Doctor Timothy Surber knew he wanted to be an oral surgeon since having the opportunity to shadow one as a young teenager. With the structure and love of his parents, wisdom from mentors, and support of college best friends he has risen to professional success with the opportunity to enhance a patient’s quality of life every single day.
LOCAL 219: Thank you for your time today. My first question is, was it hobbies circumstances or your childhood that led you to this position?
TIMOTHY SURBER: I would say mostly childhood. I was introduced to dentistry early on because my father was an orthodontist, and still is an orthodontist in the area. He had a large practice so naturally, I was introduced to teeth early on. We had a lot of family friends in the dental community, but me personally, I always was drawn to surgery and then of course, we did have some friends in medicine.
When I was five or six years old, I used to tell people, I wanted to be an ophthalmologist. Everybody was shocked I could say that word. Then one day, I was probably 13 or 14, my dad told me I should go look at oral and maxillofacial surgery, and when I saw it I thought, “This is kind of perfect,” because it combined the dental world and the medical world.
Then, especially, when I learned more about what all you do within that specialty, it was awesome, and actually, the first person that I shadowed is now one of my partners, Dr. Fairchild.
L219: That’s so awesome.
TS: When I got to college, I literally already knew what I wanted to do. It was to get into dental school, then get into the residency and general surgery and oral surgery, etc. So, I’d say it was mostly childhood, but I had some help along the way.
L219: Not a lot of people can say they knew they wanted to study at the start of their college career. Many end up wasting a ton of money learning about a field they’re not even interested in.
TS: Yeah, I knew exactly, and it helped me to stay focused. I went to Wabash College, which is not a school for everybody, but for guys, who went there and loved it…that was the best decision I ever made. Number one, I met my best friends there. We’re still friends. Everybody’s professional, successful, close, and just good people.
It taught me discipline on a new level, and it also taught me really how to work hard because it was not an easy school. It made everything down the line actually easier for me.
L219: Because they had such high standards?
TS: Yeah, they had such high standards. They demanded so much of their students.
L219: Okay, next question is, what gets you out of bed in the morning? What gets you excited for the day?
TS: That’s a good question. Well, I am a very disciplined person. Growing up my parents were strict, rightly so. They came from Catholic backgrounds, and I was Catholic. Then we became Protestant, but
I was raised to be disciplined, to stick to what you’re doing, and be responsible, and that served me, obviously through school very well, and is still within me today.
Like I really feel like I owe my time to my patients, my staff, the business. Nobody likes to get up at 5:30 in the morning. You get used to it after you go through a surgery residency, but I just feel like it’s my duty to be up, to be at the office, and to be preparing for my surgeries, dedicating my time to my patients.
Monday through Friday and on the weekend, if I’m on call, my most important job is just preparing for work because what we do can be pretty serious, and we take it seriously, but it’s gratifying too. I like the relationships with the patients; we get to do some pretty amazing things and it’s a rewarding career.
L219: That’s a solid answer. Who has been one of the greatest influences in your life?
TS: I’ve had a lot of good influences on different levels. I feel very lucky that I did. My two biggest influences day-to-day, and I don’t recognize it enough, are actually my parents; for them as parents, but also who they are individually.
My father was very successful, very determined. Also, very loving and focused on family. I grasped all those traits from him. I see what my dad came from, of a small house in Gary, Indiana to where he was, and I felt like, “Okay, I have to take this to the next level,” because my parents let me start at a position that’s much different from where they were. My dad really wanted me to always stay focused and on task.
My mom has been such an influence in me because she’s the most selfless and loving person I’ve ever met and it’s not just because she’s my mom. She will put anybody in front of herself; she’s here to look out for the family, for people she loves, and care for people.
I like to think that I got traits from both of them. Those are two people that really influenced me a lot especially as I get older and look back on that.
Then a lot of my instructors through my years. I have a couple of my instructor surgeons who became really good friends of mine, and I still look up to them. I try to emulate those people as I live, grow and learn not just about being a better surgeon, but a business owner, an employer and a family guy too.
L219: I believe one of the most significant ways you can honor people is by taking the traits and characteristics they’ve instilled in you and continuing to maintain the same level of integrity throughout your own lifestyle. My parents also came from difficult circumstances and you do grow up feeling this innate responsibility to honor them and progress further because of the position they allowed you to start from. What has been one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way?
TS: I’ve learn a lot of lessons, but if I had to pick one, I think one of the lessons is that nothing that’s worthwhile is easy. Everything presents challenges. Nobody makes it overnight or easily.
One of the lessons I’ve learned, and it was applicable when I was a surgery resident and now on my own, as a staff surgeon and then business owner;
You get presented with challenges every day and you just have to number one, understand that there are always roadblocks. You can’t let them overwhelm you. You just have to kind of roll with the punches and if you have good ideals, morals, a good mission, you’re disciplined, and you have confidence in yourself, you can kind of get through anything.
Roll with it, keep your focus. Fall back on what you know: you’re training, your skills and who you are as a person, and you’ll be good.
L219: I think, too, that you’ll regret the shortcuts, but it’s so tempting to take them. Even in terms of working out, when you just want another half hour or don’t want to push yourself as hard, or maybe it’s not following up with that customer to really make sure they had a satisfactory experience. It’s so important to reflect on, “What level of integrity are you going to hold yourself to?” We were made for more than settling. Okay last one: what do you enjoy most about what you do?
TS: I really enjoy the gratification when I see a life that’s changed, and that term is thrown around a lot in dentistry and medicine, but there is gratification in all the different things that I get to do.
If you take a patient who has non-functional teeth and no smile, and you’re able to restore that in one day, you’ve changed that person’s life.
Then if you have a person that had a total accident, mishap, maybe something’s broken, and they’re having the worst day of their life, but you can come in and fix them; you’ll never see a person look at you with more gratification and thanks then when you can help somebody on that level. That’s something that I cherish.
Then the other thing too is I actually enjoy and care a lot for my employees. They may not think this because every time we all meet there’s something new to focus on, but I really want and wish, and it’s my goal, that everybody enjoys their job and is happy to come to work.
I care a lot about the staff and how we are as a team.
L219: In a lot of the interviews I’ve done, when I ask what people enjoy most about their jobs they almost all say coming in and being with my co-workers because successful businesses have strong teams and it tends to feel more like a family. I believe when you invest in your team they naturally will give back to the business through their time, dedication and loyalty.
TS: Ultimately, it’s all about the patients at the end of the day with what we do. So, if we’re not functioning well then it’s going to reflect poorly on that patient and how they’re cared for. That’s why we it has to start internally.