thinks, “Oh! My God, imagine that.” But it was just normal and we didn’t go to the dentist so much.
Dr. Fern: And then because I was such a go getter with my own teeth, I was assigned to be the sister, the older sister who was in charge of wobbling my brothers and sisters teeth and pulling them out. And I don’t know whether that was predicting my future as a dentist, I don’t know.
Kylie: Possibly, I would be predicting that there was something in the stars that was going to lead you down that path but you’ve also got another sibling that’s a dentist as well, right?
Dr. Fern: Yes, so there’s an older brother and a youngest brother and then in between there are three sisters and my younger sister, so second last is a dentist as well. So she came into dental, yes so it’s super fun. She didn’t get any of those responsibilities.
Kylie: Yeah, amazing. Well, she obviously was looking up to her big sister as what often happens in families, in large families?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, she tells me so.
Kylie: So we’re going to talk a little about your practice and how it’s come to be and what you’re doing that’s a little different from other practices in a moment. But before we do that, a question that I always ask all my guests, is to give us some insight into the kinds of things that you believe in and that direct what you do in your life today.
Kylie: So I would love for you to tell us and listeners about three things that you believe in and why?
Dr. Fern: Well, one of the big beliefs for me, especially having a three year old daughter Phoenix right now is, I really believe that we need to play more, like as adults we need to play more. And she’s been my biggest teacher and this and my biggest reminder in this. But for instance rather than … Like in my own navigations as a mother, if she’s having a bit of a tantrum or a fit, as soon as I jump down to her level and I play with her.
Dr. Fern: So if I want her eat broccoli, I start to pretend to be the broccoli and pretend to be little characters. She turns red it empowers her and she chooses to eat it on her own accord and I just find that, that playing, that sense of play is something that I needed to also nurture my own inner child and what I didn’t get to play. So superb, we need to play more in our life.
Dr. Fern: One of the other things that I really believe needs to happen and it is happening, is that Eastern and Western medicine need to come together, and all the philosophies need to unite together. I think it’s too dangerous to go far in either ends of the spectrum and I feel at amalgamating the two is going to unite medicine and especially unites patients to heal
Dr. Fern: So I feel like that is something that we really need to work on and that’s something I’m really passionate about, is to treat our patients as a full body, mind, emotional, patient not just the body part. My last belief really is, that I don’t believe anyone is actually broken. I feel that we are all born whole and the only thing that is getting in our way is all the crud that we put on ourselves over the years or the beliefs that we start to have.
Dr. Fern: We’re caking ourselves in literal crud and if we can or just start to remove the layers over time, we will actually all find that we are whole, just like children are. So that’s my
firm belief that we’re not broken.
Kylie: Fantastic, thank you for sharing that with us. And I can absolutely see, being a patient of your practice how those things actually also play out in what you do. So could you tell us a little about … Because, you started out as a dentist in somebody else’s practice first. How did you go from being an independent health care professional working for someone else to someone who became a health care business owner and building a business?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, that’s a huge story actually. When I was growing up with my parents, I was really only given three things I needed to become, for them to think that I succeeded. And that was their golden triad of doctor, dentist or lawyer. So that’s what I did, study, study, study and my dad, because he did really sacrifice everything to get here and he had nothing when he came to Australia.
Dr. Fern: He instilled in us this firm belief and he used to tell me something that will always stick to me as I grew up and left home and I became dentis. He always said to me, “you need to be someone in this world, you need to be the boss, that is success,” because that was his belief that you needed to be the boss to be successful.
Dr. Fern: And so I had that belief system instilled in me from such a young age. And when I graduated I always knew that that was going to be my focus one day. I needed to be the boss, I need to be the boss, and I thought that was going to be success that when I did become the boss, I would be successful.
Dr. Fern: And so when I worked and worked in a lot of different practices when I graduated. I graduated very early, I was 22 and I graduated as a dentist and I worked in multiple different practices part-time with this intention, that one day I would own my own clinic somehow. And I then, really when I worked, I worked strategically.
Dr. Fern: I would really go in to really working as many different places I can, to find out what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do, so that I could eventually have my own clinic. And I was very fortunate, after about seven years of working, I actually had a job opportunity with a retiring dentist in Port Melbourne.
Dr. Fern: And it allowed me to really become a owner and take over the clinic, borrow a huge mortgage, take over the clinic and do what I always knew that I was going to do one day.
Kylie: So that piece of actually jumping with that huge mortgage and we’re talking seven figures?
Dr. Fern: No, not quite. We were … I was very lucky it was two chair practice. So I took out, I think it would have been about six or seven hundred [thousand], but that was with an interest rate of about 13%. So that’s now equivalent to a seven figure home loan of some sort, right? And I just didn’t hesitate.
