When faced with uncertainty, Louisiana dentist Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara always chooses the leap of faith. At defining moments in his career and life, that leap-of-faith philosophy has never failed him. Dr. Ferrara explains how it launched his career in dentistry, convinced him he’d beat cancer and helped his dental practice thrive post-pandemic.  

As an undergrad on break from Louisiana State University in the late 90s, Ferrara headed to the dental office in Madisonville for a routine cleaning. One question from his longtime hygienist, ‘Have you thought about dentistry?” encouraged an impromptu job shadow with Dr. Dennis Preau. The result: Ferrara made the switch from a pre-veterinary/pre-medicine track to the path to the profession that inspires him daily. 

“I was amazed to see what variety of things dentists can offer patients. My experience as a youth was limited to cleanings and the occasional filling. After seeing this firsthand, I was encouraged to pursue a career in the biological sciences, but with a focus on the creativity and artistry which accompanied many of our dental techniques. It was an instant fit,” said Dr. Ferrara. 

“I’ve got roots in this town,” he said, reflecting on the fulfillment of providing oral health care in Madisonville, where he resides with wife Laura, and their children Rebecca, 12, and Noah, 10. and focusing on what’s most important to him: people. 

What convinced Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara to invest in people and technology at his practice post-pandemic?

That same leap-of-faith philosophy guided Dr. Ferrara in 2020, during a global pandemic. Less than a year prior, Dr. Ferrara had invested in a significant business expansion at his dental practice that included construction of a new building on his current site with double the square footage of his original office. Where others might have slowed forward motion until the dust settled, Dr. Ferrara remained steadfast with team growth, even honoring pre-pandemic discussions with a potential new associate, Dr. Sydney Lahasky.  

“When the pandemic hit, there was much uncertainty, but I committed to keeping her start date firm.” 

Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara began discussions with a potential new associate, Dr. Sydney Lahasky prior to the pandemic

Dr. Ferrara explained that after the expansion, practice growth had occurred more rapidly than he could have anticipated.  

“I didn’t feel that I would be ready for an associate for another 3 to 5 years, but within a year, my capacity had already been reached. After an extensive search, I was able to have Dr. Sydney Lahasky join my practice as an associate. She has been a wonderful addition, bringing a new perspective, yet with a very similar practice philosophy.” 

Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara said patients at Ferrara Family Dentistry appreciate the technology, which directly impacts their overall experience in the office.

That decision, and investments in leading edge technology, were well received by patients. 
“We have since added a CBCT and a Solea laser to our practice. Patients really appreciate the technology, which directly impacts their overall experience in the office. Life goes on, as they say, and we certainly feel blessed to be here and to be successful after such an event as a global pandemic.” 

An active participant in organized dentistry, Dr. Ferrara served as Treasurer for the local component of the American Dental Association over the past few years, and most recently was selected by his peers to serve as President in the current term. At the midpoint of his two-year term, the Chapter President of the Northlake District Louisiana Dental Association discusses what’s ahead. 

“Navigating the world post-COVID is certainly a challenge. My local component is in need of more volunteers, and we are also looking to increase our membership numbers. We have been working to communicate all that the ADA and the LDA have done for dentists and our profession since the pandemic.”  

He reflects finding the balance between meeting via Zoom versus in person: “There’s something lost which helps to facilitate real relationships and authentic communication when using a tool like Zoom. We were very blessed to have it at the height of the pandemic. I’d like to focus on meeting more consistently and safely in person in 2022.” 

Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara explained how he and his wife Laura, shown, approached his colon cancer diagnosis in 2008. “My wife and I had a strong determination that we were going to make the best of what we were given.” Married since 2003, they reside in Madisonville with their two children.

How did Dr. Ferrara’s cancer treatment impact his career path?

How Dr. Ferrara approached this most recent period of uncertainty with assurance is a direct result of a crisis closer to home that he experienced a little over a decade ago. In 2008, Dr. Ferrara received a diagnosis of colon cancer and underwent aggressive treatment that continued through 2009.  

I’m a colon cancer survivor. It’s not how I define myself, but it’s part of my journey, part of why I am where I am today.”

Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara, Louisiana dentist and cancer survivor

Prior to his battle with cancer, Dr. Ferrara had been working in a corporate dentistry setting but had to take a step back due to the aftereffects of treatment. After the chemotherapeutic neuropathy started, Dr. Ferrara shifted gears to remain connected to his field, working for a short time in orthodontic product sales, and applying to an orthodontic residency. Determined to return to general dentistry and his patients, he persevered. 

“For a couple of years, I wasn’t practicing dentistry at all, I was recovering from the cancer treatment. From chemotherapy, I had numbness in my fingertips and my feet for about two years; I couldn’t do invasive procedures. The doctor said the numbness should last three to six months…so, when three months turned to six, and then a year, I thought it was going to be permanent…”

Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara, Madisonville, Louisiana said some residual effects of chemotherapy included numbness in his fingertips and feet.

“I was born and raised Catholic and I’m more dedicated to my faith than I ever have been. I mean, my faith never wavered through that journey… I felt comforted even though parts of it were very difficult, professionally and physically. My wife and I had a strong determination that we were going to make the best of what we were given.”

Dr. Ferrara’s dexterity returned, with it arrived a new opportunity: ownership of his current practice in Madisonville, Ferrara Family Dentistry.  

“I can’t complain about that part of my life. It put me where I am, and I’m very happy where I am. I’m busy, but I have free time for my kids. I just went to my son’s school Christmas party today — if I was working in corporate dentistry I couldn’t have done that.”  

Which life lesson has Louisiana dentist and cancer survivor Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara put into practice in business?

Each leap of faith has strengthened for Dr. Ferrara a credo he’s put into practice for as long as he can remember: the golden rule

“Treating others the way you want to be treated is key to good business, as much as it is a great life lesson.”  

His experience with cancer brought that to the forefront. 

Dr. F. Joseph Ferrara and the team at Ferrara Family Dentistry welcomed new associate Dr. Sydney Lahasky, shown bottom right, post-pandemic.

“For me, it’s all about making people comfortable, making people happy, and focusing on what’s important in life…If someone from my staff comes to me about a school concert at two o’clock, I say ‘You’ve got to be there. Let’s find coverage for you. Let’s do it.’” 

Every interaction with the patients in his care reaffirms why he became a dentist: 

“The moments which stand out to me are those in which I can build relationships with my patients… Helping an anxious kid through her first filling, whitening the bride’s teeth just before the wedding, forming a lasting friendship with a patient… Not necessarily any one particular restorative or surgical procedure, but the relationship-building moments and the humor exchanged while caring for another. I live for those moments.”