⚖️ After a couple weeks off, Kinda Different is back with a new episode featuring Kristine Berry of the Dental Diversity and Inclusion Alliance. Tune in to hear Kristine discuss with Matt how inclusion is innovative, why recognizing bias can help the dental patient journey, and what a future can look like for dentistry where everyone has a seat at the table.

Watch below or listen in on Spotify/Apple. An auto-generated transcript is below if you prefer reading.

You can find more about Kristine and the Dental Diversity and Inclusion Alliance at the following places:
Website: https://dentaldiversityandinclusionalliance.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristine-a-berry/

Hello everyone, welcome back to another episode of Kinda Different, a podcast where we talk about all things oral health and we talk about innovation specifically of how we can move beyond what we're currently doing, move beyond the status quo. We connect with some of the best and most amazing guests that are out there and we talk about how we all together, because it is all of our job, can make dental care more human. I am Dr. Matt Allen, the CEO and co-founder of DifferentKind and your host for Kinda Different.
Super thrilled to be here today chatting with somebody who I think has a really interesting perspective. This continues to come up, right? As we invite guests on who have a unique perspective, a different role, a different way of thinking about things than all of our other guests per se, because it helps kind of create this holistic picture of, hey, how do we understand all of the many perspectives that exist in dentistry?
And I think that just idea in general will probably land well with Kristine today. So Kristine Berry is the executive coach or is an executive coach at the Dental Diversity and Inclusion Alliance. And she has a really interesting history of how she's gotten to where she is.
So Kristine, thank you so much for joining us. And can you just start off by telling us a little bit more about who you are and a little bit of that interesting history?
Yes, thank you so much for having me. I've been looking forward to this. So from an identity standpoint, I identify as my pronouns are she and her.
I am a white, for those of you who cannot see or are visually challenged. So I am a white, heterosexual, cisgender woman. I am, I identify as a mom, a stepmom, a sister, an aunt, a friend.
And for those who follow generations, I'm a Joneser. So I'm on the cusp of Gen X and Baby Boomer. So depending on what day it is, it's depend on what decisions I go with, depending there.
I'm really an introvert. And for those who follow astrology, I'm Scorpio and Scorpio Rising, if that's important. As well as, I also wanted to put a shout out to our Canadian friends.
So I'm half Canadian and half Lithuanian. So I have some generational aspects of it as well. And I've been in dentistry since the late, early 90s actually, from a clinical standpoint, started off as a dental assistant, then as a hygienist.
So identifies both of those clinically. I am still working clinically from a dental hygiene perspective, which I love serving patients one-on-one. And did find that I wanted to begin to serve the community and dentistry more one-to-many.
So I branched out into lecturing and writing and consulting. And so it's, I love the profession. I love being a little bit of a dismantler or disruptor a little bit with my roles.
And that's why I find being an outside external consultant, it's probably the best fit for me over the past 30 years.
Well, thank you so much for telling us a little bit more about who you are, right? Which is obviously more than just what we do on a day-to-day basis. So appreciate that.
And let's start off with that disruptor piece or that kind of, hey, like I, you know, I heard the word challenger in there at least in my own brain, right? I'm reflectively listening to you. You're challenging some of the status quo there.
So let's start off there in terms of innovation, because I think all great innovation comes from this place of challenging the status quo. And so what's one area of the dental ecosystem that you think would most benefit from being challenged or being disrupted? I would love to hear your perspective there.
Yeah, so I'm gonna, I'm gonna, don't have to, I choose to, start with the human innovation. So I believe that what we can look at from, there's a sensitivity to be able to look at the water that we swim in, right? So how I was brought into dentistry and my educational background, who were my mentors.
And as I look at that from a very narrow perspective up until probably about six or seven years ago, what I realized that everyone's experience who is in dentistry wasn't the same as mine. And I'm speaking more quickly from a hygiene perspective because I thought I knew a few things when I whipped my hair back, right? So I thought I was a lot of consulting and lecturing and internationally and nationally.
But what I realized that depending on where people come from, what color of their skin, and their different diversity dimensions, that they're gonna have a different experience in dentistry or if they're even able to get into dentistry, right? If they're even to get into dental school, a dental hygiene school, a dental assisting school, or submit that resume and be able to get that job and care for patients. So that innovation piece, looking at who belongs to dentistry, which everyone does, and how can we open up those doors for this more, diversity is happening, but how can we have more inclusion?
