Back in Business. Dentist Josh Leibowitz returns home to ‘co-work’ with his friend, mentor, and father

November 29, 2021

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‘Playing it safe’ used to be a nice way to say cop out. Today, however, safety is the national trend for young professionals returning to the parental home to invest and save money, work remotely, job hop virtually, spend more time with family—and avoid becoming a CDC statistic.

For practicing dentist Josh Leibowitz, ‘back to the beach’ was always in the cards, not a default plan, or Plan B.

Leibowitz is the son of Larry and Fern Leibowitz, and nephew to three dentists. September 20, 2021 marked his first day seeing patients at his father’s celebrated dental practice on Kempsville Road.

While working in New York, Leibowitz made many discoveries about the dental industry and shaped his future. The question, however, that churned on repeat was where he would find the right person with which to build a life.

“The finality of a Virginia move was a never-ending struggle in my mind,” says Leibowitz.

When a good friend from dental school drilled career advice that hit home, he got the clarity he was searching for, but pandemic realities pumped the brakes on his plan to suit up with his dad.

“I always knew my dad was a dentist, but I didn’t really know that side of him or what that really meant. I saw that he really enjoyed his life and was a well-respected member of the community. Once I learned my gift for science and math, and my passion for healthcare, my dad really took me under his wing. Even before I joined the practice, he never reacted in a condescending manner when I introduced a dental concept that he didn’t think of first. That’s rare among medical professionals and one reason why he’s always been the first person I talk to about my procedures and my patients.”

While in New York, Leibowitz began to carve his niche for patient care. The city also gave him proximity to extended family, such as his uncle, Ira Langstein, a highly respected dentist who practiced in Virginia Beach for 14 years before moving back to New York. Langstein coached Josh on how to avoid becoming a mediocre dental cliché.

“New York was challenging,” he recalls. “Most offices for young dentists are mills with one goal: money. They weren’t concerned with my extensive medical knowledge, or the quality of my work. ‘Did it make us money? Great.’ I didn’t go into this field to be the richest guy out there. What mattered to me was seeing my patients cry tears of joy, no matter how small the product or procedure. That’s how I slept at night.

“Also, NYC is an amalgamation of people. It taught me how to deal with everybody out there.

“My greatest strength is patient interaction. I bring ‘ME’ to the community, I’m someone who really gets it. I’ve been a dental patient myself. I had braces three times, I had reconstructive jaw surgery. I have cried time and time again in doctors’ offices (as a child mainly, haha) over the simplest of injections. So, I feel that when a patient is in my chair, I understand them better than a lot of people might. In dentistry, I do not believe in surprises. Patients are empowered when they have a full understanding of their oral health and of their options.”

FAMILY BUSINESS AS USUAL

Everything about the move to Virginia Beach has been positive for Josh Leibowitz, DMD. He’s gearing up to get an apartment in Norfolk and joined his first two young adult Jewish groups. Serendipitously, two of his closest friends from childhood, both Jewish, are also heading back home to Virginia Beach to continue careers they started in big cities.

Working with family also means ‘unplanned’ office visits from his 90-year-old grandfather ‘Sid.’ At Leibowitz Family Dentistry, a typical work week starts with patients who call in and ask when they can be seen because they’re experiencing a problem. They say something like, ‘Can you fit me in this week?’ Sid Glass, a Type-A, real estate broker, wakes up with a toothache and texts his grandson Josh, ‘I’m on my way.’”

Leibowitz takes it all in stride. He’s an inquisitive empath much like his mother Fern, a former CPA, heavy knitter, and owner of Either Ore at Hilltop. Fern Glass Leibowitz showed Josh and his brother Jason, what caring for others is all about. Credit goes to Sid, everyone’s role model for the human touch. The one-time NYC cab driver never knew a stranger or was too busy to listen to someone’s problems.

Putting people at ease comes naturally to Leibowitz, but he credits his uncle Jonathan Jacobs, a local plastic surgeon and oral surgeon, for helping him see why Harvard was the school to beat. Unlike other excellent schools on the table, Jacobs illustrated why he should seriously consider Harvard’s combined dental and medical curriculum.

PROGRESS MAKES PERFECT

While implant dentistry is becoming less and less “advanced” and more standard of care, Josh envisions offering surgical implant placement as a key practice differentiator. He also plans to expand their technology with CBCT scans, laser technology and 3D scanning to eliminate the need to take impressions.

Two months into the game, Josh Leibowitz knows he made the right call at the right time. “I often think of my friend Yianni from dental school. Right before the pandemic, and within a year of joining his father’s orthodontic practice, a plan similar to my own, Yianni called to let me know his dad had been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

For years, I knew I wanted to move back to Virginia, but relationships and the finality of a Virginia move seemed like a never-ending struggle in my mind, and I wasn’t sure how or if I’d be able to come to peace with a decision.

After his father died, Yianni called and shared the loss he felt not being able to work with his dad as planned. ‘I think you should move back to Virginia, Josh. I want you to have the experience with your dad that I won’t have.’

Now that I’m here, and especially knowing what time stole from Yianni, I really don’t think too many people wake up one day and wish that they had spent less time with their parents in the long run.”

-Lisa Richmon

Letter to the Editor