Skip navigation Jump to main navigation

Spring 2021 Advisory

Find the latest information SPS's plans for the Spring and University resources. Message from the Dean.
Close alert

For Dental Student Chao Kai Yeh, Business Courses Are Essential for Running a Practice and Financial Freedom

“It is essential to learn the underlying business principles as early as possible to start off on the right foot,” says Columbia dental student Chao Kai Yeh. To avoid the common pitfalls of owning a dental practice without having foundational knowledge of business, finance, and marketing, Yeh took Introduction to Finance and is taking Introduction to Marketing this Spring through Columbia University’s Business Certificate program. Yeh, who supports his parents’ Taiwan practice’s marketing efforts, plans to take these skills a step beyond dentistry: “With the right business, marketing, and investment acumen, I can earn enough capital to live off of dividends rather than my labor alone.”

Why did you register for Introduction to Finance last year? How did it benefit you as a dental school student?

I’ve always wanted to learn more than dentistry and medicine. In fact, my father inspired me to take Introduction to Finance. He happens to be a dentist who has an interest in finance. He spends his leisure time researching various investments and truly finds joy in organizing his finances and investments; plus, he enjoys the financial stability from the dividends he makes! My father has been a role model for me, and I wanted to take this course in order to build the foundational skills needed to one day achieve financial mastery like him.

This course is a “must-take” for everyone. Professor Eleni Vrana not only taught foundational concepts of financial literacy, but also prompted us to read The Wall Street Journal, which helped to anchor the theoretical concepts with daily life. It’s now part of my morning routine to read the WSJ and other financial news publications; it’s a great outlet for practicing some of the analytical skills I learned in the course. The concepts will benefit me as I look to start my own dental practice in the future as well as more broadly when I begin making investment decisions. After I took this class, I started investing in some mutual funds; I would never have had the confidence to do that had I not taken this course.   

Which term did you take Introduction to Finance? Did the timing work well with your course load during that term and/ or your other activities?

I took Introduction to Finance in Fall 2019 when I started to see dental patients at the hospital. I had fewer dental courses compared to the previous semesters, so I had the time to take finance and Spanish classes in the evening. I have to say that semester was the most valuable semester I’ve had so far; it gave me an opportunity to interact with all the amazing people on Columbia University’s main campus, and the additional courses broadened my academic horizons beyond the sciences.

After I took [Intro to Finance], I started investing in some mutual funds; I would never have had the confidence to do that had I not taken this course."  

Why did you decide to take Introduction to Marketing and Marketing Management this Spring?

Recently, I have been working remotely to support the marketing efforts of my parents’ dental practice and have really enjoyed it. I recognize that marketing is a universal field for all sorts of businesses, including dentistry. Marketing is also constantly evolving, particularly in a period of disruption like the pandemic and the rise of direct-to-consumer dental services. And while I have been able to teach myself some basic marketing skills through this work, I think it would be a great chance to learn the fundamentals of marketing from professors at Columbia.

This Spring will be my last semester at Columbia University before graduating. Intro to Marketing will give me foundational knowledge – taught by faculty from a globally-respected university – which I will need in the future, whatever the business need.

I learned from many mentors in dentistry that the best dentists are the best business people. In New York, there are lots of startup dental practices that are surpassing the performance of more established ones because of their creative marketing strategies. I plan to combine my ideas and the principles I will learn from the marketing course to open my own practice in the future. 

Most dentists learn the basics of finance only after they start working, owning their practice or as they begin to pay back student and small business loans. However, I believe it is essential to learn the underlying business principles as early as possible to start off on the right foot."

Why is it important for dental students to take Business courses?

Based on my personal journey of becoming a dentist credentialed to practice in the U.S., I would say business courses are critical. I was a dental student in Shanghai as well as hygiene student at NYU, and now a dental student at Columbia. The core curriculum of dental schools (in the three different dental schools I have attended) rarely provided the opportunity to learn finance- or marketing-related courses. Most dentists learn the basics of finance only after they start working, owning their practice or as they begin to pay back student and small business loans. However, I believe it is essential to learn the underlying business principles as early as possible to start off on the right foot.

Marketing is a universal field for all sorts of businesses, including dentistry. Marketing is also constantly evolving, particularly in a period of disruption like the pandemic and the rise of direct-to-consumer dental services. And while I have been able to teach myself some basic marketing skills through this work, I think it would be a great chance to learn the fundamentals of marketing from professors at Columbia."

What do you plan to do in your career after you graduate?

In order to be licensed in New York, I am required to do a one-year residency at a hospital. After that, I plan to work as an associate until I have enough experience and capital to start my own practice. In the meantime, I want to continue to help my family manage their dental practice abroad with the knowledge I gain from the business courses taken at Columbia University. Ultimately, I have learned that with the right business, marketing, and investment acumen, I can earn enough capital to live off of dividends rather than my labor alone.

Introduction to Finance and Introduction to Marketing are available during the academic year as well as Columbia Summer sessions. If you’re a student enrolled at a Columbia University school and you’re interested in expanding your knowledge in a specific subject area, trying out a new class, or getting ahead in your degree requirements, you may be able to register for Columbia Summer courses. Consult with your advisor for approvals and to ensure that you meet eligibility requirements. Visit summer.sps.columbia.edu.