Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Professional – Noun, Adjective or Adverb

I have a friend who dabbles in cooking.  Not just the occasional meal, but research into what goes into constructing a dish, writing about food, and catering for small to medium-sized groups.  I met her through an AIWF program called Days of Taste, where Title I fifth-graders are introduced to healthy food choices and incorporation of food into society.  We spent two days arranging foods on tasting plates and cutting and cleaning, with little to no recognition.

That’s why I was surprised when she didn’t follow through on an offer by another mutual friend to design and prepare the meal for a small restaurant.  So I asked her, “Why didn’t you do The Factory thing?”

She responded that she had a falling out with the owner because, “She just wasn’t Professional.”

I had met and chatted with Natalie Gutenkauf, the resident chef, on several occasions and had just the opposite opinion.  So, I concluded that my friend had somehow been slighted.  Unprofessional?  I began to reflect on what Professional really means.

My father was a dentist, graduating in 1924 and practicing in the same small Iowa town for almost twenty years before he volunteered to be a dentist in the U.S. Navy during WWII.  He taught me, when I was literally at his knee, that to be in a profession was an honorable thing, but to be a Professional in that profession was something you earned.  As I remember it, a Professional is a continuous student in his or her craft, using knowledge and experience to lift the profession as a whole.  He never said a professional would be appreciated.

He did say that there would be rewards, certainly internal, and usually material.  And, as I have made my way through at least two careers as a dentist, I have found his observation to be true, at least in my case.

And the number of professions has grown.

My younger son, older now than my father was when he went to war, is a teacher, and I believe is a Professional in that profession.  From my time in the Navy, I found that military service is a true profession for many, a fact simply stated by Senator John McCain at a recent Tailhook Convention.

I have a niece who has become a Professional in Cosmetology.  I have other relatives who are teachers, nurses, and finance managers, all arguably professions.  I have friends who are writers, actors, and entertainers, many of whom make a fulltime living from these professions.

So, I have concluded that my friend more accurately meant, by her comment, that Natalie had not acted professionally by some comment or failure to compensate, and therefore did not encourage someone in her profession to better herself, possibly a professional failing, but as an adverb, hardly a serious breach.  That professional failing to encourage, now I am using professional as an adjective, is more serious, because it implies a lack of understanding of the “continuous student” requirement.

But earning Professional, the noun, remains a worthwhile goal.  As I prepare to attend my third dental related meeting in four weeks, in Atlanta, San Francisco and now Las Vegas,  I remind myself that the financial investment to attend these meetings is compensated by the knowledge and networking opportunities I receive.  I’ll have to remind my friend of that the next time I see her.

My next likely Blog date will coincide with my 51st wedding anniversary.  It seems a fitting time to comment on what that means to me.  I hope you will be interested.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


“I’m thinking about going to my High School Reunion.”  This was the topic raised by a friend as we sat around the pool on Labor Day sipping champagne.  For some reason, probably personal experience, I always associated reunions with summertime, but this time of year, with students returning, seemed appropriate.

“What reunion would that be?” I asked.  “Twenty-five,” she said.  I thought I detected a little amazement in the response.  My favorite high school reunion was the twentieth.  I returned to Mason City intending to re-check old memories.  For one, I wanted to see the Big Hill that we used to sled on.  Mason City is more than casually flat.  From my father’s sixth-floor office I could see the buildings in Manly, some 15 miles away, so I wasn’t anticipating Mt. Everest or anything.  However, I was unprepared for the slight gradient, barely more than the incline of my California driveway.  I recalled the stories my father used to tell about trudging to and from school in snow up to his knees.  He was probably shorter then.

I also was anxious to see my old classmates, many of who had not been back for our tenth reunion.  In particular I wanted to see what had happened to Gail Grippen, who was Valedictorian, but who graciously suggested I be allowed to also give a graduation speech, perhaps believing as I did that I wrote the better speech.  We had both been on the Debate Team.  Besides being a brain, Gail also had the largest set of breasts in the class.  I hoped my memory of them was more accurate than that of the Big Hill.

It was.

I had flown in for the celebration from California with only two slight disappointments: first, my wife chose not to accompany me and second, while on the flight to Iowa, a classmate chummed me up and we wiped away the years until he returned to his First Class cabin, reminding me that we had fared differently through the years.

When I arrived at the reception I was surprised at how many or the 100 or so attendees were from California, including the class Vamp, who had aged remarkably well.  I approached her and commented on both those facts and she explained that she almost didn’t come.  “I was making plans and my husband reminded me that, if I went to the reunion I would miss our fifth wedding anniversary.  I explained to him that I was still going since I had had fifth wedding anniversaries, but had never had a twentieth high school reunion.”