How can we have more belonging so people want to stay and so we can attract the human beings that we can serve, other human beings?
Love it. I mean, I think that's a really important perspective, obviously. It reminds me of the, I don't know if you're familiar with David Foster Wallace, who, you know, amazing writer, now deceased, obviously, but one of the best authors of our generation has this talk of, I think it was for a graduation speech, actually, where he was talking about fish, two young fish and like an older fish swims by, and he's like, hey, boys, water's great today, and the two younger fish look at each other, and they're like, what's water?
Right? And I think we all have that kind of perspective of like, we have been living in our own milieu and don't even necessarily recognize it, and it's important for us to have people who can help us step back and say, oh, like, what is this water that we're living in and what does that mean, right? So I think that's super, super important for us as a profession.
One of the things that I think, maybe this goes a little even upstream from that question, right? But I think it's certainly related to it. Why is being inclusive innovative?
Like, why is that going to help a company, a business, whatever might be out there, a dental practice, why is that going to help them move forward and move past the status quo? And how is that gonna help them in their journey to achieve their goals?
Yeah, being inclusive is definitely innovation. And what first comes to mind is, and I believe it's Wayne Greske, the quote of, skate to where the puck is going to be, right? So is something like that, I'm paraphrasing.
But that's what came to mind from a leadership perspective, right? So from a leader's, we have responsibility. And I consider everyone in dentistry has leadership capacity and leadership ability and a skillset.
So being a leader, when we care for others, you're a leader, right? So that aspect of it is always a challenge of growing, right? We can't stay where we're at, whether it's from a generational standpoint, right?
There's various generations, five to seven different generations working in a dental practice, right? And if you're looking at that, the younger generations are challenging us to be different, to look at work-life balance differently, right? To look at mental health issues differently, to look at scheduling differently, to working at, I mean, the whole gig population, right?
To looking at what's a guest hygienist or a temp hygienist and part-time versus full-time. Even that conversation, when I first started working, part-time people were like shunned. Oh, they're not as motivated.
They don't have the values that we have. They're only here two days a week. So even that thought process and mentality, which I probably even said when I had my consulting role and I did do my air quotes, all these things come up, but it's challenging us to look at it differently so we can be more inclusive because everyone is talking about retention issues, attraction issues, whether it's from a team perspective, provider perspective or patients, right?
So that we can have this conversation with the focus of either populace and making our patients feel included, making them feel heard in the practice, making them feel witnessed, making their values known and they may not meet my values. So it's not a binary that it's good or bad. It's, okay, how can we work together in the standard of care from the practice, that standpoint?
So inclusion is really something that leaders we can move forward with. It's not that controversial of a topic wanting people to feel welcome. And no matter how you present, no matter what your identity is, and I'm gonna throw out there that we know dentistry was built around white men.
And that's what it was from a system standpoint, because that's what the society was at this point. So we can start peeling back some of the systems, again, that we all swim in and challenge and what other identities that we can bring to that. What other thought processes?
And when I do the culture aspect for practices, it goes beyond, it talks about communication patterns. It talks about what you think about time. It's how you solve problems.
And that all that research is all basically from interculturalists who are a lot smarter than me, who did a lot more of their research, but brought it down to various dimensions that can be identified in a framework, in a business setting that we can move forward with. And so that's kind of what's exciting about the inclusion.
I love it. I appreciate that. And I certainly think you had shared, I think some of it with me as well, in terms of what those frameworks look like.
And I love that stuff. I'm a huge Enneagram fan myself. So, yeah, I think understand, we've had podcasts recently where we talked about the idea of really looking at, yeah, how we become self-aware and how we understand those things.
And I think having that self-knowledge allows us really to then be able to look beyond ourself, right? And to be as inclusive as we can and to welcome in others and do that really well. So lots of threads, I think, connecting there, which is really fun.
Let's talk a little bit more about you. One of the things that I loved, before we jumped on and started recording, you kind of gave this, you know, hey, here's who I am, apart from what you can find on LinkedIn, right? And I love learning about, hey, here's what's not on LinkedIn.
