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Dental Study Club Visits Lancaster

June 29, 2015

Filed under: Happiness,Self-development,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Barry @ 12:28 PM


3 Knots


I am a big believer in study clubs.  Our club, the Three Knots Study Club has existed for ten years.  We meet yearly at a different location for educational and social reasons.

In the past few years we have fished the Everglades, explored the coast of Maine and hiked the hills of Asheville North Carolina.  This year one of our members hosted our meeting in Lancaster Pennsylvania…the heart of Amish country.
We certainly got a good look at how the Amish live…this trip was way beyond the typical tourist experience.

I had seen the pretzel factories, eaten enough funnel cake and shoo fly pie and sat behind many buggies in traffic to satisfy my curiosities but actually meeting and spending time with the Amish was a true learning experience.  It was truly a close up view into a culture that stands in direct contrast to the way we live in America today…and even without the modern amenities there’s a lot to learn from these quite progressive people.

Progressive?  Let me explain.  Everything is relative isn’t it?

The one thing that stood out while visiting the Amish farms and observing their family life was a great sense of moral responsibility and empathy for one another.  The lack of modern amenities blended in after a while.

What was really noticeable was the how they worked and related to one another.

Everyone working on the farms were craftsmen.  The animals were well taken care of, as if they were part of the family.  Mostly though what stood out was the care they placed in making sure everyone was taken care of…in the family and the extended family.

Progressive?  Or has the rest of society redefined progress as nothing but more and more material wealth, say as measured by the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).  When does it stop?

Of course the Amish aren’t the only ones who measure success by other standards than material wealth.  In Bhutan the new economic paradigm is Gross Happiness Product which uses natural and social capital values to assess the true costs and gains of economic activity.

I remember first being introduced to the Pankey Philosophy many years ago.  In the center of Dr. Pankey’s Cross of Life was three words…Reward…Material and Spiritual.  Through the years I continued to see our culture lose it’s balance with way too much emphasis on the material…at the total expense of the spiritual (if you have an issue with that word…think ephemeral or intangible—think purpose and gratitude).

As a matter of fact it was through Dr. Pankey’s original philosophy that I heard the term “moral obligation” in relation to dental practice.  It was a driving force in my writing my first book about the examination.

Morality and character are the drivers of a sustainable career in any profession…are we losing it?  Observing the Amish shows that we differ in more ways than air conditioning and electricity.

I am not suggesting anyone give up all material possessions…just to take a step back and realize that as an old movie title said…“The Best Things in Life are Free.”

This weekend we didn’t run the rapids in Montreal, see a Broadway show or ride horses in the Texas hill country…we just ate some really good home cooking and watched another way to live that could hold promise for our future.




  1. Upon reading your blog, Barry, I feel blessed that you understood my love of Lancaster. Isn’t it crazy that our discussion over the weekend in 3 Knots was almost illustrated by the way of life that we toured in the Amish and Mennonite communities. It is our heartfelt compassion for our patients, our desire to serve them best, and our need to grow as an individual and clinician that feeds our career in dentistry. May dentists find you and grasp your insight. What a gift!

    Comment by Laura Harkin — June 29, 2015 @ 7:23 PM

  2. Laura, That is why I related the experience to the original Pankey philosophy—that moral obligation and the empathy and compassion for people…and family. The morality issue is so clear in watching the Amish, yet, as I said in my talk—we are losing it.Treating others with compassion is a source of meaning and purpose, through which we enhance our own well-being. This is missing in our culture.
    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to spend time with you and your family.

    Comment by Barry — June 29, 2015 @ 7:39 PM

  3. Another excellent blog!!!
    I used to be a big fan of Study Clubs but even at an official Spear Study Club, I found that it was a case of ‘the blind leading the blind.’ Mediocre clinicians who had the conviction that they were knowledgable in teachings of Frank Spear. As someone who has taken close to 30 courses with Frank, I know his (old) standards backwards, forwards and sideways. …And the Spear group that I attended did not know his teachings.

    I believe that for many older dentists, entering the healing professions was , to use an old word, “a
    calling.” One truly became a physican or dentist to help people and the old time faculty always told their students, “Always put your patient’s best interest ahead of your own.” Those feelings, those philosophies are no longer operational. The dentist’s interest is the only thing that I hear and see when mentoring younger dentists. Having material things are important but the older dentists realized was that when your patient’s best interest was paramount, then the likelihood of material success increased…. It is sad to see material success the result of mediocre clinical dentistry that may not have been placed for the benefit of the patient. The diagnosis was not correct, the treatment planning inept and the outcomes questionable.

    I truly hope that other readers of your blog say that I am way off base.

    Comment by Gerald Benjamin — July 2, 2015 @ 4:50 PM

  4. Another excellent comment Gerald. I keep my post short…500-700 words…I think more people will take the time to read them. There was a lot in this one, and you seem to have gotten the main point…morality…in our culture and specifically in dentistry. We both come from a different era…and I think we both see this moral breakdown. My mentors basically were the people you described…yes it was a different time but I truly believe morality is a universal issue. Philosophers and scientist have been trying to answer the BIG Questions for years. And yes…the study clubs you mentioned above…like most dental education is…the blind leading the blind. I personally know many of these blind men…very good technicians…very poor dentists.
    On study clubs…I believe ours is special because of the social component. In ten years we have all grown technically as well as, as leaders. We all present better…and constantly keep “the other” in mind.
    Thanks for your great input…I only wish the younger dentists would read this…and actually create a movement to stop what is going on in dentistry…an organized attempt to destroy the doctor patient relationship.

    Comment by Barry — July 2, 2015 @ 5:07 PM

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