I have this theory that dentists are some of the friendliest and most outgoing people you will ever meet. I do realize I am preaching to the choir here, but sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge our attributes. We are meeting new people [our patients] every day! I always find myself routinely initiating conversations, and this has been a skill I have worked hard to develop. I am shy and quiet by nature, but dentistry has aggressively forced me out of my shell. Having conversations with strangers is something I have become comfortable with, and apparently so have many of you. Since starting dental school, I have accumulated (and the list keeps growing) quite a significant number of what I like to refer to as “dentist friends.”
Starting out as a student at NYU, I was fortunate enough to meet and connect with an absolutely amazing group of friends. We sat next to each other in lectures and simulation labs, spent long [weekend!] days and nights in the library, and shared gripes about our many eccentric and eclectic patients. We planned 2-hour lunches in fancy restaurants to celebrate the end of our finals, shared 2-for-1 margaritas at the local Mexican place for Friday happy hour, and commiserated over pasta and wine post-clinic at each other’s apartments. I would not have made it through school without them. Luckily, I still have them available to me by email or text message these days, since many of us do not live in the same city.
When I graduated and started working, I kept adding new friends. At this point in my life, I will rarely spark up a conversation with a stranger unless I am at work or at a dental meeting. Every time I attend a CE event of some sort, I meet more of my fellow dentists. The atmosphere is always friendly, since we all share so much in common in our daily lives. At the AACD meeting in Washington, DC, last year, a fellow colleague and I were chatting with a new dentist prior to the start of our workshop. Within the first few minutes of the conversation, we learned that he was headed to Manhattan after the conference to visit [of course!] his old dental school friends. Since I was driving back home alone to NYC, I immediately offered this person a ride, having known him for only 10 minutes. When I told this story to my other friends back home, I kept reassuring them that it was okay because he was a DENTIST!
Being a young doctor, treating my older colleagues as my friends took a little getting used to. A former professor of mine was no longer Dr. Jones but my new buddy Pete! One of my favorite clinical instructors, formerly known to me as Dr. Rhee (and soon to be installed as the new president of the NYSAGD) is now my friend Sue! At first it was strange addressing dentists at study clubs and dental society meetings by their first names, but as with everything in dentistry, what once was scary and new became routine very quickly.
For many young dentists that may move to a new town or city after school due to work, connecting with local colleagues is a great place to start meeting new people in your area. Do not hesitate to attend your local dental society meeting and get involved. Invite a dentist in your area out on a blind lunch date. Don’t be afraid to attend a large dental meeting alone; most people are in your shoes and will be eager to reciprocate your friendliness Not sure which meeting to attend? Check out our very own AGD’s Annual Meeting and Exhibits in Nashville, Tenn. I am attending for the very first time this year, so please come say hello, and get to know some of your fellow peers!
Have a great weekend!
Lilya Horowitz, DDS