Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Liberal Arts Education Has Its Place

I did it. I’m an AGD blogger. I recall the days I would cradle my computer on my lap and eagerly read Dr. John Gammichia’s posts. They reflected on daily practice and all of the little things that either bother us as dentists or validate our choice of profession.

I always have loved to read and write. This may explain my particular nature of correcting staff members’ spelling errors in charts or my own grammar in documenting patient chart notes. Writing unlocks a different part of my brain, and reading complements my writing. The more one reads, the better one’s writing skills become. I take pride in constructing a well-written referral letter, for instance. Does it matter? I think so. Clear communication is central to how we conduct our dentistry.

Our days as dentists are filled with science and technology, but a background in liberal arts has its place. The relevance of a liberal arts education seems to be a widespread debate these days, and I began to think about my own education and its role in the profession I selected. Would chemistry or philosophy be more useful for a successful career in dentistry? Both are, in my opinion. I went to a liberal arts college, yet majored in biology. I got the best of both worlds, and that served me well. Patients are not interested in the biomechanics of their dental implants, but describing treatment and outwardly empathizing with their personal situations requires a different art and a language skill.

Deciphering moral and ethical conflicts, dental or otherwise, has its roots in the arts. As dentists, we encounter daily conflicts and ethical dilemmas knowingly or unknowingly with patients and even fellow colleagues. Having debates in sociology courses on controversial topics helped me to gain perspectives on opposing views and to learn the skill of “agreeing to disagree.”

For instance, when a patient rejects fluoride, rather than scoffing, I listen to the reasons for his or her choice. Or when referring a patient to a specialist, I am fundamentally telling a story by introducing my patient. Reading frequently brings out an ease with which I craft that letter, making the content more than a simple “treat tooth No. 3.”

So I’m still curled up with my computer on my lap, but I’m the one writing this time — with the hope of being able to stitch together events of daily practice and reflect on my experiences to share with readers. Dr. Gammichia, thank you for inspiring me to follow in your footsteps.

Zeynep Barakat, DMD, FAGD


Kim Kelly said...

Great post, Dr. Barakat! I couldn't agree more. As a non-dentist with a degree in literature, I'm certainly biased. A large part of my job at the American Student Dental Association is helping students refine their writing skills and learn to be clear communicators. I think writing is essential to any profession and dentistry is no exception. It's comforting to read that the skills we're teaching dental students will serve them well into their careers.

Kim Kelly, senior manager, publications
American Student Dental Association

gatordmd said...


I couldn't be honored more. I am so glad you have enjoyed this blog and I am even more glad you are participating.

I can't wait to hear more about your life and practice.
But for now I am going back to all my computer and changing all the scripts that I have written "Treat tooth #3"!!!!

Have a great day,
You sure made mine

Unknown said...

I'm guessing Duke's erroneous use of flare for flair caught your eye, as it did mine? :)

Unknown said...

Thanks a lot everyone! Larry, I better be prepared for your editing eye:) Extra thanks to John and of course for making me laugh once again!!


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