I have since returned to a smaller group for a fiftieth, for which Mary joined me.  A mutual friend, with whom we have remained in contact, was there with his wife.  Howard and I were fraternity brothers at the University of Iowa and both served in the military for some time.  We have skied together and partied together on several occasions since.  Two things stuck out from the fiftieth: each of us in small groups were interviewed and asked what one event we remembered.  Those in the group I ran with were in several different sessions, but each of us remembered most the evening we pretended to steal one friend’s father’s car, and how embarrassing it was when we were caught.  The second thing was when I received back the group picture.  I remembered almost everyone in the class, and had selective memory of how well we knew each other.  This was especially evident when one woman, whose name was the only strong memory, told me how nice I had been to her when we went to the Junior Prom together.

So, remembering so many, I was surprised when the group photo was mailed to me to see all the gray hair.  When had we grown old?

So, I told my Labor Day friend she should certainly go; that she would find the years just dissolved when conversations started, and that all that petty stuff was less remembered than the true affection we find on occasion in high school.  I hope she took my advice.

In my next Blog I think I’ll discuss my take on the morphing of the word “Professional” and why that bothers me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rite of Passage

Fifty years ago the conventional wisdom of dental professionals was that Third Molars were on the way to becoming vestigial organs: like the eyes of moles or the vermiform appendix. The thought was that through evolution our jaws became smaller and could no longer accommodate a third, much less a forth, molar

Not surprisingly, there arose in the profession a group of dentists who specialized in their removal.

My father was a general dentist who, because he was at one time the only dentist in a small Iowa town, learned how to remove Wisdom Teeth pretty well.  From his early days when he would call his Oral Surgeon brother, sometimes while in the process of removing one or more of those molars, to a later time when he took out my teeth and eventually my fiancĂ©e’s, he muddled through forty years and thousands of teeth with no serious consequences.

Fast forward to  time in my naval career when I was at a duty station for sixty-plus days between Oral Surgeons where I acted as the clinic surgeon and removed more than a thousand teeth myself, some with general sedation assistance: also with no major negative consequences.  Forward some more to a post-navy insurance career where I had the opportunity to be feted with a group of similarly employed managers by AAMOS, the American Association of Maxillo-Facial Oral Surgeons, where they explained the results of a three-year program evaluating the negative consequences of keeping even asymptomatic third molars beyond adolescence.  These included: periodontal problems behind second molars, cysts and abscesses in later life, neoplasms around the crowns of unerupted teeth, and a variety of other issues, not the least of which was complications when the inevitable extractions happened in later life. 

I have personal experience in observing all of these conditions, but they are rare, so I and my colleagues, remained unconvinced that the insurance companies were wrong in demanding a reason to remove teeth.  I thought we were on a philosophical island, but I was wrong.

On September 5th the New York Times ran a rather lengthy article by Roni Caryn Rabin, who writes an article on consumer health.  Ms. Rabin commented on her dentist’s recommendation that her daughter have her wisdom teeth removed prior to going to college so her education wouldn’t be interrupted in recovery, should she have a problem while away at school.  While this may be a concern for some students, this mother was unconcvinced.

Ms. Rabin did her research and found little to justify the removal of asymptomatic teeth.  In fact, she found a study quite similar to the AAMOS study that showed an opposite conclusion for patients in Greece.  She and her husband have adopted a “keep them clean and watch and wait” policy for Emma’s wisdom teeth.

I found the Greek study particularly interesting because when I was in the navy, and we were treating retireds, I had a sixty-something patient appear, who was Greek.  I asked what brought him to me and he replied that he was getting married and wanted to make sure his teeth were healthy.  I didn’t bother to ask whether he would be picking tables up with his teeth at the reception and instead checked out his mouth to find, twenty-eight perfect teeth.  No restorations.  No decay.   No periodontal problem.  Just four, missing, molars.

When I asked him about the missing teeth he relied that they were removed about six years prior.  “Why, did you decide to take them out?” I asked.

“The dentist told me I should have them removed before they gave me trouble,” he said.

I have always wanted to meet that dentist, who must be a hell of a salesman.  I hope, and am almost sure, the dentist was not a navy dentist.

As I read the NY Times article, I pondered, “Maybe my Greek patient should have read the Greek study.”

Next blog I think I will share some thoughts and experiences about High School Reunions.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


One of the nice things about belonging to a Book Club is that you read books you otherwise might miss.  An even nicer thing is that you can share the books with other people.  That is what happened to me when my book club wife got caught up in a National Book Award memoir, titled “Just Kids”, by Patti Smith.

