ABC: Always be connected – Dentistry Today

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I type in the back of my Uber because as a writer, words are always dancing in my head, turning into sentences, forming ideas. This time, I know it’s especially important to write because the tears are welling up at the thought of committing to saying those words.

I know immediately that I’m going to drain my laptop battery before heading home traveling from Dr. Paul Goodman’s “Super Dentist Boost Camp” for Dental Nachos. Leaving today, having met, collaborated, connected with real human beings is like no other time before; it’s a reminder of how hungry we all were for face-to-face interactions.

There are so many lessons to tell you in the past few days, so much energy has sparked the much needed need for, what Paul calls, “ABC: Always Be Connecting.” Allow me to commit my journey home to turn these sentiments into an article for my editor.

LEARNING FROM YOUTH

Not so long ago, I was the youngest of the dental congresses. OK; in truth, it’s been almost two decades, but that seems like yesterday.

If you are one of those trendy young dentists who know how to use Instagram and record TikTok videos for your practice, mark me well, your time will come too; but it will come in a different climate.

Early in my career, traveling towards further education as a EVIL (affectionately named Baby Aged Dentist) meant no one cared about my opinion. In fact, I was led to the opposite side of where the crowd was heading, often mistaken for a dental hygienist or assistant. The previously established culture in my youth was that new graduates were like children, only to be seen and not heard.

The new generation of dentists is different, they have found the confidence to speak up and strong enough to be heard. Last week, I met frequent speaker and contributor Dr. Lewis Chen who, just 5 years after graduating, owns 12 practices. I admire Lewis, for whom I have many years of seniority.

He inspires me to be better and do better, a motto he uses for his own multi-practice philosophy. Dr. Tom Grass, one of this week’s campers, blew me away with the story of a first practice purchase while still in dental school.

Drs. Ben Baranes and Feras Ziadat were not left out. I had met Ben and Feras a year earlier and this time meeting felt like I was reconnecting with old friends. After realizing the genuine interest we had in each other’s lives, the two best friends, self-proclaimed dental geeks, then taught me about dentistry.

Dr. Mark Costes, quite rightly (a FURIOUS – Middle-aged dentist) headlined the event offering advice on the potential pitfalls of working too hard and not too smart; an example in its own right of what discipline and hard work could hold for all of us.

Offstage, in the seats, those of us who were listening, even those of us who were MAD’s and GAD‘s (Golden Aged Dentists), took breaks and time over drinks to learn from BAD’s.

Because the experienced dentists were not only there to provide advice; we were there to absorb it too. The two days I sent to Philadelphia just weren’t long enough to get to know the rest of the brave, open, and thirsty new breed of vendors. I regret it just long enough to know that every time I get the chance to talk with a new grad, I’ll spend as much time listening to them as talking.

#BFF

Technology has made us dependent, addicted; social media has put us in a cycle of semi-narcissism and self-loathing, all at the same time. People have become brave in all negative ways by hiding behind the keyboard.

Virtual bullying is prevalent among our children and is equally prevalent in adult online communities, neighborhood moms groups and, yes, even our own professional Facebook hangouts. And yet, even though technology has hurt our self-esteem and maybe even our growth, technology has allowed me to meet some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

Exchanging emails and phone calls with my fellow dental friends on Facebook, a sincere response to a personal Facebook post, a similar or friendly comment to a question on the professional page led to stronger relationships than we think. Lani Grass, my virtual life coach for almost 3 years, went three dimensional when I first met her IRL (in real life).

Kara Kelly, my HR guru, and I bit into our very first Philly Cheesesteak sandwich together. The hugs exchanged between me and Mary Goodman, Dr. Stephanie Mapp, Jamie DiBease, Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. Mitchell Rubinstein were tighter this time around, as it was our second meeting after a conference last summer.

The kind of encouragement, warmth and support exchanged in our conversations during this encounter is not often found in adults, and certainly not in those you have only met on two other occasions.

In fact, the depth of these specific friendships is hard to find beyond college age and, in times like these, makes you believe that there is some kind of universal magnet that connects us all and keeps within easy reach.

