Dentistry needs change agents. Six UofT alumni who have helped nudge along some of the profession’s most progressive developments share their stories. How they came to practice, their powerful philosophies of care and how they work to make the art and science of dentistry better.
Once upon a time, I was an athlete. I figured I could play varsity basketball at the same time as getting a world-class education. I went to Edmonton because they had a dental school and a good basketball pro-gram. After my BSc, I fortunately got into UofT. It was the best school around, plus it gave me a chance to come home, and they had a really good basketball team. I was All-Canadian at both schools, and in my last year at UofT I led the country in scoring. If you’re All-Canadian, you’re one of the five best players in the country.
During my first week at UofT, I got called to the office by Anne Dale and Norm Levine. Dr. Levine was a very imposing figure and Dr. Dale, likewise, was very imposing in her way. They said something to the effect of: I understand you’re a hot-shot basketball player, but your grades are not to slip one bit. I was so grateful to have them looking out for me and making sure I stayed the course — it was a real stroke of luck, and a gift to me. My philosophy has always been to work harder than everybody else. A lot of people work hard, but you need to have some luck and you need to have people who take an interest in your life, too. I’ve been lucky in that way.
I was president of a number of different dental organiza-tions early in my career. I served as president of the Halton-Peel Dental Association and the Ontario Association of Orthodontists. I once chaired the Canadian Association of Orthodontists’ annual meeting. Organized dentistry allows you to participate in the profession at large and give some-thing back. I feel that since I have participated and contributed, I’m entitled to have a voice when the time comes.
My practice is not just a place where you come in and have your face and teeth adjusted, then you’re out the door. I come from a big, very close-knit family, and because I was athletic when I was younger, I try to mentor the kids. I offer to help. I speak to them about school and I speak to them about sports. We used to run a basketball clinic many years ago. That was always a lot of fun, and kids were engaged. We’re fortunate to be in a profession where we can impart guidance, because you can see an orthodontic patient for a year to three or four years, and it doesn’t end there.
As a practice, we do a lot philanthropically. Plus, my family is involved with some of the hospitals and the YMCA, and we’re trying to expand that. But I know I could do more personally. I think we, collectively, should be more active and philanthropic.
There’s so much that needs to be done in the profession and I’m not sure there’s the will to do it. I look around the city and my practice, and one of my pet peeves is the challenges of the working poor. Most of the parents who come into my office have to work every day to provide the basics for their kids. They have to completely stretch themselves to provide the gift of treatment. They do it because they know it’s going to give their child the chance for a better life. These are structural problems. We need to work together to help as much as we can and try to bridge the gap so everyone can access care.