A company spokesman said the firm charges clients $10,000 for its complete line of Hubbard courses and 30 hours of private consultation. The spokesman said Sterling has helped dentists increase their income an average of $10,000 a month.
He insisted that the company has "no connection" to the church, but added: "If people are interested in Scientology, we will make it available to them."
Sterling publishes a tabloid called "Today's Professional, the Journal of Successful Practice Management." Mailed free to 300,000 health care professionals nationwide, it is filled with "management" articles by Hubbard that are actually excerpts from Scientology's governing doctrines.
The company also holds nationwide seminars that, according to its promotional literature, have been drawing 2,000 people a month.
Sterling Management was founded in 1983 by Scientologist Gregory K. Hughes, at the time a prosperous dentist in Vacaville, Calif. Hughes holds seminars across the country, offering himself as evidence that Hubbard's methods work.
In promotional publications for Sterling, Hughes has said that his annual income soared from $257,000 in 1979 to more than $1 million in 1985. In one month alone, he has claimed to have seen 350 new patients.
Sterling's paper, Today's Professional, has boasted that "the techniques that produced amazing results when applied to Greg's practice are being applied all over the U.S."
But neither the paper's readers nor those who attend Hughes' seminars are told that his dental office, which employed the high-volume Hubbard techniques that he imparts to others, has been accused by former patients of dental negligence and malpractice.
Hughes currently is under investigation by the California Board of Dental Examiners. The board already has turned over some of its findings to the state attorney general's office, which will determine whether action should be taken against Hughes' dental license.
To date, there are more than 15 lawsuits pending against Hughes and his dental associates, alleging either negligence or malpractice. He has denied the allegations.
Attorney E. Bradley Nelson is representing most of those who have sued Hughes.
"It is my opinion," he said, "that the overall quality of care took second place to the profit motive. . . . I've never seen anything approaching this volume of complaints against one dentist in such a short period of time."
In mid-1985, Hughes closed his office without warning to devote full time to Sterling. He left behind a reputation so tarnished that he was unable to sell his million-dollar-a-year practice, according to dentists in the area.
"He actually had to walk away," said Roger Abrew, co-chairman of the peer review committee of local dental society.
He also left behind patients with worse problems than they had before they were treated by Hughes' office, according to Abrew and other dentists, who have since been treating them. The dentists said that, based on their examinations, Hughes' office performed both substandard and unnecessary work.
"I think its kind of ironic to see a guy who did such a botched job of dentistry teaching others," said dentist David C. Aronson, summing up the sentiments of most of his colleagues in the small Northern California community.
Hughes, who continues to conduct his "Winning With Dentistry" seminars, refused to be interviewed for this story. But Frederick Bradley, an attorney defending him in the lawsuits, suggested that the Vacaville dentists may simply resent his client's success because their patients had deserted them for Hughes.
Another firm once licensed by Scientology's WISE organization to sell Hubbard's management techniques was Singer Consultants. Before it merged with another management company, Singer was ranked as one of the nation's fastest growing private businesses.
The company focused its training on America's chiropractors. It brought hundreds of new members into the church and triggered a nationwide controversy among chiropractors over its links to Scientology. In fact, a chiropractic newspaper devoted almost an entire issue to letters praising and condemning Singer Consultants, which was located in Clearwater, Fla., where Scientology is a major presence.
"We felt that there were young doctors who didn't know they were being solicited to do something above and beyond the practice of their profession," said Dynamic Chiropractic editor Donald M. Peterson, explaining why his Huntington Beach-based newspaper entered the controversy.
Singer Consultants was headed by Scientologist David Singer, an accomplished speaker and chiropractor who held nationwide seminars to pitch Hubbard's business methods.
Two years ago, the company was absorbed into another management firm owned by Scientologists.
Although Singer refused to be interviewed by The Times, he told Dynamic Chiropractic: "Hubbard was a prolific writer and wrote on a multitude of subjects. We do not, have not and will not make part of our program the teaching of any religion."