A Softer Touch

Originally published in The Chronicle (AAWD), Nov 2017,p.14.

Generally speaking, people tend to think of me as confident and composed. This is especially true in professional settings being that the title of “oral surgeon” often precedes any interaction with the real me. After all, surgeons are usually characterized as bold and intense, and in some cases, arrogant.

Though we inhabit the spectrum of personality, the stereotype persists. Despite knowing better, even I adopted the pervasive myth of the hard-edged surgeon. It explains why I lived a double life for many years.

My alter ego was that of a writer in the realm of personal development and spirituality. Over a period of time, I had developed a body of work writing for massive platforms including MindBodyGreen and Huffington Post. Tens of thousands had shown appreciation for that work yet in my professional life, nobody knew.

Why? Because I was afraid of being judged.

Despite the façade of quiet confidence, I had always felt a little left of center. That feeling only intensified through dental school, residency, and beyond. How was I supposed to explain wanting to do this other thing when I had trained over a decade for surgery? Half of my time was spent in a world of precision and practicality. The other half was spent exploring the abstract world of purpose and compassion. As a result, I kept the two things separate never feeling like I could fully inhabit either space.

Thankfully, time has brought greater perspective. That grace came in the form of understanding what it truly means to be aligned with my truth. It allowed me the opportunity to witness and express all aspects of my being without shame or apology.

As a result, I’ve come to discover the overlap in my two worlds. Dentistry effectively teaches us essential skills to acquire a level of proficiency, but like most other health professions, something very important has been left out. It’s the personal development piece that makes a difference when it comes to how we connect with ourselves and subsequently, our patients. It is this aspect that determines the experience of everyone involved.

Though I’ve written extensively through blog posts, articles and books, my latest publication will always hold a special place. Compassionate Competency: Healing the Heart of Healthcare offers the voice I kept silent for so long. Hopefully, its message is one that resonates and impacts practitioners for the better.

It took many years, but if I’ve learned anything, it is this. There is no one right way to “do” dentistry. Who is to say how you contribute to our field and outside of it? That is only for you to decide. You’ve acquired knowledge and experience and you’ve been given a unique lens through which you see the world. Your story, no matter how it looks from the outside, has relevance. So, what are you here to do?

My work is to soften the hard edges. What’s yours?