Dr. Fern: I had no hesitation and I really thought that, okay being a dentist, it’s not so hard work, I thought I was a great dentist, I had a lot of skills behind me and then I bought a clinic and within six months time I had some pretty hard lessons as a business owner and what that actually meant.
Dr. Fern: And my idea of success was totally different to actually what it meant to be fulfilled.
Kylie: Yeah, so what were some lessons that you learnt six months in, because as you said, “we can often have a picture of how we imagine it to be but actually living it is another different
Dr. Fern: Absolutely. So on the outside, I thought I had achieved everything that success was as according to my parents and what their beliefs of success was. I had a great husband, long term husband, I had now a practice, I was the boss, I was a dentist and my own thoughts around owning a clinic, really if I pulled aside my parents what they instilled in me.
Dr. Fern: I really wanted freedom and I thought I’m going to have my own business because that will give me the freedom to have a life to do whatever I wanted in the business, to pick and choose who I want to work with. And to just do whatever I wanted in the clinic without having to ask permission and growth from my own … The way that I wanted to envision and grow a practice.
Dr. Fern: But six months in, what happened was that so many things went wrong, so many things. I was working six days a week as a clinician, so I was working in the business and one of the first key things that went wrong were, I took out this huge mortgage, this huge loan to buy this practice.
Dr. Fern: And literally every single big ticket item, it was almost like the 70 year old retiring dentists had just waited and got things purring as I came along to just move on. And when he sold me the practice within a few months, things like the suction unit broke, the compressor broke, the order club broke, the dental chair broke and these poor people who don’t know what a dental suction is like. It’s the heart of the practice.
Dr. Fern: You cannot operate when any of these things break. And that would mean days and days and days of having to reschedule patients buying these big ticket items, which started from about $10,000 each one to $50,000. And yes, so that was one part of the equation, the other part was the staff.
Dr. Fern: And at that point in my life I thought, “I’m a nice person, I just want to be liked by all my staff, right?” If I do the right thing by them, they’re going to do the right thing by me. So I’ll just be friends with them and let’s see how it goes. And that was my first lesson, was that I was churning over staff, I was working I didn’t know what was going on in the
Dr. Fern: I was working in the business and I was working on the business any other spare moment I had. Sometimes my husband would have to become and be receptionist when I was really short staffed. And I was trying to keep my patients happy and then also in dentistry, it’s a lonely game sometimes.
Dr. Fern: And it’s also very taxing on the body and when you’re stressed, you contract a lot and then you also contort yourself in different positions to make your patients comfortable because patients don’t really like being at the dentist most of them. So there’s a lot of stress all around. You’re working to time and then micromanaging staff and trying to hold it all together.
Dr. Fern: And unfortunately I have to say, I had about five staff leave or had to fire staff. And it was just this huge lesson in me wanting to be liked versus oscillating between then feeling resentment because I was saying, yes when I meant, no. And then as a result of that, I would then be triggered and then be this Alpha triggered anxious woman who I would just blah and react.
Dr. Fern: So, so many lessons there for me and I actually within six months had my first panic attack, my first and only panic attack and I have to say that, that was a blessing in disguise. I was in so much pain, I was having cortisone injections to keep going in my shoulders and taking analgesics every day.
Dr. Fern: I was in so much stress and I just kept thinking this is not what I had in mind. This is not fulfilment, this looks like success on the outside but I’m suffering and I have to do something different. So it was because I had this huge breakdown within the first six months, that I actually, that propelled me to go in a different direction.
Dr. Fern: It was either do that or really die, I felt like I was dying inside.
Kylie: So really insightful, and thank you for being so honest about the things that came out for you because I think there’s a lot of people who are listening, who are in their own business that could identify with at least one of those things that you’ve mentioned or the lessons that you’ve had. We’re all in business learning those things along the way as well.
Kylie: How did you overcome those issues what did you do when you were, when you’d hit rock bottom, how did you get back up and find the energy and the will to kind of keep going and doing something different?
Dr. Fern: I really feel like I had to hit rock bottom, for me to be in so much pain, that that would actually propel me to do something differently because I was just running the same thing over and over and doing the grind day in day out. And it wasn’t until my body was collapsing and it wouldn’t take anymore that … I remember on that kitchen floor, I just asked for help.
Dr. Fern: I said, “what do I need to do?” I was in so much pain, and I was by myself, and the last bit while I was actually having my panic attack at that point was, I had a … I was just moments before on the phone with the husband of the staff member who I’d fired and he was literally saying things like, “I want to come and get you, and I know where you are and it was quite abusive.”
Dr. Fern: And that was the last straw for me and I was scared. And it took me being on the floor for about two hours going, you know what? Something needs to change and I actually realised then, when I asked the question, I realised just one thing that would just help propel me into the direction that I am right now.
