For Immediate Release
Date: Aug 21st, 2012
Contact: Dr. Terry Norris
The Perception of Dentistry
When I was in Junior High School, I decided on a career in dentistry, due to a keen interest in science and a desire to help people. Of course, in the back of my immature, adolescent mind I probably imagined that this future occupation would make me rich, allow me to work my own hours and to play golf any time I wanted. Fast forward forty six years; thankfully, the interest in science and the desire to make a difference in people’s lives panned out, but the golf game is dismally rusty! The dentists I know are not rich by Mitt Romney or Barrack Obama standards, but we do have a good standard of living. As I recently told the University of Louisville School of Dentistry graduates, they may not become wealthy, but they will still earn at least 90% more than the patients they treat. Realizing where we stand socioeconomically is a good basis to determine what we will do with the gift God has given us.
A funny story happened in my office years ago. A patient my age asked me if I drove a Mercedes. I told him no, whereupon he emphatically concluded that it must be my wife who drove the Mercedes. I told him that I wasn’t married (which was true at that time) and pointed toward my used Ford Ranger parked out back. The guy was duly embarrassed as he drove off in his son’s BMW. We have retired out-of-state dentists who have testified in Frankfort that dentists are self-serving, rich, fat cats, and we have retired dental educators who espouse socialized medicine. At some point there has to be a balance. You know how hard we work and how much time, monetary, and emotional investment we make to be successful. We should not be ashamed about our success and likewise, we should not gloat.
This is where the charitable aspect of dentistry comes into play. The KDA did well in Frankfort getting our non-covered services language inserted and passed after a three-year struggle. This fight did not come cheaply. Political capital was used and pay backs will be expected. In my estimation, this is backwards and it is one thing I wish we could change, as KDA members. Most groups, including us, are reactive, meaning we scamper to come up with answers or fight opposition. Just imagine what would happen if we were (more frequently) in the limelight, helping others and creating goodwill within our communities and state. It would be very difficult for our legislators to say no to us when we need help.
There are numerous dental groups around the state that do provide significant charitable work. We are all aware of the RAM clinics in Pikeville and Somerset. Since I have written this, the RAM clinic in Pikeville has just been completed; they saw about 650 patients and had several hundred volunteers. Over $291,000 in free care was provided. Thank you to the U of L students and faculty for their help, and also to Dr. Bill Collins for coordinating this endeavor. Also, Dean Turner told me that UK will have faculty and students at the RAM clinic in Somerset this fall. If anyone is interested helping at Somerset please contact Steve Hieronymous. He is the event coordinator for Somerset. These two clinics have a tremendous impact on the citizens in these areas.
Ongoing dental missions in Frankfort, Lexington, Bowling Green and Owensboro have operated for several years. Additionally, B.J. Morehead and his colleagues provide “dental health days” for the residents of Fleming County, and I am sure there are many who volunteer in their own communities. Our dental clinic, here in Owensboro, has received almost yearly recognition in the local newspaper. Patients bring in the clippings and express thankfulness that “their” dentist is giving up time to help others. This publicity can only aid in the positive perception of our profession. Additionally, if the newspapers report our stories and the public is aware of them, then our elected officials are most assuredly taking note.
I apologize in advance for being unaware of other free dental health initiatives in our state and implore you to contact me or Melissa in the KDA office at 502-489-9121 or 800-292-1855 or email@example.com to let us know what is happening in your community. We need to build a data base as a step in becoming more proactive than reactive. (In the past, we have tried this many times, but each time we have been unsuccessful.) Let me be perfectly clear about this. The reason we reach out and help others is because it is the right thing to do. And, by doing the right thing, it can only benefit our profession.
I am reminded of the Bible verse that says, “To those much has been given, much is required”. We have a great group of dentists within the KDA and I am always humbled by the camaraderie when one of our members is in need. Let’s extend this, more often, to the community level. To those who are volunteering, heartfelt thanks is in order. To those who are not involved, take time to look around your community and see where you can make an impact. In turn, your life will be impacted.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.