What Would L.D. Pankey Do?

by Barry Polansky on October 16, 2011 · 0 comments

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Just to set the record straight, the title of this post may just be a rhetorical question.  I really couldn’t tell you what L.D.Pankey would do if he were alive today, but asking the question might open up some meaningful thoughts on how to live and practice in these difficult times.

History has no shortage of people who have left behind their philosophies on how to live.  Humanity’s very best ideas have been passed down from Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, and Montaigne’s Essays to Aldous Huxley’s Perrennial Philosophy.  These people have given us the tools to help us create happiness and success through core principles that work in any period.

I am often asked the question, you see above, from younger dentists trying to apply Dr. Pankey’s philosophy.  What separated L.D. from the multitude of educators was that he blended this perrennial philosophy with the dental science of his era.  The question, I believe, these students are asking is, “how can we use old wisdom with new science and technology?”

And that is a fair question.

You see what Steve Jobs was to computer science, Thomas Edison was to invention and Peter Drucker was to business management…L.D. Pankey was to dentistry.  Their legacy went way beyond their fields…they gave us more than information and knowledge…they gave us wisdom.

Think about Job’s commencement speech to the graduating class at Stanford.  He didn’t speak about iPods or iPhones…he spoke about life, just as L.D. Pankey spoke to dentists in 1948 at the Florida Academy of Dentistry, in his famous speech, You Are the Future of Dentistry.

That is why Pankey added the arm of “Apply Your Knowledge” to his Cross of Dentistry.  Application…action is not easy…for that we must turn to the perrennialists.  I am sure that is why Pankey himself turned to Aristotle for guidance.  He faced the same problems then as we do today.

The same but different.  Sure he didn’t deal with insurance, advertising or the Internet, but he had his own issues.

I was watching a football show last Sunday.  ESPN’s Chris Berman, Tom Jackson and Bill Parcells were discussing the future of quarterback Tim Tebow with the Denver Broncos.  Berman and Jackson argued that Tebow would do well because of his background.  He had all the tools to make him a winner…all of the character traits.  Parcells wasn’t convinced.  He said the quarterback still needed to throw an accurate pass.  When I heard that I thought of L.D. Pankey.

He knew that the philosophy included more than character.  It included the technical skills as well.  Pankey blended both into his philosophy and that is why, although times have changed…it still works.

Dentists have told me that they are thinking about leaving dentistry, selling their practices and just doing something else.  That would be a shame because there are ways to make things work even in tough times.

I will be using this blog to post specific questions about “What Would L.D. Do Now?”  Please help me by sending questions in… preferably in the comments section so readers can chime in.  I invite everyone to put their two cents in…because together we can can figure it out…because we just can’t ask him.

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