Dr. Fern: And that was, if I changed then my life around me would change. It wasn’t actually because of making, wanting everyone else to change, it was actually me. If I could somehow instead of trying to quiet the craziness and the storms around me, if I could actually just change my self so I could just find that quiet in the storm. What would my life be like?
Dr. Fern: And that one question then allowed me to say, okay, “what do I do next?” Because, I didn’t have the answers but what did I need and I decided that I would actually then invest in myself for the first time, not just in my clinic, not just in my stuff, not in myself as a clinician only. I did that but I’d actually use as much as I could to invest in myself with coaches, with mentors, with people who I wanted to mirror, see what they were achieving, see how they were doing and then just be around those people.
Dr. Fern: And that’s what I did in the next few years and then I learned so much, followed Tony Robbins around for years. Then I went to embodiment and Yoga and I had some incredible teachers Tara Judelle, Michaela Boehm to teach me about female embodiment and what it meant to be a leader. And I just invested in myself over and over again and that was how I created my vision.
Kylie: I just want to acknowledge just how outrageous it is that you were harassed by the husband of somebody that you … Like I’m kind of gobsmacked that, that even happened and I’m so sorry to hear that happened and somehow kind of not surprised sadly. But I’m also wanting to just acknowledge just how remarkable it is, that you have the capacity to recognise that something needs to change and what needs to change in this.
Kylie: I’m the common denominator here in everything that’s going on here. And I often wonder, do you think it’s necessary for people to hit rock bottom in order to make the changes that need to happen in their life? Because, it’s a common theme that I hear a lot and I wonder could we be smarter about learning things or is it just something that we need to go through?
Dr. Fern: No, I don’t think necessarily you need to go through that. You can also be with someone who has hit rock bottom and that can be, if you’re smart enough, then you can see that as a warning sign for yourself. I feel that for me though really, I was in so much in my mind, I was in the same pattern over and over again.
Dr. Fern: I had my father shoulds in my head and his voices in my head so much that in order for me to find my own voice, I had to be in that much pain. And sometimes the amount of pain you are in, it’s exponential to the amount of growth that you’ll actually grow and find yourself.
Dr. Fern: And I feel like, everyone is different but I feel that there has to be some type of suffering or pain that you either experience yourself or you see with people who are close to you to recognise that, “Hey, actually there is more to life than this.”
Kylie: And having the courage then to actually reach out like you said, “Actually I’m looking for mentors and advisers and being open to learning. Cultivating that learning under the blanket that you did as a young child, bringing that back to the fore and using that.”
Dr. Fern: Yeah, and I just recognised that, I had stopped learning and growing in myself because I was so consumed with this one idea of what success looked like. And then, because my expectations didn’t match what was happening in my life right then, I was always suffering. I was being disappointed in someone else or someone else was always betraying me, which was what I thought.
Dr. Fern: But all I needed to do was, actually look at the situation say, “Hey, actually what happens if all of this stuff that was happening to me was actually for me, and what was the growth point in this, and how could I reframe it so I could actually see the growth point in this and see where I needed to grow?”
Dr. Fern: And just in simple reframing like that, I was actually able to get away from the spiralling and the negativity my own brain, and just to start to see a little more clearly, and
that was it. And so just to stick with that over and over and over and over again.
Kylie: It’s like it’s a new practice that you have to learn, right, because those thoughts don’t necessarily go away or stop but it’s a lesson in how to deal with them when they show up?
Dr. Fern: And it is a practice, and it is about fully committing. And for me a couple things that I really … That helped propel me forward, was setting a vision of what it was that I wanted to be. The best version of myself and why as opposed to just, I just want to be the boss for whatever reason because my dad wanted me to be.
Dr. Fern: What was propelling me forward was that, how I wanted to have children one day and I thought how am I going to be, how my going to even fit that into the equation? I really wanted a daughter and I just thought to myself, “How am I going to teach her and be the teacher to her if I can’t even get my stuff together?”
Dr. Fern: And so that was a vision for me that was stronger than me and it was leverage to say, “Okay, I’m going to be the best that I can be, for all of this.”
Kylie: It’s a very powerful thing isn’t it, when you can actually take it outside of just yourself? And I think that’s what leadership is really about. It’s really about showing up as the kind of person that you want to inspire others to be like. There’s a great quote that Brené Brown has and she asks a defining question and is it, “Are you the adult that you hope your child grows up to be you know, are you modelling those behaviours, are you leading with compassion and integrity but also boundaries?” That kind of thing is super important.
Kylie: So finding that vision even if it’s not about necessarily having children but having that vision of, if this isn’t working for me, how could it be different? As the first point of you, of actually creating a vision for yourself.
Dr. Fern: And also, it’s just for me being the example that I wanted to see and everyone else, instead of wanting other people to change around me like my staff. How do I change to myself so
that I can be the example to show them what it is like and that’s so much more powerful than expecting people to be a certain way and wanting to change them.