Because I'm much more of a like, I wanna connect not with like 100 people at a surface level, I wanna connect with three people at a very deep level. And so if you're willing, please share something with us that's important to you, but people aren't gonna find on your LinkedIn.
Important to me, they're not gonna find on LinkedIn. That's probably a lot more because I have been really stepping back away from putting a lot out there. Like I mentioned before, I'm very much, I'm developing more of an introvert personality, but an extrovert thought process, which is kind of interesting.
So I like to challenge other people or kind of rattle some other cages to see what they can do with that. I think one of the things that you're gonna find is that what really affected me a few years ago was both of my parents passed away within about a year and a half. And I don't know who else is in that age bracket who has that thought process, who has been through that experience.
And it's very interesting thinking about yourself as an orphan. And where does that show up in my projects that I choose to move forward with? How does that show up when I'm relating to my patients?
And I'm finding that I am slowing down a lot more in my conversational and my ability to really listen and try to connect with my patients versus just more of a churn and burn, let's do some production, which I was all about that. Again, this is not a right or wrong, good or bad conversation. This is how we kinda develop and how we look at our patients and the care that we provide.
So I think that what you won't find on LinkedIn or Facebook is that my internal transformation, my internal evolution of kind of my worldview changed and it kind of moved away from very much self-centeredness to a worldview of thinking about more, you know, related to other people or other patients and how is that gonna show up and who I wanna be moving forward in the world.
That's beautiful. Yeah, I think that that's certainly something that I'm sure people who probably have known you maybe before and after can notice that difference of your presence and some of those pieces, right? I think we all have some of those inflection points in our life where we recognize something and see a difference and it changes us, right?
So I would love to hear one of the things that I love finding out we're all patients. We all have to experience healthcare, right? And I always love hearing people's stories of, hey, what was one of your most formative experiences as a patient?
So when you've been going in for healthcare, dental care, whatever, what's something that stood out to you over the course of your life that shaped how you view yourself in the healthcare system and what your role is and how we think it can change and all of those things. So that formative experience as a patient, I would love to hear a story there.
I think it's more of what doesn't happen when I'm a patient. What I wish would happen when I'm a patient. And this could be so much different if they just would have asked me this, if they just would have slowed down, if perhaps this provider, and this is medical and dental, this is across the board, if they just perhaps would look me in the eye, right?
Or maybe they would just turn a certain way, or rather than standing above me, like do like the basic things that some of us have learned, just from the eye to eye, and just be a human perspective. So I think that has influenced me because it's maybe I learned from what not to do. Sometimes that you can streamline what, from a career choice, I don't wanna do this, I don't wanna do this.
So then you find out from that direction. So it's more, I guess it's from how I've been excluded and what I don't like. I think that influences me or motivates me more for myself and my teachings.
And when I work with teams and I work with organizations, what they can do to change that. So it is a fun exercise to write down. And I don't like staying in the negative.
I'm more of a positive person, but for a small point in time, you can do an exercise around what were your negative experiences and then just kinda flip that, right? And so that was negative. How can we be better and turn that into a positive for our patients or our team members and the people we work with?
So, yeah.
Totally. I wonder, this might not be true of you, so I'm not gonna project how I act now because I've certainly had those same experiences, right? Of, hey, this was a gap here.
And now I find myself going into those situations and telling the program, like, hey, can I give you some feedback? Like literally coaching them in this situation. I don't know if you do that, but I do now.
And it's like, sometimes does it go over well, sometimes does, but you know, I'm like, well, if this is what I'm noticing, I would want to know if I was the provider and I was doing something that the patient didn't appreciate. So certainly that's how I ended up behaving in health care, which they probably hate me.
And no, and no plug or anything, but that's what I love about your, what the work that you're doing, hearing from patients and then being able to take that information and your latest white paper was the do-it-yourself office, they were able to have that awareness, have that psychological safety to make those changes on their own, right? The do-it-yourselfers. But some offices don't, so they need a little bit more hand-held.
They don't know how to implement that. But listening from a patient foundation and the teen foundation, I mean, also the teen surveys can reveal so much as well. And also from former employees who work in your organization.
I mean, they can give and you can have like a nice mosaic of information to pick one and move forward. But I've also done that. I've also said, if you want to, I'm finding I have a certain percentage of time that I will provide for free and just kind of say, hey, if you want to jump on a call, let's, I'd love to be able to discuss this with you because it's, I'm also curious to find out what was going on on their side that led them to behave.
