Sunday, March 31, 2013

Will I Ever Repay My Debt to My Community?

It seems that the more I am involved in my community to pay back, the more my community actually pays me. I am not just talking about volunteering in dental outreach programs. I mean getting down on my knees and digging in the dirt to landscape a street corner in my town, delivering meals to seniors, or fixing windows at a crisis nursery. Of course, serving beer at a charity fundraiser is the most fun of all volunteer opportunities and a must-do at least once in a lifetime.

Five years ago, I joined The Rotary Club of Davis as a way to become involved in my community. Regardless of how much good we see in ourselves, these types of organizations seem to further empower the angel on our right shoulder and sedate the devil on our left shoulder.

Some may recommend joining volunteer organizations for the purposes of networking and promoting business. But, if the goal is to only promote business, then placing an ad in any form of media or sponsoring a local event would be more cost-effective. If numbers are the only concern, the amount of time spent and the effort exerted in such a commitment does not make business sense.

There is more to it. But keep in mind that it is easy for anyone to get the wrong idea and confuse our pride in our profession with self-promotion. That is why I have been extremely cautious not to mention that I am a dentist unless I am asked.

The real hidden values in joining such organizations are the ultimate rewards. I don’t think of it as giving back to my community. I prefer to think of it as personally, professionally and spiritually growing while contributing to my community and helping others, which seems more accurate to me.

I had learned about my community through talking with my patients about what is going on in their livesoutside the dental office. But upon joining the Rotary Club, I was introduced to more of my community. I became very involved in the processes of running the Rotary Club, which led to starting a new photography club in Davis. I served as its first president for two years and wrote photography columns for the local newspaper. That turned into regularly writing oral health columns in the same newspaper, which led to my current position teaching photography at the University of California – Davis Extension. It’s been a lot of work! But the journey was very enriching and the personal and spiritual growth was quite rewarding. I applied many of the concepts from dentistry to my community projects, and vice versa. Whatever I’ve learned from my community involvement, from organizational structure to communication, presentation and public speaking skills, has gone back into my profession.

Dentistry is a very demanding profession, and I think the public is aware of that. Many people seem surprised when they learn that I am a dentist volunteering at non-dental events. Unfortunately, as my family and dental practice grow, my involvement in my community will diminish. However, I will do my best and keep my ties strong; because I believe I still have debt to pay.

How do you pay your debt back to your community?

Have a great weekend,

Samer Alassaad, DDS

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