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It’s Always Personal

June 1, 2015

Filed under: Ethics — Tags: , — Barry @ 12:03 PM

Many dentists have experienced a long time patient leaving their practice for no other reason than the patient received new insurance…and it hurts.

Through the years I have had this situation occur and the best advice I get is not to take it personally.

But that never worked for me…for me, it’s always personal.

Samuel Johnson the British writer once said,

“Happiness is not found in self-contemplation; it is perceived only when it is reflected from another.”

Dentistry, not unlike any of the other health care service professions, is a very social field…especially when we create our practices around relationships.

Maybe I am naive…I don’t think so…but I believe that my work is more than just about business, money and success.  Oh sure those things count, but I was taught there are other ways to judge a successful career…and people matter.

Most of us were raised during a time of massive abundance.  Not only us, but our parents believed that all success was material success.  This, after all was what the “Me Generation” was all about.

I was raised on Covey’s habits.  I take them seriously,  after all who doesn’t want to be highly effective?  But at what expense?

I am getting older now, and I studied dentistry from dentists who are long gone.  They taught dentistry using terms like excellence as a virtue for its own sake.  Virtue?  It means moral excellence and righteousness, and for many it was the path to a good life, but not in a time when business trumps everything.  Say the word morality these days and people look at you funny, like you’re a religious nut rather than someone who can hold their head up high…with dignity.

I wondered how we got here?  Since I learned dentistry from people who lived in the forties and fifties…before the Age of Abundance, I wondered how we become products of the times we lived.  Personally, I was deeply effected by Covey, yet these days I see more virtue the teachers who came from a time when their success wasn’t taken for granted…they worked for it.  They didn’t believe that if their kid wanted to be David Beckham that it was possible by just kicking the ball a lot, and they could be anything they want to be.

We are products of our culture.  Really, do I need to know any more about Kim Kardashian, Bruce Jenner and Justin Bieber?  In the world of dentistry, do I need to be exposed to anymore Facebook pretenders?

Dentistry is an honored and noble profession that serves people.  At least that is what is was when I entered it.

It’s about people, it’s about service and yes maybe a little business too.

In 1972, The Godfather was released.  Take a look now at one of it’s best scenes with the great actor Al Pacino…revealing a line that we all hear too much of these days.

This is how we get acculturated—but it’s always personal.





  1. This is the 21st century Barry, times and attitudes are different, way, way different. It would be nice if it were like when you started out, but it is far, far from that. And those times are not likely to return any time soon, if ever. Sorry to inform you of that, but that is how it is.

    Comment by Roger — June 2, 2015 @ 7:07 AM

  2. Yes Roger—I know what year it is—and I am not so naive that I think anything will be different. Ther point I make is one about cultural mismatch. Before the age of abundance (WWII and the Depression)…morality was much higher and people were more prepared to deal with difficult times.
    In 2008 things changed and people are not prepared for the age of scarcity…that is what is called a cultural mismatch. Just sayin’

    Comment by Barry — June 2, 2015 @ 9:05 AM

  3. Roger,
    You obviously have accepted the new norm which, from a societal and cultural standpoint, is unsustainable. Do you accept children running around in a restaurant? Or that it was totally acceptable for the Congressman from North Carolina to call the President “a liar” during the State of the Union address? Do you find it acceptable for a policeman to throw an 8 month pregnant woman to the ground and handcuff her when 60 seconds prior to that event, he told another woman that, “he saw no evidence of a crime.” Are beheadings acceptable and the new norm?

    Is everything acceptable because ‘that’s the way it is? Really?
    Do you have any standards?
    When I was a high school teacher 45 years ago teachers were allowed to wear jeans to class and THAT was the beginning of the end of excellence in American education. It was clear that something fundamentally had changed and the future would not be as good as the past…That is exactly where the entire country is with regards to many aspects of our lives and your (Roger’s ) response is “Times are different and reasonability will not return any time soon.”

    When the New York City Billionaire and hedge fund manager, Paulson, truly believed that he should only pay 15% Capital Gains tax on a yearly income of $4.2 Billion rather than Federal Income Social Security and Medicare taxes and the average working guy agreed with him when they didn’t speak up, the beginning of the end is near. Without standards, we will lose our way.

    In a more dentally related area and I would think that Barry would agree…dentists will do everything to crown or onlay a tooth rather than preserve beautiful natural enamel. Why? Because the profession has thrown out our standards and everything has become acceptable.

    I commend you, Barry for standing up for standards of excellence even though this is the 21st century and times and attitudes are different, way, way different.
    What Barry and I believe is that there are still standards for personal conduct and our belief that we always do what is in the best interest of our patients?

    Comment by Gerald — June 2, 2015 @ 11:56 PM

  4. Gerald– that was a great comment…I couldn’t have said it better. Examples of the breakdown of standards are so numerous in our culture, as you say. Our arena is dentistry—so usually I just try to bring that perspective. Moral excellence, high standards, character, righteousness exist in all of life; they are the components of what Aristotle called “the good life.” That concept is foreign to most people—why?–Because most people have only one parameter—material success. More, more, more has been the mantra for just about everyone alive today. I guess Roger would rather submit than fight the lunacy.
    I do think there is hope. The center cannot hold. Material success for most people is becoming impossible (look at dentistry)—then culturally we will fall back on what really matters. Tomorrow—hardly—it takes years—decades even.

    Comment by Barry — June 3, 2015 @ 8:59 AM

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