Dr. Fern: You know how annoying it is when people want to change you? It’s just like, “Go and change your self.” And that’s really what happened with my staff is that as I changed, my values got much more concrete, and I had my vision, and I really started to know myself more and have boundaries, and learn how to say, no.
Dr. Fern: But doing it authentically and not having lead as anyone else but myself. I started to attract women into my clinic, my staff who wanted to have those, aligned with those same values. And then suddenly I started to get a really amazing core team, some of which who already still had been with me for the whole time.
Dr. Fern: And they were the ones who ended up helping me as well with my vision and they were the ones who when stuff came in, if they didn’t fit, it was so easy now because they would just
automatically eliminate themselves. And it was not just me working towards that vision, it was my whole team now.
Dr. Fern: So, that’s what … I feel like that’s what creates the heart in the practice.
Kylie: So I can see where you’ve gone from that external focus of what success looks like and that shoulds of what was expected and trying to keep up with all of that and where that got you, to then kind of turning it around and saying, “Okay, what is it that I want out of this and how do I want it to be an expression of who I am and my values and what I care about?”
Kylie: And then that was the next iteration that ended up in an expression of an all female dental practice?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, it happened organically like that. I didn’t actually set out, believe it or not to actually only have females at the practice but because I was doing embodiment work. And I was practising Yoga and my team were doing the same thing and we were naturally having for instance a ritual in the morning, where we would do a mindful practice and movement practice and
set intention together.
Dr. Fern: And then we would go on retreats together so that it was a bit of a powwow for the team members. It was just easier to have female onboard who were aligned with that. And then we started to see, Oh! And it just happened like that. And we have like different things at the clinic, we have beautiful scents, and we have to be really feminine … I feel like it’s quite a feminine feel igniting all the senses.
Dr. Fern: So that we’re not only working in the masculine all the time but we have this little beautiful cards everywhere, little goddess cards and things like that, where we would pick every day and we’d talk about it and call in something for all of ourselves. And it naturally just happened to attract females.
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Kylie: So I follow you on Instagram and I’ve seen lately you’ve been posting the daily rituals that you just spoke about on Instagram, where you see everybody whose working in the practice engaging in some of those embodiment techniques that you’ve mentioned and some things that you can see that go behind the scenes so that everyone in the practice shows up fully and wholeheartedly in the service of the work?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, and it’s just the tree thing as opposed to coming in and having a fail script and all of that. My team, I want them to grow with me and I always say to my team, “If this is a practice where you’re not feeling that you’re not growing any more, then you’re welcome to leave. This is the place where you grow and if it is not fitting you any more, go.”
Dr. Fern: And the women, I know it’s just as authentic and with hard as possible, so I want to heal our patients with heart and that’s bringing our true authentic selves out each and every one of us. But we also be with each other with heart and we speak to the values such as integrity, and love, and health, and growth, those are some of our key values.
Dr. Fern: And so we’re just starting, we’re ready to dive into social media and Beacon Cove and even my own work on Instagram but it’s starting to, “how do we show the culture of the practice and how do we help inspire other practices maybe to be this way as well, have them fully as ourselves?” We don’t need to be anyone else and that’s what I hope you can feel the practice.
Kylie: Well, it’s definitely something that I have felt in the practice. I wanted to actually just tap into that because I … When I had to have that treatment done that was quite intense. The way that you approached that at the beginning where you actually got me to do some mindful breathing and gave me tips and tricks and hints about how to manage myself through that process was just phenomenal.
Kylie: Can you just share with our listeners some things that you’ve learnt through your embodiment work and how you bring that to your dentistry, that I think is probably a very unique combination?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, well that’s something that I’ve tried to cultivate with the girls themselves but that’s one of my passions. I actually realise that I’m amazing at the technical side of dentistry but what I love more is the connection with the patients. And that’s what we spend the time to do and you need time for this.
Dr. Fern: And what I did with you was a smaller version of what I would do, because a lot of my clinical practice is now around surgeries. So big surgery like implants and bone grafting and scary stuff and full mouth rehab. And that means just replacing and recontouring the whole smile, getting someone’s confidence right up their changing, emotional dentistry.
Dr. Fern: And a lot of people obviously have fear around dentists, a lot of it is, you’ll see Baby Boomers having so much fear from what was instilled in them in childhood because that’s a lot of where our childhood trauma comes from. And everything about the dentist, such as even the drills, and the noise that just kicks someone back into that fear.
Dr. Fern: And it’s unbelievable you’ll see CEOs of companies and barristers and all these people very important in their day to day life being reduced down to a quivering mess sometimes in the dental chair. And this is why I really wanted my own clinic as well so I could play around or experiment with different modalities on what it means to heal someone.
Dr. Fern: And we would still have things like nitrous oxide, laughing gas and Valium, all the medications and that you’d have on the sidelines. But the beauty of it was that, I was able to experiment with using things and really empowering patients to heal themselves first and giving them back the power.
