Never mind Memorial Day Weekend. For me, the commencement of summer fun is heralded in by a Fourth of July celebration replete with family barbecues, beach getaways, and of course, the cacophonous fanfare of fireworks.
But a few short weeks ago another type of commencement took place. This one was at The NYU College of Dentistry. It was a graduation ceremony that marked the completion of my three-year course of study in Comprehensive Implant Treatment henceforth referred to as The Dental Implant Program.
I attended classes every Wednesday (that be, all day, every Wednesday), participated in 600 hours of lectures, on-site patient care, not to mention multitudes of time spent on assigned reading and case presentations. And of course, the weekly homework assignments (that had to be handed-in.)
Three years! Where did the time go?
It seems like it was just yesterday that I started The Dental Implant Program. I was among other dentists that were half my age. I wondered if I’d be able to brush off the neural cobwebs and seriously hit the books. In fact, the books included a thousand-plus page textbook and a myriad of published articles. I would also have to learn new technology and become proficient at reading and interpreting CT scans of the jaws and sinuses, to master computer software to treatment plan and virtually place implants, to design CAD-CAM surgical guides, and more.
Then, of course, there was the mastery of implant surgery itself. But that didn’t concern me at all. In fact, I was pretty pumped about acquiring new surgical skills and adding to my repertoire.
So the time whisked by. Time does fly when you’re having fun and as cliché as this may sound, this oft-quoted adage proved very much to be a truism.
I had a blast!
My experience at NYU was simultaneously stimulating, electrifying and energizing. Learning can be quite intoxicating. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I hadn’t anticipated the inspiration and enthusiasm that my return to the classroom would engender. Nor could I predict my renewed vigor in the practice of dentistry. When I first enrolled in The Dental Implant Program, Assistant Dean Ken Beacham predicted that it would be a life-changing experience for me. “That’s a little bit too much hyperbole,” I thought at the time. But truth be told, he was right.
From the very beginning, this academic adventure was as if an internal fire had been ignited. Without realizing it, my commitment to the Implant Program morphed into a full-fledged quest to become a skilled implant surgeon and, by extension, to become a superior dental clinician. I set out on a path to professional self-actualization. This was despite the fact that I was already in a very good place in terms as how I viewed my accomplishments and myself.
I have always loved being a dentist and I am proud of my clinical acumen. Yet from the onset of my new status as student, I felt compelled to excel even more. To be all that I could be (without having to join the Marines – besides I’m too old for Boot Camp!)
Every morning my wife Ann cast a smile upon me as she left me sitting in my study hall (the kitchen). I was armed with coffee, multicolored highlighters and Carl Misch’s textbook Contemporary Implant Dentistry. Such was my early morning ritual before I headed off to my office.
It is possible that I had an advantage over my younger colleagues. I have already established a successful practice, I have no small children to attend to (one benefit of empty nesthood) and I have 32 years of clinical experience under my belt. Whatever the reason, I excelled in The Dental Implant Program. I was an anomaly of sorts being older than everyone save two faculty members. But I exuded the enthusiasm and wonder of a kid in a candy store. Always smiling (so I was repeatedly told) and always on the move (I maximized the time I spent at the school). I was quite productive in my clinical endeavors and amassed perhaps unprecedented experience in placing implants and performing advanced bone-grafting procedures.
I have another advantage. My dental practice is close to NYU and I am blessed with trusting patients. Many jumped at the opportunity to be my guinea pigs. So I had no shortage of patients to treat and implants to place.
While in The Dental Implant Program I was no stranger to the speaker’s podium in the lecture hall, either. I had to present each patient’s surgical treatment plan and case work-up in a PowerPoint presentation to the class and faculty. Inconspicuous I was not. But I was ever thoughtful, respectful and appreciative of my fellow students and, of course, my teachers.
The Dental Implant Program Was A Life-Changer
Dean Beacham was right. The Implant Program at NYU was a life-changer for me. It was one helluva ride. In addition to receiving not one, but two certificates (suitable for framing) I have acquired superior clinical skills, developed what I hope will be lasting friendships with some truly outstanding people, and got an intense infusion of mojo which only enhances my passion and desire to practice dentistry for many years to come.
Having said all that, perhaps the single greatest gift I’ve received is a sense of pride. I am so proud of myself for the effort put forth and the achievement attained.
One Final Note: An hour after I officially graduated from The Dental Implant Program I received formal notification from NYU of my appointment as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor. I will be teaching in the very program that I just completed. Therefore, my Wednesday odyssey will continue. But not to worry my dear patients, I will not give up my practice for a life in academia.
One Absolutely Final Note: I am indebted to the faculty who so unselfishly give both their time and effort to youngsters like me who thirst for knowledge. I want to especially recognize and express my gratitude to two individuals who were (and still are) my surgical mentors: Dr. Ehab Shahid and Dr. John Como. I am happy to count you as friends.
And of course, I can’t forget to mention Dr. Donald Spitzer, whose prosthetic skills are as much appreciated as is his friendship. And, a huge hug to Ken Beacham. Were it not for you and your wife Lillian, I would never have learned of this program.
And most of all, thank you to my wife Ann. Without your encouragement and love I would not have been able to achieve even a fraction of what I have. Thank You.
I am deeply honored and humbled by the past three years.
Michael Sinkin practices in New York. He loves being a dentist and is known throughout the city for taking wonderful care of his patients and for his wicked sense of humor. To contact Dr. Sinkin, link here.