Monday, November 16, 2015

I Found Myself

Recently, I traveled to Yosemite National Park in California to see a dentist who shaped the guy who you know today.

His name is Ray Bertoloti, DDS. He is the original bondodontist. I saw him a couple times a year in the late ‘90s as he traveled around the country. But now he only speaks in Yosemite, Hawaii, and Japan. So Yosemite seemed to be the closest.

My wife and I went out there together. I have three words for this part of the country: A MAZE ZING!

I am from Central Florida (I grew up there as well). I have been to pretty parts of the country, but this is another level of beauty. We flew into San Francisco and visited some friends who live in Marin County. Then, we took the 4 ½ hour drive out to Yosemite. The drive alone was worth going out there.

From the mountains to the Sierra Nevada, to the giant windmills in the fields, you move into the Yosemite part of the drive, and it is just breathtaking. There are pullover spots where you can stop and take photos, but if you stopped every time there was an awesome view, you would never get to your destination. 


It is a national park, and once you pay and enter, you can’t just drive; you have to ooh and aah and take photos…and then, stop and take more photos. Huge sequoias line the streets, and there are granite mountains and glaciers behind the trees. You kind of forget you are there for a dental course. 

There are only two hotels on the property. The Ahwahnee Hotel is the old hotel with the huge living room with the fireplace and nice restaurant. (There were postings near the fireplace that said something to the effect of, “If you find yourself falling asleep, please get up and go somewhere else.”)

The Ahwahnee was booked, so we stayed at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, which was “right across the street.” Funny story, when us city folk say “across the street,” we mean “across the street.” So we go down a street and, if you go right, you go to The Ahwahnee Hotel. If you go left, it is the Yosemite Lodge...this is what they mean by “across the street.” The hotel and the lodge are about 2 miles apart.

We got ourselves checked in, and I went straight to the lecture. Have you ever been to a lecture and halfway through it, you ask “Why do I waste my money on all the other lectures?” You know right then that this lecture is the place to be. Well, this lecture was definitely one of them.

Ed McLaren, DDS, led the first day of lecture to a small group of us. There were about 45 people in a small room. There was a question time built into his lecture, so he would answer a question that would lead to 10 more fairly intelligent questions.

I was as relaxed as I have ever been in a course. This was a group that knew their stuff, as far as adhesives and materials. The lecturers were definitely challenged by the group; they all were pretty bright and could handle this group.

I write all this to say, I think I am figuring out who I am dentist-wise. I am 46 years old, and I have found myself. I know the type of lecturer I like to see, and I know the dentists I like to hang around. I am starting to understand how I get jazzed in this profession.

I am a biomimetic adhesive operative dentist.

I love being a general dentist. I love working on all types of patients. I love all ages. I love doing esthetic stuff, including posterior esthetics, too. I like doing all of this, but with a minimalistic approach, and I want to know that what I put on teeth is going to last and look great.

So when I fly for six hours, then get in a car and drive for four and a half more hours to get to a lecture where, an hour in, I say to myself, “This was so worth it,” it is pretty fulfilling.

I felt the same way when I flew to Chicago to attend the 2009 Academy of Operative Dentistry Annual Meeting. Every lecturer spoke my language. It seemed that everyone, every other dentist I talked to, spoke my language.

Now I have figured out why I don’t feel that at my local study club—there are about 10 types of dentist there. Not that we can’t like each other, but it is just different. I know there are a couple of guys just like me at those study clubs, and I tend to gravitate toward them, but it is not the same as being in a room full of dentists just like me.

As a young dentist, I didn’t know this. I thought when I went to a course, if I didn’t love it, it must be me. As a young dentist, I tried to learn it all, so much so that I learned very little.
I would learn a lot, then go back to the office and practice the way I practice.

Instead of trying to do what everyone else seemed to be doing, I started trying to find lectures that teach what I like. How many times do you go to a three-day course that costs a lot of money and continue to say, “Yeah, right,” or “This is out of my league”? And then you hear the guy sitting next to you get exasperated, because he is thinking the same thing: “This is great for the one person I get to see a year who needs X.”

I know I am rambling, but it took me 20 years to figure out who I am. I want you to find out earlier than I did. I saw Dr. Bertoloti when I was just out of school. Then I went on a 20-year journey that led right back to him again.

Do you know who you are? Do you feel like you are alone in a room of dentists? Are you on your journey?

Let me know. Thanks for listening.
John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD

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