Dr. Fern: And I remember one of my big cases actually was a woman, a young woman who came in for wisdom teeth extraction. She didn’t say anything, she was just kind of quiet on the medical film shouldn’t say anything. And I found that fear … Like it’s so interesting, fear appears in so many different ways.
Dr. Fern: You can have someone who’s really defensive and angry or you can have someone completely contract and quiet or just frozen. Someone who says, I’m fine and then there’s so many things that happen and I get uncovered in the dental chair. So this one young lady she came and as I was giving her some anaesthetic, she was having all four surgical wisdom teeth out.
Dr. Fern: So it wasn’t her straightforward procedure. And she seemed okay, so I didn’t do any of the techniques even though I asked her, “If she wanted anything.” And she said, “she was okay,” and then as I was giving her the anaesthetic, she actually started to fit, like shake and convulse and then she fainted.
Dr. Fern: And then when she came through, it was she explained and I said, “Oh! what’s going on?” And I sat with her and got her back breathing in her body, feeling her body, because often in trauma, she just disappeared. And when she came through, when I actually opened up and started talking to her more, because she didn’t want to disclose anything until that had happened.
Dr. Fern: It was almost as if she’d been found out. She mentioned that, she had these huge trauma around dentists. And when she was a child, she used to take herself to a different place by fainting and being out and that was how she learnt how to disappear from trauma, whatever was going on. And so she could actually convulse and faint.
Dr. Fern: And, that was something that she’d learnt as a child and she said, “But actually it always happens to me at the dentist and it always happens to me at the doctors.” And I say, “Wow! Thanks for telling me.” But this woman, and usually I can tell when people are a bit fearful but this woman just … Everything was fine with her at the start, she seemed fine until that happened.
Dr. Fern: And so what I did with her was, I got her to come back into her body, and I got her to breathe with me, and I breathed with her. So one of the key things I do, is just breathing and showing them what the breath and how powerful the breath is to come back into the body and breathe and move the body gets you out of the mind into the body again, right?
Dr. Fern: Because, a lot of the trauma resides in the body like just moving the body. And so we sat with her and just breathing for literally about five to 10 minutes getting her back into her body, kicking in the parasympathetic nervous system, so that she wouldn’t feel like she had to move into a fight, flight, freeze the sympathetic nervous system.
Dr. Fern: And so I got her doing that continuously breathing into her belly and of course the breath’s not going in your belly, it’s going to the lower level loads of the lungs. But what that means is that, you’re just breathing for in deep and your out breath is longer than the in breath and so that kicks in the vagus nerve and that’s responsible for the parasympathetics.
Dr. Fern: So we did that and then what I did with her was, I did a mind set technique. So it’s also not only the body, I feel like with trauma it’s not just the body, it’s also letting go of the stories that have been created in the mind. And so I sat with her and I did this … It’s kind of similar to a switch pattern in an NLP but I’ve kind of turned it a little more feminine.
Dr. Fern: And it was setting an intention really of how she would be in the best version of herself and just seeing that and feeling that in her body and completely seeing the surgery being done and she would be completely empowered and fine and everyone’s cheering her on. Like we set the scene so powerfully for her that she could feel it in her body and that anchored it in her body.
Dr. Fern: And then I said to her and listened, there’s always Valium and nitrous if you need it, if all else fails. So it’s almost like she had something to buffer and fall upon if she didn’t believe any of the stuff that was going on. And after I went through that, and that process took about 15 minutes.
Dr. Fern: I gave her the anaesthetic and we took out the surgical wisdom teeth and she was absolutely fine and she jumped out of the chair and she gave me a big hug and she started to cry. And she said, “Oh! My God, for the first time that was amazing.” That was amazing and she was so empowered and when I saw her in the review two weeks later, she cried again and she just said, “Oh! My God I feel like I’m a new person.”
Dr. Fern: And really the power of that is not even around the dental work itself. It’s a power around empowering someone to believe something else that, it’s just trauma release, it’s empowering them to say, “Hey, I’m moving on, I’m growing, I’m changing and I believe in myself that I can do that.” And that to me is amazing, that’s why I do what I do.
Kylie: I mean, I’m kind of speechless about that because you’ve not only treated what she came in for, but you have given her tools that will extend for her whole life in other situations and circumstances she might find where she has that response to, that’s incredibly powerful.
Dr. Fern: And it is and it’s so … And I’ve been stunned myself sometimes because half the time, I’m always thinking, I’ve always got the buffer, right? And my work is not evidence based. It’s just clinically like what I’ve done and how I’ve been doing it for the last six years with these trauma patients.
Dr. Fern: And I feel that, if for her she said to me, I’ve been seeing a psychologist for such a long time for years and years and years and years because of all these issues. In the dental chair it’s not even something that you go home with and you see if it works or not in the next few weeks or anything.
