The Importance of Mentorship

Gary Vaughn, CDT, CTO

It has been quite some time since I took my thoughts to print in our monthly newsletter, so I have a couple of pearls that I would like to share with you.

I recently had the great fortune of reacquainting myself with two of my boyhood mentors. I had lost contact with them some 45 years ago and by way of an unlikely coincidence, ran into one of them, who led me to the other. Within a week or so, after contacting one of my lifelong childhood friends, who had known these men also, we set up a dinner meeting. A burst of memories accompanied this reunion as I came to the realization of how much I admired them and recognizing just how much they had taught me. On July 20, 1969, while the world was watching man take his first step on the moon, these men were sacrificing time away from their families to spend a week with a small group of young men camping in San Felipe, Mexico for our annual “Super Activity.” So, after literally 50 years, it was great to get “caught up” and share events of the past, now as adults. There is much to be said of what we garner from mentors in our life. This experience brought to mind another great blessing in my life of having excellent mentors in the dental profession. I will never forget the selfless sacrifice of my original laboratory mentor, Steve Vincent, who without any reservation, would share with me anything and everything I wanted to learn about the laboratory industry. When my daily tasks were completed, he would stay after work and for hours, freely teach me. Plaster, models, waxing, casting, metal design and finish, and gold crowns. He literally trained me in all things fixed, from crown and bridge to ceramics. He sent me to courses to keep me current with new innovations in dentistry at UCLA and USC to supplement the knowledge I had gained in the laboratory. About five years later, Steve moved to Oregon and sold me his laboratory. Even after he moved, he remained available to mentor me. Since that time, I have had countless mentors in dentistry.

Doug Campbell, Steve Simms, Gary Vaughn, and Paul Christensen

When I worked with a nationwide corporation of laboratories, a world-class ceramist, Paul Westbrook, shared with me the layering technique of Ivoclar’s all porcelain veneers and full restorations. This was before the days Ivoclar neatly packaged everything in a kit. I was already familiar with the foil and refractory techniques as well as press, stain, and glaze. At this particular time, however, there was much experimenting being done layering “maverick” porcelains to the original Empress material. With fingers crossed, hoping not to have breached the ever important coefficient of expansion and contraction, which, when violated, produced unforgiving fractures in the porcelain. Nevertheless this process, when applied effectively, vastly enhanced the look of cosmetic dentistry and opened up the “how to” world of esthetics to me. It is always valuable to know “how” to do something, but it wasn’t until I came to understand the “why” from my greatest smile design mentor, Dr. Thomas Dudney, that I gained a grasp of what was necessary in order to produce consistent, aesthetically pleasing results. Over the course of many years, I have spent hundreds of hours with Tom. As he taught me (and so many others) these smile design concepts, a light went on in my head. Suddenly, I was literally the “old dog learning new tricks.” Admittedly, it revitalized my excitement for dentistry.
Since that time, I have attended countless hours of CE from numerous other professionals whom I also consider valuable mentors. I hesitate to list names because I know I will miss some but Brian LeSage, Jimmy Eubank, Jeff Morley, Ed McClaren, Frank Spears, John Kois, Michael Miyasaki, Jack Griffin, Samir Ayoub, Todd Franklin, The Pankey Institute, just to name a few… There are many others, including talented laboratory colleagues who have shared a wealth of knowledge with me. All of these individuals have contributed to the abilities I have today as a ceramist and laboratory technician. Aside from the technical aspect, just as important is the business aspect. For twenty years, after purchasing the laboratory from my original mentor, Steve Vincent, I pretty much rolled along aimlessly, surviving on sheer grit and determination in business. Sadly, I did not invest sufficient time to be mentored in the “business.” I have been fortunate to gain exposure and practice with strategic business planning, budgeting, marketing, etc. I am indebted to all those who have taught me the indispensable components of operating a successful, profitable business. From the laboratory owners themselves to the accountants and marketing specialists, each has been a vital resource for me in understanding how to maintain a viable business.

Culminating in efforts over the past 12 years and specifically over the last six by the indispensable work of my partners in the PAC, Stephanie Burrill and Garrett Caldwell, it has been extremely gratifying to witness the sustainability of our laboratory in the midst of continuous change in our industry. Without the teaching and coaching of so many, it would have been impossible for me to adapt and keep up with all of these changes. I would be remiss without acknowledging the aforementioned Mentors in my life for whom I am most grateful. Thank you to one and all!
If you have questions about my article or if you would like to send a case, please contact the Pacific Aesthetic Laboratory Group at, Gary Vaughn, CDT, CTO (916) 786-6740, or via email

By | 2019-05-21T00:41:11+00:00 May 21st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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