Putting the right foot forward: Q&A with Dr. Chad Capps ’08, ’14

April 13th, 2015

The Great Expectations program, by default, involves networking. For many dental students, this manifests a sense of professionalism and a realization they are not navigating the obstacles of dental school alone. But for others, including mentor Dr. Chad Capps, it also acts as a pathway to that first job after earning a dental degree. In this first of a column series highlighting the Great Expectations program at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, we learn about the benefits that await mentees and mentors alike.

Back in early 2008, then fourth-year dental student Chad Capps was anxious. He should have had it all figured out by then. Where he would practice dentistry after graduation in May was still a giant question mark. That semester, Great Expectations, a mentoring initiative for first-year dental students, had just launched. Dr. C. Moody Alexander, clinical professor in orthodontics, conceptualized the program, and he wanted Capps to serve as a mentor — and when Alexander wants people to get involved, they can’t help but say yes. Capps was no exception.

He anticipated mentoring first-year students but ended up with a lot more than he expected.

“Dr. Alexander had us all over to his office,” recalls Capps. “He invited Dr. Tom McDougal — in practice for more than 40 years — to come share his wisdom. It was around January or February, and I was starting to worry about what I would do when I graduated. I knew that I wanted to go into general dentistry, but I wasn’t sure where. I had a few leads that didn’t feel right, and I was praying that the Lord would open a door. When I walked into Dr. Alexander’s office that night, Dr. McDougal came right up to talk to me. I think he originally thought I was a first year. We hit it off. He asked me to his office for an interview the next day, and I ended up practicing with him for three years. He has been such an influential part of my life.

“That same night Dr. Alexander asked Dr. McDougal if he could provide any words of wisdom for the group. He said, ‘give.’ That sums up the type of person he is — and the type of person who volunteers for Great Expectations.”

How you mentor younger dentists, orthodontists and dental students: I try to encourage and listen. I’m not sure I’m in a position to “mentor” anyone. I definitely don’t have it all figured out and still seek mentors myself, but I have a unique story. I think that a lot of students going through dental school are really overwhelmed with all of the life decisions you have to make. There are a few people in every class that already have it all planned out. That can be really intimidating to all of the others. I can be an example of how things can turn out in ways that you don’t expect — and that when you give you usually end up getting more back.

How you have spent the past seven years since obtaining your dental degree: I spent three years practicing with Dr. McDougal. For a variety of reasons the good Lord steered me back to mother Baylor for an orthodontic residency. I was back at Baylor for three years, and this last year I have practiced orthodontics with Drs. Grant Johnson and Monte Collins. They have offices in Lake Highlands, Southlake, Coppell and Bedford, Texas.

Biggest obstacle you have had to face so far in your career: The courage to go back to the ortho residency. I was very happy with Dr. McDougal and had a great long-term plan. It was a wonderful practice with a dedicated staff and extraordinary patients.

How you put the right foot forward each day in practice: That’s a great tradition. It has its roots in the “broken windows” theory that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Commissioner William Bratton implemented in New York. They thought by focusing on the little crimes like vandalism they could create a lawful environment in which the big crimes wouldn’t happen. The idea with the tradition is that you have to do the right thing from the very beginning because every decision big or small is important and either adds to or erodes away at your character. In dentistry and orthodontics we have the unique opportunity to build incredible relationships with our staff and our patients. We have a high standard in our profession that we have to continue to uphold; it serves as a great reminder of how important that first step really can be.


— Jennifer Fuentes