So I don't want to judge their behavior based through my lens. So I'm always curious to find out.
Yeah, for sure. Like you don't want to like assume, hey, this person was trying to treat me this way or whatever, but here's how it landed with me, right? Like whatever your intention was, I don't know, but your action landed with me this way.
Yes. And you probably know that, right?
Yeah, that's like, cool.
I love it. Well, let's talk a little bit about making dental care more human. Always, you know, obviously kind of, we've touched around the edges of this, I would say, but let's kind of hit it directly.
When you think of patient experience, and obviously we think about that really holistically here in terms of the moment that a patient is gonna go seek to start receiving healthcare online, probably usually now all the way until they go through the visit and then come back. And all of the many touch points, both digital and personal on the phone, whatever that might be. So when you think about that whole person, you know...
The whole patient journey.
What's the factor that you think is important, but overlooked by a lot of people in the dental profession right now?
Yeah, we talked a little bit about this, but what's coming to mind right now is, what I think is overlooked is our own implicit, implicit biases. I think the conversation around biases and my worldview versus my patient who's coming in the door. And so for the longest time, I would always use the golden rule, right?
Treat someone as they, as I would want to be treated. And I'm thinking that's pretty good, right? So I'm a semi-normal person.
That's what I think. That's what I tell myself. But what has shifted for me now, and it takes a little bit more work and it takes a little bit more of self-awareness, and that's not always comfortable for some people because it's kind of like, do you ever stay up late one night or, you know, and have to get up the next morning and you're coming, you're waking up out of bed and you're kind of like, ugh, you know, you're kind of sore, you don't want to get up.
That's kind of like the awakening when you realize, well, wait a minute, I just learned something that doesn't fit into my worldview. I'd never heard that before and it's making me uncomfortable. So we have to have grace with ourselves.
And as we're learning that, it's more the platinum rule, right? Do unto others as they would want to have done unto them. And so that takes a skill set of pausing, of grace, of asking, and then listening, but being able to listen through a lens that's non, it's always gonna be biased, but being aware of your biases.
So when you hear someone say something that you automatically, and I still, because this is a journey, right? No one's perfect. Cultural humility is not an endpoint, right?
It's just the beginning. It's like periodontal disease, right? Once you diagnose periodontal disease, the patient still has to brush and floss and come in.
There's still that work that they have to do to maintain it. So development and learning and leadership skills and competency skills is still that level as well. So listening to the patient and try to filter it and say, well, they said this and I kinda got triggered, or they must not value what I'm providing and kinda put that aside and then ask that one extra question, right?
So help me understand that a little bit more. What specifically did you mean by that? Because languaging is huge because what I think is fantastic, someone else may use that word fantastic, but it's at a different spectrum or different dimensions.
How about I answer that?
Yeah, no, I think so. I think definitely, just even being aware of our own biases, I think is certainly very important, right? In terms of how we're having those conversations.
And if we really do wanna have meaningful relationships with patients, right? I was reading an experience report the other day where I was looking at all of the narrative feedback the patients would provide. And a lot of the negatives, right?
I was like, hey, I'm never coming back here or whatever. It's all related to very logistical things, right? Like they were running late, like a lot of that stuff.
And a lot of the really positive, it was like, I felt really heard, listened to, understood. Right, so I think, especially in healthcare, like if you wanna differentiate yourself, there's probably a lot of patients, like if you really ask them, like that negative perspective, like I didn't feel heard or understood, they've almost kind of come to expect that, so they're not saying that a lot of times, right? But they're noticing it on the positive end, right?
If you're doing it well, you can really differentiate yourself. And that really does require your understanding of your own biases, those kinds of things, right? Hey, this wouldn't be the treatment decision that I would make, but this is the treatment decision that this person would make, and that's okay.
And that's a good thing, like we can support them in that and we can help them down that journey. I always, that's one of, you know, when I work with clinicians still, when we'll talk about some of those things, like I don't answer the question from patients of like, well, what would you do? Because it's like, well, I know what I would do, but your values might be different than mine, and what I want to do is help you figure out what's important to you in this so that we can help you make a treatment decision that's consistent with your values.
