I really don’t know how many years I have been editor of Northwest Dentistry. I don’t keep track. I inherited this position when my dear friend Al Quam left in search of other passions, like golf, hunting, grandchildren, and to be a singer in the rock ’n roll band Grey Matter (no kidding). As with many things in my life, I have been blessed with a good fit and good timing. I enjoy this position, I love the people I have been blessed to work with, we have been very successful in our undertakings, and I hope to continue for years to come.
Our contributors are the best dentistry has to offer. We continue to win awards for our journalistic endeavors. I am in awe of the high caliber of our writers, and I am eternally grateful for their skills. But very rarely am I knocked off my feet by an article so well written from the heart as this month’s feature by Dr. James Hughes on page 28. In his piece, Jim eloquently chronicles his first inklings that “something was wrong”. His search led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, and culminates in his thoughts on surrendering his beloved license to practice dentistry.
I love dentistry; I got my license at age 23. For the fi rst ten years of practice I felt 18, and committed many of the mistakes an 18-year-old would. For the next ten years I felt 25, perhaps gaining a little wisdom, perhaps not. For the next ten years I felt 30, gaining more in wisdom, giving something back to the world, physically fit. In the next ten years reality hit, resections and bypasses wracked my body, paying for past neglect; I felt old. Then the cycle turned again, and I was blessed with vibrant young people to work with. We embraced new technology. My beloved hygienist of more than 30 years became an accomplished marathon runner! My young associate climbs mountains. My other associate is a Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard who has served in the War in Iraq. I feel much better now. But I’m not running any marathons or climbing any mountains or fighting any wars, or singing anything other than the “Exsultet” at Easter vigil any time soon.
At this year’s annual breakfast meeting of the Minnesota Chapters of the American and International Colleges of Dentists, the topic was “Disability and How to Survive it”. Two of the speakers were good friends of mine and well known luminaries in the history of Minnesota dentistry. I was dumbfounded to hear that both had been forced to retire from dentistry due to neurological problems brought on by the physical stresses of practicing dentistry.
It behooves all of us to strive to practice in an ergonomically correct way (do as I say, not as I do), to wear fitted gloves that don’t constrict our hands, to listen to our bodies and act early to check out the things that don’t feel right.
On the other hand, I have an old friend in Brainerd who was forced out of practice by one of these neurological problems. Thankfully he had his disability insurance in order. I asked him, “Do you miss dentistry?” He replied, “At first I did, but now if you put a gun to my head and said, ‘Go back to work, or I’ll shoot!’ I’d say, ‘Shoot!’”
Well, I haven’t reached that point by a long shot. I practice in a very Catholic setting; we have a small shrine dedicated to St. Apollonia, the patron saint of dentistry, in the corner of my main operatory. It is always good to ask for the intercessions of the saints when we face difficult situations. My dear dental assistant Julie, a very devout Catholic, and I have admitted to each other that we both seek the intercession of St. Apollonia when facing a diffi cult procedure. Things always seem to turn out right. Today we were faced with some challenging extractions on a very frail elderly lady, and we were both concerned for her welfare. I looked at Julie, and I looked at St. Apollonia, and it occurred to me: “Julie, we have an ‘Ap’ for that!” The teeth slipped easily from their sockets.
I thoroughly enjoy dentistry and editing. It is truly good to be the dentist, but it is even better to be the Editor!
Thank you, dear readers!
*Dr. Stein is Executive Editor of Northwest Dentistry. He is a general dentist in private practice in Aitkin, Minnesota, AitkinDent@AOL.com