I doubt if Mary recognized the name, Patti Smith, and, although she knew the name, Robert Mapplethorpe, the other “kid”, she knew it more in relationship to federal support for the arts, than for the relationship he shared with Ms. Smith.  As she discovered more about these two, seemingly so different, personalities, she couldn’t help sharing her newfound knowledge with me.  It was a return to our courting days when we used to comment that” Some people talk about people, others about things they see or do.  We seem to talk about ideas, and things we will do.”

Only in this case it was their ideas and the things they went on to do.

When first they met in 1967, Robert was a student at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, majoring in Graphic Arts.  The twenty-one year old Patti was working in a New York City book store and writing poetry.  It’s safe to bet that neither could guess at their eventual fame and fortune.  In the book, Patti mentions that they were caught up in the excitement of the New York scene of the Seventies, where the likes of Andy Warhol, Deborah Harry, Peter Gabriel, Richard Gere; all of whom would eventually be subjects for Robert’s photography, were making their way into the limelight. And it was association with these friends and a common interest in the arts that led to their friendship and eventual strong, romantic relationship.

They lived together in a New York hotel from 1967 to 1974, struggling, with little money, exposure to a drug culture, and Robert’s awareness that he was gay.  They began to become different people from those they were when their friendship began.

Robert picked up his first camera in the mid-seventies, a Polaroid, no less, and rapidly displayed a talent for composition and lighting.  Patti didn’t move into music until she broke “Horses” in 1976, an early, angry, album that introduced a world to what would be called Punk.  And there is the lesson I think we can learn from them.

They met and became friends because they had dreams in common, but as the years went by those dreams morphed into quite different forms, his to open homosexuality and photography and hers into using her poetry muse to make music.  Both accepted roles of almost iconic leadership and the controversy that brings.

In spite of drifting apart physically, geographically, and professionally, they remained in contact and remained friends.

I have perhaps three dozen what I call “friends of long standing”, maybe twice that number since many are couples who are friends of both Mary and me.  I see some of them only once every several years and correspond with many only by Christmas card.  Lately I find I have half that number who I correspond with by regular email.  I find that the years wipe away when we meet or talk, and conversations pick up where they were the last time we met.

I consider myself fortunate to be so blessed.  Many people I know watch friends walk out of their lives with reckless abandon.  Many more have problems making friends since they find so few who have enough in common to warrant conversations of depth and duration.

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, for all their controversy could teach us the value of friendship.  They were complements to each other.  We all could benefit from similar relationships.

Next blog I will lighten up and talk about a subject I should know something about: wisdom teeth.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New News about Alzheimer's

A couple of recent comments in news and emails cause me to reprise an earlier blog on Glen Campbell and his June announcement that he was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s symptoms.  The news was that his Glen Campbell’s Last Tour started September 2nd and that his record, “Ghost on the Canvas”, was released last week.

The email came as forwarded from a friend and included comments by Gary Small, M.D., Director of the UCLA Center on Aging that focused on factors that can positively and negatively affect the onset of Alzheimer’s.  He was impressed by a recent book titled, “100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s” by Jean Carper.  The book suggests that many lifestyle factors, which we can control; like cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity, depression, education, nutrition, sleep, and mental, physical, and social activity can be adjusted to prevent the onset of the disease.

Doctor Small summarized the book by listing his favorite 10 suggestions:

1.      Drink coffee or other non-sweetened caffeine drinks

2.      Floss (as a dentist, this has special appeal)

3.      Google and other internet activity (as a blogger, this is up there with flossing)

4.      Aerobic exercise and strenuous mental activity

5.      Drink apple juice

6.      Protect your head (never too early to start this)

7.      Meditate

8.      Pump up your Vitamin D uptake

9.      Fill your brain with a rich level of life experiences (Harness your Heritage)

10.  Avoid infection (back to number 2)

He also captures several suggestions from the book on nutrition and specific lifestyle actions.  But I was surprised at one omission: Social contact and support.

More than twenty years ago I was made aware of what was then a longitudinal study of nuns, wherein they took ongoing cognitive tests and then when they died, their brains were examined for evidence of dementia.  The surprising results were that the tests seemed to indicate much less brain deterioration than the physical evidence would suggest should have been the case.

Several conclusions suggested themselves.  Perhaps, the community support allowed members to “lose” some mental activity and concentrate on other areas that were tested.  Perhaps the religious surrender took some of the stress out of their lives.  Or now, after reading about Ms. Carper’s book, perhaps their lifestyle was Alzheimer’s preventive.

In any case, I’m going to lobby against my 13 year-old grandson playing tackle football.  He gets in enough contact trouble with his basketball activity.

Next blog I think I share with you a book that my wife recently read called, “Just Kids”.  This is not what the title suggests.