Dr. Fern: It’s just instantaneous, it’s like do you have trauma, and now you don’t have trauma in that instance and it’s just amazing. I really feel that, if all practitioners can work in this way not just with dentistry but in medicine as well. Imagine how empowered our patients would be and imagine I feel like the body is there, it wants to heal but there’s so many blockages that we ourselves put together there.
Dr. Fern: And if we can somehow help our patients unblock those and just stop us standing in the way, the body knows what it needs to do. We just need to get out of the way and so we can heal our patients and that’s what I mean when I say, “Heal our patients with heart.”
Kylie: Yes and see them as a whole person, not just the one thing that they’ve come for.
Dr. Fern: That’s right and unfortunately our medical world, our Western medical world is not really conducive to healing patients with heart. It’s often just even the hospital setting itself, and that’s why I guess I make my clinic as unhospitalized as possible. Still using all these sterilisation techniques and what we need but I feel that, that’s the first point of contact.
Dr. Fern: Just trying to get rid of all the things that triggered trauma.
Kylie: Really, really powerful and what an incredible gift to that woman, beyond just having been free of her wisdom teeth but understanding the power of her breath is just incredibly important. And that certainly helps me but actually challenging her about the stories that she had and giving her tools to create a new version or new vision and knowing that she had people in her corner that supported her through that she had backup in the actual drugs if she needed them.
Dr. Fern: Yes, so many layers, right? So many layers to reassure and just say to her that, “you are safe now,” and I think that’s the biggest thing is just to, how do we reassure patients but also how do we help them believe that they’re safe because if they’re safe, then the body kicks into the parasympathetic nervous system, and it tells you, and it secretes the hormones that you need to heal, to digest, to repair all of those things.
Dr. Fern: But if we’re constantly in the fight or flight, the body’s secreting hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that tell us that we need to survive and it’s not thinking about healing. And I feel that’s the kick on, that’s the big point in medicine.
Kylie: And it sounds like, that that was almost like your lesson that you learned from that six months in being on the kitchen floor, having that threatening phone call and being in a trauma like state yourself and learning how to get through that, and then being able to integrate that and passed that on in your practice.
Dr. Fern: Yes, absolutely. I mean my body was in so much pain and what I was doing is, I was ignoring it and a sedating it with painkillers and cortisone injections and Botox injections in my face to release my jaw. I was giving it poisons because I just wanted to keep going. I wasn’t listening to the signs that it was telling me.
Kylie: And also creating that vision for yourself of how it could be different. It didn’t have to be this model that was presented to you or based on everybody else’s shoulds.
Dr. Fern: Yeah, it’s so powerful.
Kylie: So inviting your own creativity and your own way of the world and integrating those other things that you’ve learned to create a phenomenal practice that is really offering the whole person care, very patient centred care. So how do you take care of yourself in your own business now?
Dr. Fern: In my own business in terms of the clinic, clinical practice, I’m actually about to take a … Unfortunately for the listeners out there. I’m about to take a … I’m taking a 12 month sabbatical off clinical practice, so that I can actually bring this practice out to the world, right, and empower women in dentistry to do the same thing.
Dr. Fern: How do I look after myself? I actually have a pretty disciplined way of looking after myself and I actually schedule in the time. And as you know with children, with the three year old it’s often hard because things can just turn upside down. But always in my practice I have a morning routine or rituals that I get up, I drink two glasses of warm water. I might do a nasal salt rinse or cleanse because I have a little of hay fever, those type of things.
Dr. Fern: I look after my body and then I always do a … I light the candles, I have a little altar and an offering to myself, I’m non-denominational. So it’s not really religious and I sit and I always do a movement practice first. So one of the trainings that I’ve been trained in, with Michaela Boehm is something called, non-linear movement which is an embodiment practice.
Dr. Fern: Super simple but what it does is, it’s just moving the body, how it feels to unravel the nervous system. And I do about 10 minutes, 15 minutes of that to create homeostasis back in my own body because we’re constantly stressed and on the go and doing things. And then I do always do mindful practice.
Dr. Fern: So some type of meditation and it’s only a small one 10-15 minutes and then I do a little quick work out and a Yoga practice. And then I always take my dog for a walk, get out into nature, and do my lives, and my vlogs and all of those things I need to do while my mind is fresh, so I take all of that off.
Dr. Fern: So that’s my morning ritual for instance and how I look after myself.
Kylie: Do you get to do that every day?
Dr. Fern: I do it and I give myself a day off on Sundays, that’s my rest day. I let my routine go astray on Sundays but right now because I’m moving into the online space I’ve realised that I’ve been unleashed into this crazy world of distractions. And for 15 years I had so much discipline in the dental clinic being able to work to time and patience and now being in this online world where I’m coaching women, I just feel like, I need this more than ever to structure my day because I would be a sucker that’s my shadow. I’d get distracted, I’d get pulled into so many different things so easily.
