Where were you August 8, 1977? I was beginning my first day of practice in Mount Pearl. My first patient was a beautiful three year old girl with Little Orphan Annie curls who took one look at me and started crying. Who would have thought that I would end up a pediatric dentist! My next patient needed an extraction; I did everything but stand on his chest trying to get the tooth out. Things got easier. My office was in the basement which was good and bad. I saw a lot of my family. In fact, as babies they would sit in their car seats on my counter. However I felt isolated, I never got outside, I never felt the weather or got to Tim’s.
In those days dentists were in short supply. I was booked six weeks in advance before I even opened my doors. Emergencies would knock on my door in the middle of the night, but that was the way it was. There are a lot of memories. I remember coming down from lunch one day to hear a minor commotion. There was a mother who kept saying “I thought it was a stuffed toy!” Turns out my cat had jumped in the window with a mouse and her son had been playing with it. I can’t imagine why but she never came back! We were part of a community; I was in a street dart league, we had street parties and I went on canoe trips with my neighbours. I also joined the dental staff at the Janeway, which I loved. After a number of years I was in trouble, I was frankly bored out of my mind! I was at a dentist party when a colleague said “Why not go back to school?” I thought about that and realized that was a good idea, but what specialty? There are eight dental specialties, which one to do? I eliminated what I didn’t like and I was left with pediatric dentistry so I started applying and I was accepted at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio. It was a bit of an adventure getting there. We all went down together; my wife, an eight year old daughter, a four year old son and a two year old daughter. I left them in a Holiday Inn and came back to finish things up in Mount Pearl. My wife and three children waited for our house to be ready. One morning while on the way to breakfast at the hotel, my wife began speaking with someone and my four year old son tugged at her arm, “Mommy what’s that?”. She ignored him and kept on speaking. After two or three tries and being ignored he decided to investigate the item himself. He pulled a little handle and with that the fire alarm rang out loud and clear. Picture the scene, the halls filled with running people, police cars and fire trucks roaring up and my son pressed to the wall, terrified. Well they didn’t send him to the electric chair and I began my training. I loved it! It was a bit disconcerting to be studying at the dining room table with my eight year old but I got it done.
Back in St John’s a few years later I began my career at the Janeway. I loved it. I was busy and seeing all sorts of interesting patients. The Janeway in those days was a family, everyone had each other’s back. If you had a problem you picked up the phone and someone would have the answers. My biggest problem was being too busy. Before long my waitlist for the OR was two years long!
Time passed and I still loved it at the Janeway. I was seeing children with complex medical problems and helping them, children with mental challenges and I was helping them and it was still a family at the Janeway. Speaking of family; my son was fourteen and one morning at 3 AM the phone rang. It was the police. “Where is your car sir?”, “In the driveway” I replied, “Are you sure sir?”. I went to check and sure enough, there it was, gone. Turns out my fourteen year old son and his friends had borrowed the car, trying to be inconspicuous and was driving down Torbay Road at 3AM going 10 km/hour with the lights out!
I spent a number of years on committees of the Canadian Dental Association, I was president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association twice, I received a Distinguished Service Award from CDA and was made a fellow of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, an international honour society. Work was still good and interesting but frustration with Eastern Health was growing, eventually it reached a peak and I left.
Here I am at Wade Abbott Dentistry and I am so happy to be here. I obviously know that you will take this with a grain of salt but this is the most wonderful office that I have ever seen. The staff is wonderful and the dentists are wonderful and technically gifted. I have never heard a cross word spoken in this office! This is not a sales pitch; I truly wish that I had come here years ago. I am doing a research project working with babies who are having trouble breastfeeding and the results are positive. This will help babies around the world. I have the support of everyone in the office on this and in everything that I do here. Every day is an adventure; I look forward to coming to work every day.
The past 40 years in dentistry have certainly had their ups and downs. I know I wouldn’t be here without the support of my family and the many patients I’ve met over the years. I’m looking forward to the many more years to come!