I've been asked this one question more times than any other question in my life. I have answered it innumerous times. I'm tired of talking about it, so I'll write it down, keep copies of it in my pocket and hand it out like hors d'oeuvres at every future dinner party. Or I could just hand out business cards with a link to my blog!
When I was a kid I always built things with my hands. I built and painted models, a hobby that I don't think a lot of people my age did, and I think even fewer children do today. Then when I was a little older I painted miniature figures. Yes, I was like Steve Carrell in "The 40 Year Old Virgin". I would take a small metal figurine about an inch tall and try to paint tiny little details on it that one could barely see. Yes, this was fun to me! I now have 6 X magnification glasses that allow me to see teeth 6 times larger than they actually appear to the naked eye. "Yes, I know you just ate lunch, I'm staring at your salad gigantically enlarged between your teeth right now!" I would have killed for those magnification glasses back in the day! Think of how good I could have painted my dolls, er I mean action figures if I had those.
The point being, I always worked on little things. Like teeth! Now I just do it in someone’s mouth. A mouth that is dark, covered in saliva and blood, and attached to a moving human being. Doing it on a desk top was just too easy.
I have also always been artistic. I like to draw. My Aunt Elaine is an amazing artist, some of her art decorates the office of my practice, Austin Artistic Dental. I had a natural talent and she encouraged me greatly. My junior high school had a great art program, and I remember my art teacher Ms. Lacy fondly. I was doing a lot of art back in those days.
In New York City where I grew up, you went to the elementary public schools that were close to your home. Much like Austin. But for high school there were several specialized high schools that you can test into. The best one, which specializes in math and science and one of the best high schools in the country, is Stuyvesant High School. 28,000 take a test each year and 800 get accepted. I was good at math and science too. So yeah, got into that school.
But I also got into LaGuardia High School, which is a specialized high school for Art. I auditioned along with about 10,000 other kids. So the decision for my 12 year old self, was art or math and science? I chose the latter and went to Stuyvesant.
I continued to create some art in my spare time, but mostly I spent a lot of time studying. I then went to college at the State University of New York. I could only afford to go to either a state or city college, but fortunately NY has some good state schools. I went to school for science eventually getting my bachelors of science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with the idea I would apply to medical school and be a physician.
In preparation for medical school, the summer of my sophomore year I volunteered at Columbia's Hospital in NYC and worked in the Emergency Room 5 days a week to actually see what it means to be a physican. Turns out, I didn't want to be a physician. There were some parts of it I found interesting, but others that didn't suit me.
In school I've been busting my hump studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology to help cover the requirements for medical school. But I now didn't want to go to medical school and I already knew I definitely didn't want to be a scientist and use my degree. So now what was I going to do?
I started to look around. I thought of being a veterinarian. I've always loved animals, and caring for them and being around them sounded great. But as luck with have it, at least for my future dental patients, I'm highly allergic to cats and dogs. Being a vet and being allergic to cats and dogs is kind of like being a dentist and being allergic to teeth. Not going to make for a happy life.
So now what? I believe the first seed for dentistry was planted by my Aunt Elaine. The same aunt who encouraged my art as a child. She had worked as a dental assistant for some years, and suggested I look into it. So I did. But to be honest, probably not as much as one should when choosing a career path. I spoke to my aunt's former boss and friend, Dr. Lerner and I spoke to my uncle who was a dentist in California. What I discovered about dentistry is that it is a blend of art and science. Well doesn't that sound perfect! That's me!
That's all it took. I applied, got into several schools, chose the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine! Turns out, dentistry was a good choice. I'm really good at what I do.
Now that you're done reading this on your iphone, you can look up and continue your conversation with me at the dinner party.
"Okay, so that's why you're a dentist. But teeth are still gross and I hate the dentist!"