My Story – a Calling
November 21, 2017
Patients and colleagues often ask me, “How did you choose dentistry?”
My story begins with a ten-year old boy. My father was a Presbyterian pastor and my mother an elementary school teacher. Our family of six lived modestly in a small town in Ohio. No members of my family were in any medical profession and the only dentist that I knew was the family dentist that I saw only when my parents dutifully made me go. My life centered around my paper route, my dog, little league, Boy Scouts, mowing lawns, and other wonderful childhood concerns.
One crisp fall day I was sitting in Miss Eberhart’s 5th grade classroom during social studies class and the textbook was open to a page listing possible career choices for boys and girls. Girls could be teachers, nurses, secretaries, or housewives while boys could be firemen, policemen, doctors, dentists, or airplane pilots. As I scanned down the list of careers for boys, I saw the word “dentist” and I simply knew, with absolute certainty, right then and there, that I was going to be a dentist. I didn’t know how or why, and I didn’t really understand what it meant, but I knew to my core that I was born to be a dentist.
Simply knowing the path that I was to walk that early in life has been a blessing. I had a reason to work hard, a reason to do well in school. My teenage and young adult years were simpler because I had a set course, a clear vision, and could see the steps to be taken, while many of my friends struggled, and still struggle, to discover meaning or purpose in their lives.
Jumping forward in time thirteen years finds me beyond the four years of high school and four years of college (chemistry major and theology minor) and beginning my first year of dental school. I have been pushing hard to make it into dental school. Those 8 years were filled with working multiple full and part time jobs to pay for college while also focusing to excel academically. Extra-curricular activities are important as well, and my plate has been full with scouts, 4-H, church, marching band, concert band, jazz band, school yearbook, school newspaper, square dance club, farm bureau junior leaders, red cross first aid and water safety instructor, and much more.
The year is 1982 and I’m fortunate and excited to be accepted into one of the top dental schools in the country. I am facing a mountain of student loans and I’m elected class president by the incoming freshman dental school class of Case Western Reserve University. Elected as vice-president is a high-energy, beautiful, little Italian with her own strong opinion on how the class officers should function. She and I started out with two very different ideas on how things should go, and after surviving four years of dental school together, I found myself proposing marriage. Kathleen said “yes,” and the next chapter begins as we graduate dental school and begin our career and life together.
In 1989, after working as associate dentists for three years, we moved to Dansville, purchased a 50-year-old dental practice, and began working 60 – 70 hour work weeks to pay off our debt and build the practice of our dreams. Along the way we were blessed with four wonderful children and were joined in practice by other dentists. In 2002, we built our current dental facility adjacent to the hospital in Danville. Kathleen and I, along with our partner Dr. Frost, now own and operate Danville Dental Professionals, Bath Dental Professionals, and The Implant and Sedation Center. Our practice has grown from three dentists and three hygienists to 9 dentists and twelve hygienists, plus a part-time periodontist and a part-time orthodontist.
30 years of working in the profession has demonstrated that dentistry continues to be the right career choice for me. Dentistry provides me with the opportunity to help patients, employees, associates, friends, family, and the community, to make the world a better place, to live with purpose and meaning, and hopefully to leave the world having been done something worthwhile. The three decades of experience in working directly with patients and my coworkers has been a wonderful learning experience of continuous personal and professional growth. My patients and coworkers have been mentors and teachers and friends whom is has been my honor and privilege to serve.