Kylie: So routine really sets you free? That was a lesson that I learned very early on. It’s one of those paradoxes that we think when we are a business owner, I can have that freedom like you mentioned but it can come back and bite you if you don’t create some structure and routine and accountability in there.
Dr. Fern: Yeah, absolutely. But also, then I feel like giving yourself also time to just rest and play and scheduling that in as well. Making sure you schedule that in, and giving yourself a rest day where you can just let go of everything and just say, this intentional being intentional about it as opposed to feeling like you need to grab at intervals, so it’s super important.
Kylie: Or feeling like you need to be productive in every spare moment of the day.
Dr. Fern: Yeah, some productivity is having attention. My productivity around this now, is nurturing myself and that is my goal, and that’s what I’m going to do in this block.
Kylie: That’s right, because if you’ve got nothing in the tank, you’ve got nothing left to give anybody else, you need to be able to top up your own tank first?
Dr. Fern: That’s massive, yes.
Kylie: So you’ve alluded to that year off that you’re taking, so you now coach other female dentists to embody some of these ideas that you’ve brought to your practice very successfully. Can you tell us a little about your next leap into that next business that you’ve got going?
Dr. Fern: Yes, well the leap has been going since last August and already it’s been phenomenal. It’s been phenomenal for me because it’s been another huge growth and stress period for me as well and facing my own fears because it’s also facing my fears as the number one thing that really started was, who am I to do this, why would people listen to me and feeling like, I know I’ve always been so private.
Dr. Fern: And I’ve always separated my work life from my social life and never ever use social media as you would know. And when we just talk and then I entered a mastermind group to help me kick start this business because I had a vision that kept coming back to me, that my calling is something more than just this.
Dr. Fern: I’m meant to move out into the world and influence and inspire more women, because if I could do that then I could help so many more people than just a one on one. And it meant that I needed to face my own fears and first of all start doing a vlog, a Live get my message out there on my page.
Dr. Fern: And I remember the first time that I had to do that, I almost vomited. I was so nervous, I can do implant surgery and grow bone again in someone’s jaw but this was like beyond, it was just exposing myself and what happens if people saw me, what happens if I can never raised this, and who’s watching this or and what would people think?
Dr. Fern: So, so many layers of insecurity came up for me again to start this business but it was for me to commit to showing up everyday rain, hell or shine. Knowing my niche, knowing who I wanted to help, again being really clear on my vision. And my vision was to help, basically meet women like me ten years ago, who were struggling, who were stressed.
Dr. Fern: We’re so alone, we wear many hats, and we don’t know how to juggle it all. And it was to amalgamate my 10 years of learning into a eight week course, online course, so I could reach as many women in dentistry as possible with this. And help them break through mindset, the emotions, move them back into their bodies.
Dr. Fern: How do we become better leaders and then when we … Like you said, “when we heal ourselves first, then how do we heal our patients and our staff and all the people around us with heart?” And so that’s been my journey for the last almost 11 months and really … Facebook was my medium which I absolutely didn’t want to use but I had to and paying Facebook ads as well and getting into that, that’s another story.
Dr. Fern: But I feel like it’s been incredible 200 women worldwide now in my course, changing lives and being able to speak at numerous conferences, international conferences about this. I feel like, everything in my life has led to this point now and that’s why I’m taking some time off to concentrate on this baby.
Kylie: Yeah, fantastic. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your hard won lessons. So as we mentioned, so that we don’t all have to go through that, fall on the kitchen floor moment. If we can give ourselves the permission to learn from others who have gone forward from us. So you’ve got women from around the world doing it, do you find that there’s any cultural kind of issues that show up in any of your training?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, absolutely. Once again it’s a very tiny group but I always ask women to step into their fear and I invite them. So for instance, I just ask them to do a Facebook Live to the group. And there’s women who and I understand, they’re so multicultural in my group but there is also a lot of women from India, a lot of women from Asia who are I know culturally were super private and suspicious of mediums like Facebook and where it will kind of go.
Dr. Fern: So culturally they don’t want to step out in the shadows and I completely understand because I was like that. And it’s hard to shift some of those beliefs in feeling judged but I feel that until we can start to break through some of those beliefs, we’re always going to stay sidelines and just be watchers and we’re never going to step out and create the life that we want to live not what other people have told us.
Dr. Fern: So yeah, absolutely I see that. And sometimes it’s really hard and challenging for me to encourage those women to step out and actually even do a Live or be vulnerable, it’s super hard.
Kylie: But you get there, do they get there in the end?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, will get there. And look a lot of them are really quiet on the sidelines and they haven’t really come forth with the group so much but then they have this massive breakthrough on their own, so I hope they get there. And as you know Kylie, with these type of online courses, it’s so hard because you’re not there face to face with people.
