People will often ask me as to why I wanted to become a Dentist. Simply, the thought of staring into someone’s mouth all day long was not their idea of a pleasant job. My reply, “there’s lots of worse jobs out there”. Not to mention there being lots of worse body parts to look at day in and day out!!!! And no, I won’t mention what parts of the body I am talking about!!!!
My first memories of dentistry were rather disturbing to say the least. Many people would say that my initial experiences of dentistry explains a lot about me….I still don’t know whether that is a good thing or not. I remember being called out of class at primary school. Initially I suspected that it must have been my turn for that dreaded visit to the School Dental Clinic. However, once inside the clinic, it became apparent that I was there to help Mum hold my little sister down while the School Dental Nurse tried to restore some cavities in my sister’s teeth! Imagine doing something like that these days – especially the trauma for my little sister!!! Over the years my little sister has learnt to forgive me for the part that I played in her dental visits. My excuse is that I didn’t have any choice in the matter. It wasn’t that the School Dental Nurse was mean or anything like that, she was actually very nice.
Growing up in rural Napier meant that everybody in the small community knew each other. Especially as she only lived a short drive down the road. So I guess, if our School Dental Nurse was being mean and/or nasty, then our parents would hear pretty quickly.
During my Secondary School years, I always “enjoyed” the sciences. At least with the Sciences you always knew whether you were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. As opposed to the Art subjects…..to me, there was no ‘black’ or ‘white’……it was all ‘grey’. So I guess my path was always angled towards Health Sciences and Dentistry.
I guess another factor in choosing the dental ‘path’ was my next door neighbour. Graham was ten years older than myself and he had just graduated from Dental School at Otago University. I always ‘idolised’ Graham as he was always easy to talk to and made Dentistry sound very interesting. After I graduated, we would always meet up every Christmas time in Napier when visiting our respective families (still living next door to each other in Napier). Unfortunately Graham passed away recently after a short battle with cancer. Sadly, he didn’t even make it to enjoy his 50th birthday.
Dentistry is everything Graham said it was. It’s a rewarding profession where no two days are the same. We get to meet lots of interesting people from all walks of life. However I do find that it’s quite difficult to have a decent conversation with any of our patients while they are reclined in a comfortable dental chair. It still doesn’t stop me from trying! There are some days are quite stressful when things don’t always go according to plan…..but at the end of each day, there’s always the satisfaction that we have performed to the best of our ability, and that we have helped a lot of people. It’s the satisfaction that keeps me going.
Unlike a lot of my colleagues, I never did the OE thing after graduating from Otago University. Instead I chose to work at the Christchurch Hospital Dental Department. I thoroughly enjoyed being at Christchurch Hospital, so much so that I decided to stay for a second year.
Travelling is one of those things that I have learnt to enjoy. It wasn’t until after my eighth year of working flat-out that I went away on my first holiday overseas. Now it’s something I would like to do a lot more regularly.
Sorry, I was getting a little side-tracked. Back to my history. An opportunity arose when John Harris was planning to retire from his Fendalton Mall Dental Practice. I took over in 1996. Over the following years we have grown the Practice to where it is now. I have been able to witness some of our young patients grow up, get married, and even have young children of their own.
One point of difference about our Dental Practice is that we strive to keep everything on a personal level. I actually enjoy seeing my patients outside of the dental environment. There are plenty of times whereby I will bump into someone while out grocery shopping (for example - not that I do the groceries terribly often). And I pride myself in not only recognising them, but also remembering their name. I am certainly very much against growing the Dental Practice into one of those large “corporate-like” monstrosities. In those places, people are just seen as numbers. Not as human-beings, with feelings and emotions and phobias of the Dentist like the rest of us.
After living in Christchurch for seventeen years now I guess I can now call Christchurch home. And I’d be the first to admit that I am also a staunch Crusaders Rugby supporter. “It’s certainly a lot easier to support a rugby team that wins, as opposed to one that doesn’t (not that Hawkes Bay & the Hurricanes are too shabby either – its just that the Crusaders are better)!!” Come to think of it….what a sense of relief that the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup this year!!
Opps, getting side-tracked again. If you want to get me side-tracked, just mention the rugby….or any sport really. Any frustrations that I may have (some days are better than others), are normally relieved by bashing a small green furry ball around a tennis court. Sometimes the tennis can be magical and I would seriously consider turning professional - in my wildest dreams. But more often than not, I’m relieved that I have a ‘day job’ that I can fall back onto.
Despite the earthquakes that have been rocking Canterbury, Christchurch is home…..and I guess that we are all here for the long haul. Cantabrians are a resilient bunch of people. Life is certainly a lot easier if we can all try and help each other.
Work isn’t just work. It actually gives me a sense of pride that we are able to provide treatment in a caring manner. I would consider us to be honest and realistic in our approach towards dental care.