Life is to be celebrated! These are words that I try to live by every day- realizing that some days give you more to celebrate than others. What I have been honoring lately is the concept of being in practice for over 25 years. I graduated dental school in 1983….now, as I write this, a little voice inside says “Oh, my Gosh, I can’t believe it was that long ago!!”
But I remember very distinctly doing a General Practice Residency at Sinai Hospital and then embarking on associating with 5 different dentists simultaneously. I would work for 3 hours in the morning in Glen Burnie, a couple hours midday in Essex and then 4 hours in the evening in Rosedale. Several colleagues thought this was a little nuts but it was a great way to see how different dental offices are run. Many people think that every dental office is the same and that a dentist is a dentist is a dentist. But believe me, I learned that there is a huge variation in how dentists treat their staff, the quality of the materials that they choose to use and the ethics with which they treat their patients. All in all, though, it was an invaluable experience.
I remember also, as if it was yesterday, the lunch I had with Stanley Levy late that first year of practice. Dr. H. Stanley Levy had been my family dentist all my life and had become a larger than life role model to me. I’ll never forget the day that I told him that I was going to go to dental school and the words he said……”What are you nuts! Don’t you know that dentistry is changing; it’s becoming more big business and run by insurance and……..” But I guess he realized that I was serious when I graduated from U MD dental school because at that point we started having lunch periodically just to compare notes. So at this particular lunch, we had our egg salad sandwiches at his house (he went home for lunch every day of his 40+ year practice) and I told him about the 5 different dental practices where I was associating. He looked aghast and asked me why I would do such a thing. I explained how that was the way it was done in order to get patients and experience. He said, in his uniquely deadpan way, “why don’t you just buy my practice and then you won’t have to worry about that stuff anymore”………
And that’s how I started the practice- Dr. Levy retired June 30,1985 and I took over July1, 1985. And largely due to Dr. Levy’s influence and reputation, most of his patients took a chance on me and stayed with the practice. And what interesting patients they were. There was Joe S. who was a very renowned artist who divided his time between Italy and Baltimore and chose to have his dentistry done with me. There was Hal G who would always jog by the office with his buddies on their 5 mile jog- average age of the group was 72! And there was Leo B who survived the Holocaust by jumping out of the window of a train bound for Auschwitz and who had more zest for life than anyone I knew. There were authors, scientists, musicians, families, …..truly a wonderful mixture of fantastic people who mirror many dental practices throughout America. But these were MY patients and they have been for 25 years!!
So on June 27th, I threw a party to thank those brave souls who gambled on a young, wet behind the ears kid and entrusted their teeth to him. We had it downstairs at the Stone Mill Bakery and the best part was that Dr. Levy came; he turns 90 next month and hadn’t seen many of his old patients in 25 years- it was a blast!! In between the hotdogs and burgers and glasses of wine there were many smiles, hugs, stories (some embellished beyond recognition but what the heck), and a lot of love!!
It was truly a celebration to remember. A celebration to honor a great man and mentor, a fantastic dentist and treasured friend who will celebrate 90 years next month. It was a celebration to thank all those former patients of his who have become my friends over the years. And mostly, as always, it was a celebration of life. May it continue for another 25 years!