I don’t watch much TV these days, but last week I found myself watching two made-for-TV specials, one about Bernie Madoff and the other about O.J. Simpson.
Most would agree that these two were possibly the greatest monsters of our time. Most of us got to witness the behaviors of these two men. Madoff was particularly interesting to me because we came from the same town, and we went to the same high school.
My brother-in-law was in his graduating class. And Peter Madoff, Bernie’s brother was the president of my college fraternity.
Yes…they walked among us.
No real surprises there, but something struck me about the screenplay. Three times during the show Bernie Madoff repeated the line: “Trust is the basis for all long-term relationships.” Most of us who watched it heard the line because it was repeated again and again.
But most of us probably let it go by like a sudden chill in the room, or a fleeting pain.
Not me. This blog is about Trust, Appreciation and Ownership, and I have been writing about the importance of trust for dentists, in every human interaction…it is not only the basis of all long-term relationships, but the entire substructure of any well-functioning organization from a family to a country to a planet.
A few days later I got a phone call from a dentist who questioned what would happen if Bernie became a dentist, or a doctor rather than going to Wall Street. It could have happened considering his socioeconomic background.
Now, granted people like O.J. and Bernie are special cases…people who totally lack even a trace of empathy, and we all know that the opposite, people like like Mother Theresa, are just as rare.
So they don’t shock me.
What shocks me is the public’s reaction…to the SEC. The SEC is a government agency that is set in place to protect the public.
Who can we trust if we can’t trust those who are there to protect us? My friend, the dentist, was saying that we see this in our profession all the time…frtom every angle…the dentists, government, corporations, insurance companies and even the public itself.
In 1979, during the more idyllic days of dentistry, I traveled to Los Angeles to hear a presentation of alternative ways to deliver dental care. This one discussed the new retail dental office concept that was being set up in L.A. The first one was in a Sears store in El Monte California, a small industrial town just east of Los Angeles.
Two very polished salesmen spent two days trying to convince dentists that this was the future of dentistry. They were brothers, very well trained and very convincing. I left L.A. with a bad taste in my mouth…not because of the business model, but because of the way they objectified patients.
That was in 1979. I lost track of that concept, but not the language that I continued to hear over the last 35 years, from non-dentists and dentists alike who have objectified the patient experience and used trust as their method to persuade.
Very effective…and unethical. A paradox that would make anyone shiver.
Trust…the force that can be used for good or evil. We can choose to be Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader…yet mostly we sleepwalk through these choices.
I have witnessed dentists and doctors using the force for good and evil…it all comes down to —who are you?
For years, we in dentistry have seen outsiders take what used to be a “noble” ethical profession and turn it into business as usual. Who protected the profession?
Certainly not the dentists. Most went along with the status quo. I wonder why? Because we sure express our displeasure to each other.
Certainly not the insurance companies or corporations. They only talk about the human side of dentistry but continue to look at numbers and take away our autonomy- in one way or another.
And most important…not the patients. Many actually are crying out for more of the same.
At the end of the Madoff movie there was a voice-over as Bernie, thinking he was innocent, was blaming the system…the SEC, the public who he cheated because they wanted to make money because of their own greed.
He has a point…yes, my dental friends…we see this playing out everyday.