“It’s fascinating to see patients who come back for their three-month post-op with a smile on their face and a completely different outlook on life.”
Although working in the world of dentistry is something she never expected, customer service is an area that Vanessa Bricker is all too familiar with. Prior to coming to Pacific, she spent almost a decade working at the Four Seasons hotel in San Francisco. She held various positions at the hotel, moving from guest services to becoming reservations manager, learning about the business side of the hospitality industry along the way.
However, the economy took a turn for the worse, and Vanessa was laid off. She took advantage of the situation to reevaluate her priorities. Looking for work/life balance and a new career direction, Vanessa investigated the higher education field, and started interviewing with different schools.
"What sold me on Pacific were the core values of the school, because that's how I was raised," recalls Vanessa. "I remember coming in for my second interview and feeling intimidated with all those people in the room. But after talking to them, I realized I would be working for an institution that truly believed in their people."
She started with clinical sciences and worked there for four years before moving into her current position in oral surgery. As the manager in clinical sciences, she worked with faculty and staff and learned about the didactics, the curriculum and how students take their exams.
Now as interdisciplinary manager in the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Implant Clinics, she works with faculty, staff, students and patients. "It's fascinating for me to see the progress of the students," says Vanessa. "It's watching them come full circle and having them apply what they learned in the classroom to the 'real world.'"
For Vanessa, the best part is working with her team in oral surgery and seeing the results of their efforts. She loves seeing the smile on patients' faces when they come back for their three-month post-operative checkup after having their cleft palate fixed or their implants put in. She's also amazed by the school's volunteer efforts with organizations such as Project Homeless Connect.
"It's wonderful what our faculty and students do out in the community," said Vanessa. "There's a lot of what we do that helps our students learn but also results in our patients walking out happy with the service they received. And that's a good feeling." She was recently recognized for her exemplary managerial skills in embracing a new and complex environment and was the recipient of the Employee of the Quarter in spring 2013. Nominated by her peers, Vanessa was applauded for creating a team environment in both the front and back offices and for leading the department's communications and customer service.
"I was completely surprised when I received that honor," says Vanessa. "It was a special moment for me but now the pressure is on and I have to do even better!"
Vanessa feels like she's learned a great deal at her time at the school. Not only has her dental vocabulary grown tremendously — she now knows what terms like "perio" and "endo" mean — but she's learned a little more about herself and how to manage people. Coming from the hotel world, she felt like she was "on stage" when it came to providing customer service and managing her employees. Here at the dental school, she's learned to let go a little bit and empower the people she works with to make decisions.
"I work with a tremendous number of very smart people," says Vanessa. "We laugh a lot but also get results. The most rewarding part is seeing patients walk out happy."