An endodontist is not something that a typical high school student aspires to become. Trust me when I say that only the kids who have visited an endodontic office or the children of an endodontist likely know what we do—root canals.
In my younger years, my dad attempted to reason with me, his teenage son, by saying, “Just because you don’t know anything about it doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it!”
At the time I knew that I was interested in dentistry, but I only knew about general dentistry. Much later, a friend who sits on a dental school admission committee told me that beyond general dentistry there are the big three dental super stars—oral surgery, orthodontics and pedodontics. Notice that endodontics does not make the list. When I was young, I set my sights on oral surgery.
A Chance Encounter
My path was originally aimed at oral surgery when three gentlemen detoured my well-planned road map. Although the average individual will not likely recognize these names, these individuals are giants in my world. You can probably think of others who played a similar role in your life path.
The first part of the detour belongs to Dr. Lane Stephenson, a former Navy man and first year endodontic resident at the time of our first encounter. He shared a mutual friend with my parents, and that friend told him about me, a first year dental student at the time, and tasked him with finding me and introducing himself. According to his version of the story, someone had pointed me out to him, so he decided to call out my name one afternoon when he saw me leaving the dental school.
Incidentally, I am about twice his size. After he called my name, he secretly hoped that I wasn’t Andre the Giant and that he hadn’t insulted me, but I am a pretty friendly guy, so I turned to face him with a giant smile. A wonderful friendship and mentoring relationship began that afternoon. He encouraged me, prodded me and, most importantly, gave his time to show me the clinical side of endodontics. Up until that point, I only knew what I had seen in my textbooks. Little did I know that he had me hooked!
My second giant is Tom Gound, who was the endodontic program chair at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry. Dr. Gound is retired Air Force, and I kindly referred to him as “Boss.” He provided the classwork for my undergraduate dental work, and I was extremely fortunate to enter his residency right after graduation from Dental School. He taught me the “what, where and why” of endodontics.
My third giant was a wonder man named Dr. Hany Makkawy. He completed the detour with my first hands-on lab class in endodontics. Everything was combined in the hands-on class, and my love of this discipline was cemented!
Who could have known that a guy calling out my name (and bravely so with my mean personality) would start the detour to endodontics? It’s amazing how our lives are shaped by the simplest interactions.
I guess my dad was absolutely correct. Just because I didn’t know about endodontics, didn’t mean I wouldn’t like it. I became an endodontist and have loved every minute of the journey!