Dr. Fern: So my next move is actually creating what I call a centre circle group so I can work with more closely and also creating big retreats and seminars so that we can feel people because we need to communicate and connect as women. The online space can only do so much.
Kylie: Real life is still the best social media there is.
Dr. Fern: That’s right.
Kylie: Hence you’re on a plane in a few days time to go on your massive world tour. You’re leaving the practice though in very good hands with your staff that are there. So for people who are interested in how to find out more about you and what you’re doing, where could they do that?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, look the practice is beaconcovedentalgroup.com.au and the women there are sensational. There are all women who go through rigorous programmes to actually get in there to start off with to be honest. And we’re all different but the truth is that, they’ve got the heart and the vision and the practice just may not be exactly what I do, but they own their own personalities.
Dr. Fern: And they’re looking always for the best interests of the patients, so they work here with heart. So my clinic is Beacon Cove Dental in Port Melbourne and you can find them there but myself you can find me at drfern.com.au and my goal is also to spread this message to all medicine women.
Dr. Fern: So if you ever want to find me just to talk or to give talks or presentations, I’m always happy to do that to empower women of any sort not just dentist women, so that’s where you can find me. And of course my Facebook page, Dr. Fern White. Probably five to six times a week I have a blog every single day with a lesson on it for medicine women I call us, but really it can be related to every woman.
Kylie: Fantastic. Now I’ve got a few things to do to wrap up the show and we’ve gone over our time because we could talk underwater, we have such a great time when we get together. Could you give us an insight, what are three things you hope people take away from our conversation today?
Dr. Fern: Okay, so the first thing for me is everything’s impossible until you make it possible. So everything in your mind is impossible, everything I thought was impossible. If you told me when I first started my practice that this is where I would be right now. I would have not believed you, to doing Facebook Lives and all of these things and speaking on stage. And you just need that vision and you to believe it.
Dr. Fern: The second thing is, when the crap hits the fan, right, there are so many things that you can do to not spiral. And a few things that you want to ask yourself is, what are the questions you’re asking yourself right now? Are they empowering questions or they’re questions are pulling you down like, what’s wrong with me? And when you’re in a spiral or in a rut, how can you reframe it and see the silver lining and just feel the emotions moving through and not subscribed to the emotion to keep it going over and over again, if that makes sense? So one of the mantras I live by is, right now I’m feeling, dot, dot, dot and that’s okay. Right now I’m feeling sad, I’m feeling grief and that’s okay. Feel it through your body, move your body and allow it to go, don’t let it get stuck and don’t keep it running with the story.
Dr. Fern: And then the last thing I would say is, stop trying to change other people, be the change that you want to see in everyone else.
Kylie: Fantastic. Now we’ve got our last 10 by 10 to finish, we’re on the homestretch. I have 10 questions. You’ve got a maximum of 10 seconds to answer each one of them. I’m pretty sure that we can power through them pretty quickly, so strap yourself in and here we go. 10 by 10.
Kylie: What I like about myself is?
Dr. Fern: What I like about myself is how I can balance discipline and drive from my masculine and then I can balance my play, my creativity and my flow. So my feminine my yin and my yang.
Kylie: I beat procrastination by?
Dr. Fern: I beat procrastination by making it so hard to not do things that I think I know I should, that I actually end up doing them. So I just make it so easy for me to do them.
Kylie: A song on my life soundtrack is?
Dr. Fern: Rolling Hills by Jill Scott. It’s a very cool feminine flowery one, go for it, you should listen.
Kylie: I’m a big Jill Scott fan.
Kylie: The world needs more?
Dr. Fern: Definitely more heart.
Kylie: More dentists with heart too. A phrase I live by is?
Dr. Fern: Everything that you ignore, you condone. So don’t stand back in the sidelines and ignore, just speak up.
Kylie: Something everyone must do is?
Dr. Fern: Is a Facebook Live. You need to get up there, feel the fear and do it anyway. Feels great after doing it.
Kylie: Challenge accepted!
Kylie: A book that changed me is?
Kylie: Fear and I?
Dr. Fern: Fear and I, we’re old friends, we’re girlfriends right now. I know that fear is excitement without the breath.
Kylie: Something that always makes me feel good is?
Dr. Fern: Definitely dancing, moving my body, dancing.
Kylie: To Jill Scott?
Dr. Fern: To Jill Scott.
Kylie: And my legacy will be number 10, my legacy will be?
Dr. Fern: Yeah, definitely for me, empowering medicine women to step up, to find their freedom and then heal themselves first and lead and then heal all their patients with heart and basically turn the medical industry upside down with women.
Kylie: Fantastic, thank you so much Fern. It’s been a delight to be in your company today and onward and upward medicine women around the world. And we’re going to wrap up the show there. Thank you so much.