Chithra Durgam is a dentist, keynote speaker and voice branding expert. She has been in dental private practice for 16 years in North Bergen, NJ as the founder of Aesthetic Dental. As Co-Founder of the business Local Vocal (asklocalvocal. com) she is providing voice app solutions for celebrities and businesses. Some of her favorite accomplishments include being featured in the #1 NY Times Bestseller, Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk and as a founder member of an upcoming app by the founder of LinkedIn. Her media appearances include Fox News and 201 Magazine Best of Bergen issue. Contact Chithra on Instagram @drdurgam

My Story


When I separately told two of my entrepreneur friends about the benefit of voice skills of Amazon Alexa and Google Voice, they both responded with the same statement: “Wait, what you’re telling me sounds like insider trading secrets.” They realized I was onto something, but it almost sounded as if I was giving them an unfair advantage in the market. I have always been one to think outside of the box, but this time they realized, it was different.

As unique as this information was, my journey to this point is even more interesting. I’m a dentist who has been practicing for many years and appreciates the power of women. I’m grateful for the opportunity to tell the DeW community my story. I’m Chithra Durgam, a general dentist who grew up in Colorado and slowly inched her way east over time. I wanted to live in a competitive market that would test my skillset, so I began a dental practice in North Bergen, N.J., 16 years ago. My office, Aesthetic Dental, caters to NFL players, UFC fighters, and some of the kindest patients. I have been featured by 201 Magazine’s “Best of Bergen” issue, Good Day New York, Fox 5 News, NBC News and other media outlets. However, my biggest achievement is the genuine appreciation I receive from patients. Those gestures always stay with me and are the reason I keep going every day.

Helping the community and improving access to dental care has always been at the forefront for me. My parents always donated money and time to help worthwhile causes, which continues to be a source of strong inspiration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I provided presents to children through the local fire department, gave tablets to foster children so they could interact with their parents and provided free COVID-19 kits to shelters. Every year, we provide mouthguards to the Snoop Dogg Special Youth Flyers League for special needs children. Acts of kindness can be so powerful and change the trajectory of a child’s life. I hope to continue to impact children in a positive way with my expertise.

From spotlighting charities on TikTok to documenting my work at Aesthetic Dental, social media has played a key role in being able to help others. My interest in connecting with my community and personal branding paid off, as I started doing videos on Musical.ly, which then became TikTok. I eventually was featured in the No. 1 NY Times Bestseller, Crushing It, by Gary Vaynerchuk for my innovative use of social media. My social media work dramatically increased my connection with patients, helped boost team morale and increased the number of patients at our office. I realized that many were looking to make their videos viral and increase their following, but some overlooked their community. I felt there was a need for helping others with brand strategy in achieving specific goals. With more personal brand awareness, I received requests from other dentists to help them with their social media work.

Because brand strategy is extremely important, I have spent the past three years researching voice ever since my son decided to purchase an Echo Dot for Christmas. I still have the list he wrote with the price of the Echo Dot. As I engaged with the device, I saw the potential to save me time in my daily life. At that point, the devices were so big and bulky, even without screens. Now, they have evolved to multimodal devices showcasing audio, photo and video.

When COVID-19 arrived in the US, the acceleration of voice assistant adoption in households increased. With more consumers looking for touchless interactions, I realized my background in branding could integrate seamlessly with voice. Voice search, similar to searching on the internet, allows personal and business brands to stand out in a crowded world, develop geotargeted marketing and develop an interactive, dynamic experience. As a business owner, if you are the first on voice, you dramatically increase your chance of capturing your local market. Just like when the internet started, the ubiquity of voice will be dramatic. I was hooked.

With brand strategy being my speciality, voice skills naturally lead to the development of the “Dr. Durgam Experience” on Amazon Alexa. Patients, dental students and those interested in my work can learn more about me. The experience of creating this skill allowed me to help others interested in developing their personal and business brand. I am currently working with celebrities, dentists, real estate agents, authors and other businesses to amplify their voice brand, sell merchandise and monetize their digital products as a Co-Founder of Local Vocal, a voice branding company.

Over time, I started doing more research on the future of communication platforms and strongly believe voice skills are the future. I was recently featured as the keynote speaker at the Voice of Healthcare Summit and was a speaker at the Voice Summit and Voice of Branding Summit. I’m also going to be featured in a forthcoming book by Dr. Matt Cybulsky of The Voice of Healthcare Podcast, which profiles different entrepreneurs.
As my work increases, I realized I want to develop stronger relationships with the pre-dental and dental community. I’m continuing to develop modules within voice that will help students prepare for eventual private practice or employment. I want to use my experience to help others avoid the pitfalls I encountered. Much of my work with voice will be centered around helping dental practices and improving education.

Many ask how did a girl from Colorado on the debate team who then studied at Northwestern University Dental School and then began her dental practice in New Jersey, end up becoming a leader in voice, I actually reply, “I’m the sum of my experiences.” Everything I have done since studying history in college to being on television to creating TikToks has prepared me for this moment. I’m always open-minded and curious about the world, and I don’t limit myself to my title. Eventually, I hope I’m able to use my talents and expertise to help others without access to medical and dental care through foundation work. At that point, I will feel successful. I’m excited about the possibilities of the future, because I’m just getting started.

 

Jordan Brown, DDS is a 2020 graduate of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. He distinguished himself in dental school by being the only student in his graduating class to be selected for the highly competitive National Health Service Corps Scholarship. Dr. Brown believes every person deserves the opportunity to have a healthy smile. On his off days, he enjoys lifting weights, audiobooks and food!

