Friday, March 11, 2016


I recently had the honor of attending a friend’s son’s ordination to the priesthood. Alex was one of six candidates who graduated from seminary last summer and reached the culmination of years of discernment and study.

Now they’re priests, with all the vestments and collars and ontological changes that occur through ordination. And they’re all young. They all looked like kids. Heck, they are! Alex is in his late 20s, and now he’s Father Alex?

Where did the time go?

As I watched the young men and women become ordained, I was reminded of my own dental school graduation.

My classmates and I were (for the most part) the same age and suddenly, we were to be called “doctor.” And while we were well educated and prepared for basic clinical dentistry, we were as green as saplings — at least I was.

Was I ready to run a private practice? To hire and train and maintain a staff? To deal with all the personalities involved among my own staff and the other partners in my group? Finances? Technology?

No, I wasn’t. I still wonder if I’m able to now.

Looking at the young priests, I know if I had some doctrinal question or theological conundrum, I could go to one of the whippersnappers and get a seminary-fresh answer that would be delivered with conviction and sincerity. But, would I go to Father Biff with a relationship crisis involving a recovering alcoholic? Sorry, but what does that “kid” know about that kind of thing?

Similarly, why should anyone listen to my treatment options with any confidence that I not only am competent to do the work, but also ultimately have their best interests at heart? Especially after I’m only one month out of dental school?

All those priests will go through a “curacy” period. They’ve been created; now they have to “cure.” They’re put in an assistant role, usually, which allows them to learn from a mentor and gain some life experience so that they can one day handle the responsibilities of their own parish.

I spent my senior year trying to finish my requirements and wasn’t able to set up a practice or find one to purchase or associate with. I realized a general practice residency (GPR) was what I needed to provide me with more clinical experience and allow me the time to figure out what I was going to do next. I know friends who went into private practice immediately after graduation and have done extremely well, but I knew that wasn’t going to be me. The GPR helped me “cure.”

Someone told me early on that once I got some gray hair, people would respect my “authority” more. Well, I’ve got plenty of gray now in an ever-decreasing field of hair. I’m not so sure it’s the gray hair, but maybe the 25 years of practice, that gives my suggestions a little weight now. When something is presented along with the phrase “in all my years of practice,” I think people pay attention.

So hang in there, all you young rascals, you. The gray is coming.

Bruce M. Scarborough, DMD, FAGD

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