Yeah. So, you know, I think-
I love that because it always reminds me, and I used to say this, and I hear my mentor say this, well, if you are my mother, or if you are my sister, or if you are part of my family, this is what I would recommend. And I would just laugh because, you know, being from the Northeast, a little sarcastic, I'd be like, well, how do I know you actually like your family? You know, so how about, you know, that's what would trigger for me versus, you know, diving into the patient or someone else's world, so.
That's amazing. Well, let's- I got one more question for you, and this one might be, you know, a little controversial slash, like, we can talk about it.
But- and we don't get to talk about this on every episode. We've talked about it a little in a few past episodes.
You know, dentistry has this history of paternalism. And in some ways, I think a lot of people participate in that kind of paternalistic, you know, thing. I've been doing it just kind of like, hey, I want to help people.
So I'm going to tell them what to do, right? But that system, I think, as you're saying, you know, was really designed, you know, not necessarily out of being well-meaning and including everyone and, you know, saying, hey, like women or other, you know, other groups, right? That, you know, we're going to exclude them, right?
So that was, I think, you know, the genesis of some of it. So whatever, wherever the history of that paternalism comes from, certainly still exists, I think, in healthcare in general, not just in dentistry, still exists. And so what actionable steps do you currently see to help us move beyond this paradigm of paternalism and the kind of, you know, roots of that that might still exist in some of our work?
So two things. Number one, being open and being courageous enough to have that conversation, to have a conversation, to listen to someone else's side. I think that is from the history of dentistry and how we provide care and who is excluded, who wasn't excluded, you know, the research that was done, you know, it's done from a racial standpoint, so we could do all the isms, right?
Racism, sexism, right? So those aspects of it, and those can be triggering for, and you know, for presenting as a white male. What we need to understand is that you also have a diversity story.
You have diversity dimensions as well, and that there's been such data that you've, you know, in general, white men have covered in the workplace as well because they've had to hide who they are to get accepted. So we, again, going back to the swimming world, and for that aspect, we all have areas to grow to include in all field belong. You know, we all have that belonging feeling.
So I think that would be, you know, number one is just to begin to have those conversations, to realize that it can be different, that, you know, the upstream and the dismantling a little bit is more inclusive, and how would you want your own identity to be represented, you know, in dentistry? And the second aspect of that would be, I completely forgot. So there you go, that's, I'll just leave it at that one.
Like I said, I think I'm brilliant. I'm a brilliant person, but I couldn't remember number two.
Hey, I love number one. Like, you know, I always tell people like, you might remember nothing from, you know, what I've talked about today, if I'm doing a, you know, presentation or whatever, but like, if you remembered one thing, what would it be, right? Because people generally have a space in their brain for one, but you know, sometimes two or three, like that's even way too many.
So when we think about self-management goals, it's like, hey, what's one thing you can work on, right? Because two or three, often too many. So I love it.
Having courageous conversations, that's a great place for us to really, to kind of wrap up today's episode. Kristine, I wanna thank you so much for joining us today. If people wanna learn more about your, your work at the Dental Diversity and Inclusion Alliance, help us understand where we could go, who to get in touch with, let us know.
Yeah, the easiest, I mean, it's a long name. I'll give you that, but they might have a website. So it's Dental Diversity and Inclusion Alliance.
I'm also on LinkedIn, Kristine Berry, Kristine with a K and Berry, B-E-R-R-Y. I'd love to have a conversation from a individual perspective, from a growth and leadership, from executive coaching perspective. I take a global view of coaching.
So I know that we have multi-dimensions of our own identities, as well as teams, because what we also bring, who we are and show up as a team, because like I mentioned, I've been a part of teams in dentistry for a long time. So I'm there to help support the leadership as well as the clinical providers as well. So I start off with an assessment, and then we go from there, because I do love assessments and a nice framework that we can proceed from.
So yes, you can find me on social media.
All right, awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time. I love this conversation and how it's kind of piggybacked on some of the conversations that we've been having recently on Kinda Different and really pulling some threads together that I think are really important.
So not necessarily always the global vision to have, wow, there was this theme that kind of came together over the course of the season, but sometimes it just happens. So I appreciate you being a part of that. Thank you for taking the time to join us today.
And I look forward to continuing the conversation.