People often ask me “Why did you become a dentist?” There are of course many reasons but, the main reason is that the profession allows you to touch thousands of lives in a positive way. How many other jobs are there that allow you this wonderful opportunity? Answer: not many! Not only can you relieve suffering and create beautiful smiles but, you can also improve their wellbeing and self-esteem. How cool is that!
But, it doesn’t stop there! Because of the quality of life that dentistry affords me, there are many other ways that you can improve the lives of other people.
In 1988, my partner and I founded Project Stretch: Dentistry Reaching Out to Children, a nonprofit organization serving the dental needs of underprivileged children throughout the world. Over the years, we have set up dental clinics and treated countless patients in Africa, South America, Central America, Eastern Europe, Mexico and the good old US of A. I can assure you that we got as much, if not more out of these trips as our patients did. What you realize when you go to these third world countries is that we don’t have real problems in this country, by and large. We have annoyances. Not knowing if your child will have sufficient food and water in the coming weeks is a problem. Not being able to get a reservation at your favorite restaurant is not.
Another avenue that my profession gives me to help other people is teaching. I am lucky enough to be able to take time away from my practice to help train Orthodontic and Pediatric Dental residents at Tufts Dental School. These students are intelligent, motivated, and polite. It is an honor to instruct them and their professionalism bodes well for the future of dentistry.
I am also very proud to serve on the National Board of Smiles Change Lives, a nonprofit organization that helps children and adolescents from low income families receive orthodontic treatment. Anyone who comes to our office and feels that they can’t afford the cost of orthodontic treatment can apply to this program. There are few better feelings in the world than the feeling you get when you read a letter sent to you, thanking you for providing a patient, who otherwise could not afford it, with a great smile.
Mentoring patients and students who want to become dentists is yet another way to touch lives in a positive way, through dentistry. When you get a letter from someone whom you have mentored, telling you that they are starting dental school in the fall and that it is largely because of you and you DON’T cry, you don’t have a heart.
As a very wise person once said to me, it is impossible to give more than you receive.
Finally, there is the debt that I owe to the schools that educated me. Due to the profound effect that tis education has had on my life, it’s a debt that I can never fully repay but, I will never stop trying. As chairman of the most resent capital campaign at Tufts Dental School, I helped raise 50 million dollars which provided structural improvements to the school and scholarships for worthy students. I also served as the Alumni Chairman for the UMass Rising Campaign, which raised over 350 million dollars for the Amherst campus.
Some might say “what a good guy for doing these things”…..BALONEY! Due to the wonderful profession that I am in, I’d be a bad guy if I didn’t!
By Dr. Jess Kane