The Literature Major
Who Became a Dentist
I liked my family dentist and really liked my orthodontist. They had
busy practices and were fun to be around. I thought dentistry would be a rewarding career.
I had to give a speech in 8th grade about what I wanted to do when I grew up. As
part of my research I remember interviewing our family dentist at his home. He told
me, ‘Dentistry is a wonderful profession and I encourage you to pursue it. Take
all the math and science you can get and focus on getting good grades.’ If I had
a role model, it was him.
When I got to college, science didn’t capture my interest, but literature did. I
majored in literature, minored in French, and took all the required pre-med courses.
I did go on to dental school, but the first year was difficult. A third of my class
had master’s degrees in some biological science, and there I was, the only guy with
a degree in literature. It was tough keeping up with the scientists, but after a
year of extra hard work, I had evened the playing field.
Following dental school I enlisted in the Air Force as a general dentist serving
in North Dakota and Guam. Next up was a residency in Periodontics at Boston University.
I loved Boston, with all its intellectual stimulation, but I found myself longing
for a warmer climate where I would have more opportunity to play golf and tennis.
So, with little more than a map in hand,
The Literature Major
Who Became a Dentist
So, with little more than a map in hand, I drove to Tucson. In 1983, after working
with a group of specialists for 7 years, I opened this practice. I’ve been right
here ever since, being the best Periodontist I can possibly be, loving the hard
work, enjoying my staff, and--most importantly--caring for my patients as if they
In a recent conversation with a colleague, I explained that what I really want at
the end of the day is to look in the rear view mirror, as I drive away from my office,
and be able to say, “Boy I did a great job today!”
(Back to the top of the
My Most Unusual Patient
The princess and her huge entourage flew to Tucson from Saudi Arabia.
They took two floors at the Doubletree, one for men and one for women. They stayed
about two months.
I had to send a hygienist to the princess’ room everyday at noon and 5pm to brush and floss her teeth, because, as I’m sure you know, princesses can’t brush
and floss their own teeth. I did that for two months, seven days a week except when
they all went to Vegas for the weekend. (I don’t know who brushed her teeth then.)
That job tied up a professional staff member from 11-1 and 4-6 every day, but this
group was ready and able to pay the cost.
Members of the entourage would call in the middle of the night with issues and questions.
They were used to being pampered, and we did our best to meet their expectations,
although it was stressful.
It was kind of a treat to treat a Princess. They were so pleased with the work we
did for them that when they were ready to head back home, the Princess presented
me with very expensive jeweled cufflinks she had obviously picked especially for
me. It was one of those situations where you are glad you did it, and at the same
time, you are pretty glad it is over.
She Was Losing Her Teeth
Another patient who really stands out is a beautiful African-American woman who
taught motivational and life-change courses. She was fairly prominent in her profession
when she moved to Tucson, but basically she was losing her teeth. We could save
only five teeth in the upper jaw and five teeth in the lower jaw. We did a number of implants.
Once she had all the teeth and implants crowned by her restorative dentist, she
looked like a million bucks.
This woman’s life was transformed by the dramatic change in her appearance. Her
self-esteem grew, and she became effervescent, outgoing—and always smiling! It was
When she came in for a final check-up and x-rays, she was radiant. It was deeply
gratifying. She was ecstatic with the difference we had been able to make in her
That kind of thing happens, in varying degrees, just about every day. Although the
practice of Periodontics and dental implant surgery is frequently challenging and
physically taxing, it’s enormously rewarding to help people and see that beautiful
smile when our work is done. It’s a good job for me. I like it.
Put to the Test
It was 7am. Four assistants and I were in our morning huddle. In the reception room,
causing a big commotion, was our 7:15am surgery patient. The woman was very emotional,
mid 40’s, never married, and very attractive. Her sales job put her in front of the
public daily. She was getting slightly hysterical about what she was going to look
like after the surgery to replace a fractured front tooth with an implant, and deliver
a temporary replacement.
My assistants were growling. “How are we ever going to take care of this woman?”
they were asking. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
I just turned to them and told them softly that all she needed was some kindness
and understanding. “She wants to know that we love her,” I told them. “She needs
to know that we care about her. She’s going to get technical excellence, but that’s
not what she’s thinking about right now. Right now she is scared. The way for us
to get her through this is to be calm and sweet and caring, and use sedation as
we planned. We’ll do what we know how to do. We will get her through it, and tomorrow
she’ll think we hung the moon. That’s what we are going to do; it’s the same thing
we’ve done for 30 years.”
They said, "Oh, we can do that," and we did.
Where he learned what he
has put into practice
Bachelor of Arts, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison.
Doctor of Dental Surgery, Northwestern University, Chicago.
USAF General dentist, North Dakota and Guam
Master of Science in Dentistry and Certificate of Specialization in Periodontics,
Boston University School of Graduate Dentistry, Summer rotation in Anesthesia, Cambridge
Clinical Instructor in Periodontics, Dental Hygiene Expanded functions Program,
University of Arizona.
Private practice of Periodontics, Tucson
Dental implant training
Diplomate American Board of Periodontology
Diplomate International Congress of Oral Implantology