Dr. Stanley Levy was my family dentist. I never went to a “pediatric dentist”- my sisters and I and my parents all went to Dr. Levy for many years. I remember walking the mile and a half to his office where he would fill numerous cavities (I had a wicked sugar habit back then!), many of them without Novacaine!! Other memories include the bowl of Bazooka Bubble Gum for the end of the appointment (replaced by sugar free Trident gum years later), and how he was always an hour behind and that dentist office smell…….
But at the same time, there was always interesting conversation that would range from politics to history to travel and even the latest Orioles World Series run (this was, after all, a different time!). For you see, Dr. Levy was an amazing and unique man as well as an excellent dentist. He was, what would later be called, a renaissance man. He had numerous interests and hobbies, was extremely well read and loved to talk with his patients as much as he liked to do their dentistry. To the point that it was not unusual for his patients to ask his advice on far reaching subjects such as medical aches and pains or child rearing tips or his opinion of the days current events. In short, Dr. Levy was that iconic solo practitioner who was much more than a dentist to his patients, he was like a family member.
Dr. Levy inspired several generations of young people to want to become dentists, mostly because of the joy and manner in which he practiced. I was one of those people who thought about dental school and dentistry, in part, because of the example he set. Ironically, when I told him that I was thinking along those lines, he tried to talk me out of it! This was the late 70’s and dental insurance was starting to change the practice of dentistry. Insurance based dental practices generally don’t have the time to spend on each patient the way Dr. Levy did. These practices usually have 2-3 patients being seen at the same time with dental assistants doing much of the work so that the dentist can run from room to room in order to maximize efficiency but ultimately minimizing the patient experience. Dr. Levy was afraid that dentistry was becoming more of a business and less of a health care profession.
Throughout my dental school time, Dr. Levy and I continued this conversation and we would meet periodically at his house for lunch (where he went everyday at lunchtime for an egg salad sandwich and a nap- like I said, he was from a bygone era). The most memorable of these lunches was the one where he told me that he was ready to retire and that I should buy his practice! Talk about shock and awe! It turns out that he had been watching my progress and felt strongly that I would be the one to best continue his legacy of personal service and comprehensive dental care in a respectful comfortable atmosphere.
But our relationship didn’t end there- in fact, in many ways it started there. Dr. Levy taught me the ways and the zen of fly fishing (one of his many passions) and we would fish together once a month for the next 25 years! I would enjoy many delicious dinners at his house with him and his amazing wife Ruth- they were married for close to 70 years before she passed away in 2012. We would continue our conversation that started over those lunches at his house- conversations about the philosophy of providing amazing dental care to patients who were more like friends and family. But our conversations were also about life balance and the importance of family. Dr. Levy had 4 kids, 9 grandchildren and a number of great grand kids. His life philosophy was all about keeping his dental practice small and quality based with a schedule that left him ample time to be at his kids’ sporting events, date nights with his wife and still have time for fishing every Friday! These conversations had a very real impact on me and still do to this day. I have tried to emulate his life balance philosophy- maintaining a small, patient centered, state of the art dental practice while enjoying all that life has to offer. I could not have had a better role model.
Dr. Levy passed away last week at the age of 98. He led a full life and left behind an ever expanding, loving family and a heck of a legacy. I will sorely miss my fishing buddy, dental mentor and very close friend. He was truly one in a million. Thank you Dr. Levy!!!