Kasen Van Fossen

Dental Student

Born and raised in Florida, Kasen Van Fossen excelled academically throughout his formative years. By the time he entered high school, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. This meant dedicating himself to getting high grades, as well as taking every opportunity he could to learn about medicine along the way. He was made the valedictorian of his graduating class.

Upon entering the University of Florida, he discovered that not everything comes easy. He knew he’d have to buckle down and work hard to make it into the medical field, but unfortunately, high school didn’t properly prepare him for the challenges he faced in college. After some early struggles, Kasen found his stride in post-secondary academics, and before long, he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a special focus on medicine. By this time, he realized that he wanted to be a dentist.

Now 22 years old, Kasen Van Fossen currently works as an undergraduate research assistant, while also volunteering in a palliative care facility. He is certain that his innate drive and desire to achieve his dream of becoming a practicing dentist will one day lead him to opening his own office. Until then, he plans to learn the trade, mentoring with local dentists while earning his graduate degree.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

One day, a friend of mine from school talked with me about her goal of wanting to become a dentist. At the time, I didn’t know much about dentistry. I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I had always imagined that my focus would be in general medicine or surgery. But when I had that talk with my friend, she highlighted the positive aspects of the dental field and made me rethink the path I wanted to take.

After looking into it further, I found that, as a dentist, you can be your own boss. You also have the ability to make your own schedule, which allows you to achieve a better work/life balance. It’s also more hands-on than other areas of medicine, so you’re able to develop a deeper, more consistent doctor/patient relationship. Learning from that conversation with my friend, and all the dentists I would later shadow introduced me to my interest in dentistry, and helped me to clarify what I was ultimately looking to do with my life.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

As a graduate student, each day can be very different. Once I wake up, I drink a few cups of coffee for an energy kick. Then I check to see what I have scheduled for the day. It might be a test or a class, I might need to study, or there might be another matter needing my attention. After I handle these items, I start to conduct research. Currently, I work remotely in data analysis, and that being the case, I can make my own hours. In addition to my education, I’ve recently been looking for opportunities for ways to gain more experience in the dental field, so hunting for jobs and the like also takes some time. After all my responsibilities are complete, I find some time to relax.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When I come up with an idea or a thought that I think is worth working towards, I act on it without delay. If I wait a few days, it won’t get accomplished. If the idea is worth pursuing, it is worth working hard on it and acting on it immediately.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The push for more online and remote work allows for better productivity, in my opinion—at least in the fields where it is possible. By working from home, you can plan around specific timeframes and individualize your schedule. And considering the widespread adoption of teleconferencing technology and the endless amounts of data accessible online, there’s not much you can’t do remotely.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Getting an early start on the tasks I have to complete keeps me in a productive mode all day.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Try and experience many things. When I was younger, I researched several different areas as career options before deciding on dentistry. If I had looked into dentistry earlier, I would have learned more about it and sought more experiences relating to it, which would’ve strengthened my résumé and hastened my journey down this career path.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

You don’t have to be correct. Even if no one agrees with you and people say, “I think you are wrong,” sometimes it’s better to let people think what they want to think. It can free you up to do what you need to do. If you are happy with your path, and people think you are doing the wrong thing, let them believe that. Ultimately, you know where you are going and will make the right decisions for yourself.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I go to bed having made a daily to-do list for the next day. If you begin your day with a list of what you want to achieve, it will keep you motivated throughout the day and help you to stay focused. The list should contain a few more items than what you can reasonably complete in a day, that way you always have the beginning of the next day’s list, as well. It carries over. The list becomes a workable and fluid document. I find checking completed tasks off the list is a positive motivator. It feels good, like you’re always moving forward and accomplishing things.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I’m able to self-study very well. I think that is a valuable skill in today’s competitive environment. There is so much knowledge available literally at our fingertips that it’s mind-boggling. But it’s important to know how to properly search for it, considering there are just so many resources available from online text sources and videos on various practices, and podcasts from professionals in every field. However, if you put in the time and work, and make sure to research what you are looking for thoroughly, you will always find whatever information you need.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

During my early years in school, I didn’t have to work particularly hard. Excelling in school came easy. However, I knew it would get more complex as time went on. Because of that, I procrastinated all through high school and even into my first year of college. I had little motivation to study or work hard to achieve things. Once I realized it would only get more complicated and I wouldn’t be able to wing it, I knew a change needed to happen. I made a plan and fixed my study and work habits, leading me to where I am today with my academic successes.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Whatever goal you are trying to reach, you can never be as successful working alone as you can by working with a solid team. The old saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself” is not necessarily true. Especially if you want to achieve that goal quickly, you’ll need to build a network of good people to help you do so. With a solid network, you can complete any task faster and it will go much smoother.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I purchased a new shirt I really liked. Recently, I’ve worn it to a job interview and a wedding, and it’s one of those things where I put it on and I think I look good, so I feel good, and as a consequence, I become more at ease. It’s all about confidence, and I find whatever inspires confidence in me is always worth spending an extra bit of money on.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

LinkedIn helps with productivity, especially in job searching. The networking part of it functions really well, and I used it in college to great effect. Moving forward, it will be essential in my career path.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

When I was first exploring the idea of dentistry as a career, I read the book So You Want to Be a Dentist?: What You Must Know if You Want to Succeed in Dentistry by Marcus Neff, DDS. It answered pretty much every question I had about the profession in fantastic detail, specifically how to run a functioning practice. I recommend it for anyone thinking of entering the dental field.

What is your favorite quote?

In my freshman year at college, my roommate said it best: “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” Control what you can, but be at peace with the things you can’t. Also, don’t let things get away from you. If you have faith and trust in whatever power you believe in, you must allow it to handle whatever you can’t.

Key Learnings:

  • Dedicating yourself to your goals gets results.
  • Being open-minded allows you to find more options.
  • Work hard from the start and you’ll lay a solid foundation for the future.