My Story


My name is Dr. Jordan Brown (Instagram @drjordanbrown), and I grew up as a gawky, shy and overweight kid with teeth two sizes too big for my face. My classmates maliciously teased me about my “SpongeBob teeth,” and consequently, I began to habitually blanket my smile with my hands when laughing. I didn’t know it then, but this lackluster period of my adolescence was the inspiration that fueled my motivation to become a dentist.

Fast-forward several years, and my smile had undergone an extensive orthodontic transformation. My newfound smile helped replace a previously despondent identity with a charismatic persona. For the first time in my life, I proudly displayed my teeth to the world. My metamorphosis awarded me the self-confidence I needed to speak to other people. I became a dentist to grant that same transformative image of self-confidence to others.

I was a humble kid with a dream, but I didn’t know the steps required to become a dentist; I desperately needed a mentor. No one in my family was a dentist, so I was navigating untraveled roads. To aid in my transition to college, I enrolled in an intensive summer program designed to prepare high school graduates for the rigorous science courses of post-secondary education. Midway through the program, I was struggling to understand fundamental concepts, and I was embarrassingly far behind. My demeanor was saturated with self-doubt, and I questioned my ability to take future advanced courses like biochemistry and physiology. I didn’t believe I was smart enough to become a dentist.

Toward the end of the summer program, a well-known cosmetic dentist gave an influential presentation that altered my reality. One segment of his presentation inculcated within my young mind and transcended my outlook on education. He said, “Look around the room … every person here is smart enough to become a doctor! Becoming a doctor is not about intelligence, it’s about the degree to which you are willing to work.” As a struggling biology student with at least eight years of coursework ahead of me, this felt like a lifeline.  He was the first dentist to tell me that I held the ability to achieve my ultimate aspiration.

The lecture was an unexpected revelation and changed my outlook on the pathway to dental licensure. Before this moment, I believed students had fixed qualities and abilities that couldn’t be improved upon. However, I now understood that intelligence and talent can be developed through continuous effort. From this point forward, I knew I had the capability to become a dentist. I began to treat school like a full-time job by adopting an early morning routine, I began sitting in the front row of my classes, and I regularly made appointments with tutors.

During my first semester at Morehouse College, I began earning grades at the top of my class. I adopted an attitude dedicated to high-level effort and consistency. As a child, my father worked nearly every Christmas and my mother established her small business from the ground-up. Their exemplary efforts fortified my understanding of “To whom much is given, much will be required.” I graduated with a 3.80 GPA and was accepted into the prominent University of Michigan School of Dentistry. I’m not listing these accomplishments to be ostentatious, but to inspire and motivate. A single message revised my ethos and liberated my academic uncertainty.

Along the way, I found generous mentors like Dr. Todd Ester at the University of Michigan, and he mentored me through dental school. At this time, Instagram just started to gain popularity, but dentists on the platform were uncommon. When I began dental school, I remembered the difficulty of finding mentors, so I started publicly sharing my experience as a dental student to assist others with similar aspirations. I began by coaching others on the dental school selection process, the application cycle, and navigating the other myriad of issues plaguing the dental community.

The largest concern for nearly all dental students and new dentists is the rising cost of tuition, increasingly high student loan interest rates and financial uncertainty. Student loans are like dental plaque: both debilitating and nearly everyone has some. From this perspective, I created an educational eBook series called Plaque Masters Academy to teach students how I financed my professional education via the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program (NHSC SP). The NHSC SP is a federally funded program, which awards full scholarships to students pursuing dentistry, medicine, physician assistant or nurse practitioner training. This scholarship program was created in response to healthcare deserts, which left thousands of people with the inability to access healthcare services. The aim of this first eBook was to provide guidance and understanding into the scholarship program and how it can alleviate financial concerns. I do believe it is the best non-military scholarship for dental school because you choose the location where you fulfill your commitment. They have qualifying clinics in major areas like Atlanta, Tampa, Los Angeles, etc.

From this, I birthed two subsequent eBooks in the Plaque Masters Academy Series:

Volume 1: National Health Service Corps Scholarship Guide

Volume 2: Residency Guide, which was a collaborative eBook written for students considering specialty training. We provided guidance into pediatric dentistry programs, orthodontics, prosthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, AEGDs, and GPRs. We even distributed an Excel sheet comparing nearly 40 AEGDs/GPRs to assist students with their program selection.

Volume 3: Patient Communication for Dental Students. The objective was to help dental students navigate difficult conversations with patients and actionable steps to become their patient’s favorite dental student.

I wrote the eBooks in the Plaque Masters Academy Series as a dental student, and the distribution of these eBooks established my reputation on Instagram. Today, social media is instrumental to building a successful personal brand and connecting with people across the globe. The utilization of Instagram can recruit patients, build your network of likeminded individuals and can establish your presence as a dental expert in your community. The partnerships I established via Instagram have connected me to the top minds in the field of dentistry.

After dental school, I continued my education in an Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program to remarkably increase my skillset. I aspired to receive advanced training in cosmetic dentistry, advanced prosthetics and complex treatment planning. I also wanted to better prepare myself for the challenges that will be present in rural and underserved communities. After my NHSC contract, I will then transition into private practice, where I’ll focus on providing comprehensive dental care. I hope to stay within Florida, but am also open to any opportunities across the United States.

We often underestimate our capabilities and play it safe for fear of embarrassment and failure. For the dentists and soon-to-be dentists, understand that fear and failure is instrumental to the process of success and is the only affirmation that you are working in the correct direction. When I started writing eBooks, I wasn’t a professional writer. When I started my Instagram, I didn’t know anything about photography or videography; I just had ideas that needed to be shared. Sometimes, you just need to pursue an ambition on a leap of faith and figure it out as you go.