Studies have shown that being alone has a negative impact on your immune system, and in the time of COVID, isolation from others has caused depression and anxiety to skyrocket.

And yet, here and now, with virtual relationships becoming three-dimensional, the risk of feeling alone in what we do and who we are seems to have been greatly diminished, even for self-proclaimed introverts like Dr. Mitchell Rubinstein and me.

The three meals a day we shared for a few days made eating without each other in Philadelphia seem foreign and unappealing.

Call it Beshert, call it Maktub, or call it a giveaway that brings like-minded people together.

I think at the bottom of it all is the fact that no matter how accustomed we have become to seeing each other online, on zoom, or communicating via text, coming together does more than just build relationships. Coming together is an opportunity for all of us to give.

Many of us got into dentistry to “help people”; What if the “people” weren’t just those who sit in our dental chairs and waiting rooms, and if it were our colleagues, maybe even our senior colleagues.

What if networking with each other was more than just a way to improve our practice, our dentistry and the lives of our patients; What if networking should be redefined as a way of “doing business” or learning how to maximize results to be there for each other, to openly and honestly carry each other as we share our struggles and, yes, our shortcomings?

How about continuing to encourage this new generation of dentists to rely on these new friendships, because they have been an opportunity to give, not just to receive. With many years of life and dentistry under my belt, I have only recently learned to separate and seek out like-minded people. People who have impressed me with their generosity for the simple act of “giving”.

Donors, the definition that I proudly bring to your attention based on one of my favorite books “Give and Take” by Adam Grant is: “the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return”.

Unlike takers [who] strive to get as much as possible from others [or] matches [who] aim to trade fairly.

Have we, as dentists, created a new way of collaborating?

Have we arrived on the right side of fulfilling our self-assigned destiny of contribution, empowerment, and service?

WHY TEARS?

Several years ago, I saw an elderly man pass out at the airport while traveling with my daughter. Along with several other people at the scene, I performed CPR while waiting for paramedics. My daughter, who was under 10 at the time, saw it all.

As she later proclaimed that the scene was frightening for her to see, I felt proud and privileged to be part of this moment; especially knowing that my daughter watched me jump to give help when another needed it. After the gentleman was safely strapped onto the stretcher and rolled to the hospital, I checked my daughter, hugged her and kissed her, explained what had happened passed and I collapsed in the chair at the airport.

An unexpected announcement was made shortly after, thanking everyone involved for saving a life. I couldn’t keep my composure any longer and started crying. I was confused and aggravated by my reaction. I couldn’t understand the tears. I was lucky to have my 16 year old CPR instructor on speed dial, I picked up the phone hoping he would give an explanation.

He told me that my reaction was very common. When there is such a level, when there is intensity, when there are so many endorphins released during an action, at its conclusion, when the endorphins leave the body, there is a crash.

The accident is not uncommon for it to be accompanied by tears.

So, as I am there, in the air, holding back my tears, even if I am annoyed by their coming, I understand where they are coming from. My tears are proof of the honor and privilege of being a dentist.

The meeting was so high, it released so much oxytocin and endorphins that I have no choice but to crash.

The “salty discharge running down my cheeks” (tribute to an episode of Seinfeld), as inappropriate as I want to find it, makes me real.

It makes me human.

This is proof that this event and what awaits it will be extraordinary.


REFERENCES

  1. Brain Behav Immun 2019 Nov;82:298-301. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2019.08.196. Published online August 30, 2019.
  2. Med J Aug 2021 Jun;214(10):462-468. doi: 10.5694/mja2.51043. Published online April 26, 2021.
  3. Beshert means “inevitable” or “pre-established”. This can apply to any event that seems to bear the fingerprints of divine providence, like bumping into an old friend you were thinking about.
  4. Maktub is an Arabic word which means, it is written

More than MOMENTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS here:

https://www.dentistrytoday.com/category/mindful-moments/


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Augustine earned his DDS degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has completed the Dawson Academy continuum course sequence in oral equilibration and cosmetic dentistry. Dr. Augustyn is a general dentist and writer in Elmhurst, Illinois, and lives near Chicago with her husband and daughter. She can be contacted by email at [email protected]


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