The last thing I remember is, “I do.”
On Oct. 2, 1978, I was minding my own business, sitting in Smokey Joe’s Grill in West Philadelphia with a bunch of classmates watching the Yankee’s Bucky Dent break the hearts of Red Sox fans just one more time. As Bucky’s blast sailed over Fenway’s Green Monster, I knew instantly she was different. My senior classmate at University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine actually knew the ins and outs of my baseball, my favorite sport.
Within a matter of weeks we were dating. Three weeks later came her proposal: “We do not have to get married, but if we don’t, I’m going to do my residency in Chicago.” Considering I was going to do a two-year General Practice Residency in the notorious ghetto of East New York Brownsville in Brooklyn, New York, I felt I was in quite a conundrum. We were engaged over Christmas break. We graduated in May 1979 and wed in June. On July 1, 1979, we started residencies in NYC. Both of us had achieved fellowship in the AGD by 1985; I had my MAGD by 1988.
We are both dental junkies. We love what we do and that is a part of our personal as well as our professional relationship. We found a way to balance our lives and “have it all” through our wonderful profession. We learned early in married life and our careers that we are not just husband and wife, but partners in life.
Never average and never normal is what we, as AGD dentists, expect from our profession and our lives. Viewing our lives as a whole, we have positively integrated our involvement with and contributions to family, community, dentistry and public policy/advocacy.
We were honored with an invitation to present this past summer at the 2012 AGD Annual Meeting & Exhibits in Philadelphia. Our course was “Dentistry: The Greatest Success Story Never Told.” It was about how quality of life drives cost and innovation in oral health care and why Congress is so interested. As we are dental junkies, our hobby has been to follow our profession as it has progressed through the revolutionary times of the last 20 years. We’d like to share a synopsis of our profession’s evolution since 1965, focusing on what needs to be understood by and communicated to our patients.
It's about Buicks. Each day in my office, I have the same conversation with patients over 50. I show them images of their mouths and teeth, and the conversation begins. “You have 300,000 miles on this 1983 Buick. The frame is bent. The best long-term solution is a complete overhaul. The federal government says the standard for a 65-year-old is the 1965 Buick. If you want the current model, that can run the cost of a Buick LaCrosse or up to two Buick LaCrosses. No, your insurance does not cover this. Dental insurance changed to assistance in 1983. Dental assistance is really Buick floor mats to those companies and individuals acquiring medical insurance (which is the Rolls Royce). And yes, Mrs. Jones, I feel your pain. Many folks want to help decrease the cost of me doing by having me drive a Buick.”
My goal during this year in being honored to share my perspectives with my colleagues is to make sure everyone can fully understand our synopsis and be able to easily relate it to our patient populations.
As many of us are making resolutions in this new year, I would like to share the resolution we made last year: continuing to benefits ourselves, our community and our practice this year. Take care of yourself; you are the most important part of your practice and your life. I started my “Flat at 60” campaign to have a flat stomach for my 60th birthday in April of last year.
I have lost 44 pounds and my staff, family, patients and community love it. I cannot tell you how good it is for self-esteem and my ability to do dentistry, and to be a role model for my family and patients and community by being in great shape. Modeling healthier lifestyles and founding the “Healthiest Town in America” initiative in 2006 has raised us to a new level in the eyes of our patients and community.
If you, like many of us, were humbled during the recent downturn in the economy, you may understand that our profession is evolving. Where the dental model of delivering care is evolving to — and who will pay for it — is anyone’s guess. Trust is what we lost and that is what is needed to get back, no matter the economic times.
As we all share this wonderful profession for another year, make sure your plans for the new year take care of the most important things in your life: your health and the health of your family, patients and community. From personal experience, I can say that life as a dentist sure is fun and goes faster each year.
Enjoy the journey,
Robert J. Oro DMD, MAGD