KDA Today

KDA Today

For Immediate Release

Date: Dec 17th, 2018
Contact: Dr. Beverly Largent
Phone: 800-292-1855
Email: kda@kyda.org

For Good or Bad, We Each Contribute to and Influence the Future of our Profession

An-ces-tor -- (‘an, sester), noun. A person, typically one more remote than a grandparent, from whom one is descended. Synonyms: forbearer, forefather, predecessor. Many of you have taken advantage of 23andMe.com, or other DNA services to learn about your forefathers. Were you embarrassed or surprised? Have you considered the people who have paved the way for your dental profession? Who are the people in our lives who have illuminated our paths? These people were not perfect, but they have provided for future generations. Most of their contributions were anonymous and small, but nevertheless made an impact.

This fall, one of my predecessors, Dr. John Mink, died. I considered using another word when referring to his death, as if to soften the blow. However, when I consider that all of us will die, and the wonderful contributions he has made to dentistry, it is joyful to consider his life and his contributions. I consider it an honor to be one of his dental descendants, and as a former student, I claim that right. John Mink came to the University of Kentucky from his alma mater Indiana University in 1962 to establish and chair the Pediatric Dental Program. He has influenced over 3,000 men and women in his career as an instructor at the University during his 50-year tenure. He was also busy during that time influencing the practice of pediatric dentistry as a director, and later president of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. His tenure on that board lasted over eight years. During his time at UK, he established a mobile clinic for service to the poor in their home communities. He was teacher of the year, and the John R. Mink Endowed Chair in Pediatric Dentistry and Oral Health Services Research was established in his honor. That Endowed Chair could have easily been titled Oral Health Research but note that its title is Oral Health Services Research.

My first memories of JR as he was called by the students, is one of fear. He ran a tight ship, possibly due to his military service. No need to bluster or make excuses, he would call you on that. During my undergraduate career, my car was stolen, and in it, a patient chart. I had to make a confession of the sinful deed of removing a chart from the dental school directly to Dr. Mink. Apparently, his office staff shared his disposition and I received no compassion when I asked for an appointment with him. The secretary merely pointed to the 100 or so sticky notes that covered the door frame of the entrance into his office. When the time came, he was a generous confessor, but I got the message. That was the one and only time that a patient chart left the clinic under my supervision.

My tenure in the Pediatric Residency Program was under the shadow of Dr. Mink. He was not in daily contact with the residents, but his influence was clear and always present. I recall some valuable lessons in clinical dentistry delivered by him and I use them, daily. I remember a lunch time conference when he complained of his sack lunch. His wife had placed him on a strict diet for health reasons. I made a mental note that there was someone in charge of the man in charge, and it gave me a guarded smile. Dr. Mink taught in a straight forward no-nonsense way that science and accepted practice was foremost, and he had little time for excuses or not doing your best. Perhaps that is his most important legacy.

After I left the University, I would see him once a year at the annual Pediatric dental meeting. That was always a highlight. He was present in the annual business meeting when I was inducted as president of the AAPD. It would not have been the same without him and Bob Spedding in the audience.

When I reflect on the time I spent with him and my knowledge of his personal life, I am amazed that he could make such an impact on my life. I do not know his wife or his family, but he seemed like family to me. He never spoke in a raised voice, but gave simple advice, respectfully. His life and his career cause me to consider my contributions to future generations of dentists. For good or bad, we each contribute to the future of our profession. Many of us are involved in organized dentistry, and hopefully make decisions that will positively affect future generations of practitioners, members or not. Others are academics and form the views of the students who study under them. For all of us, we impact the lives of our patients and employees, and with any luck, for their good. Being an ancestor is an awesome responsibility.

RIP John Mink, your legacy will live in all of us.

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