Monday, September 9, 2013

USC Dental School Freshman Class White Coat Ceremony Speech

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

Dr. Eggleston gave the White Coat Ceremony Speech to the incoming Freshman Class on August 26, 2011, August 27, 2012, and September 9, 2013

The following speech was given on September 9, 2013.  It is a composite of the three years of speeches:


Dean Sadan, faculty, staff, students, friends and families.  To the students, you are entering a great profession - you get to help people, alleviate pain and suffering, improve appearance, and contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of your patients.

You will have many wonderful days in your career.  I have a patient who was afflicted with extremely dark teeth.  As a child, she was administered massive doses of tetracycline which stained her unerupted adult teeth a very dark color.

The patient presented at my office and stated she was finally ready to fix her teeth.  She asked me if her teeth would look normal.  I think that is all she wanted.  I told her they would look better than normal, they would look sensational, dazzling.  Under my breath I said after all, I am a USC dentist.

I was sitting exactly where you are 47 years ago.  At that time, crowns on teeth looked fake.  We had to put metal under the porcelain for strength and that blocked the normal translucency of the anterior teeth.  There was even metal at the margin of the crown.  We tried to bury the metal under the gingiva which often turned the gingiva a cyanotic color, and then the gingiva receded and the metal ended up showing anyway.  All of that has changed.  We now have porcelain restorations that look identical to natural dentition.

The patient I mentioned a moment ago came in and had porcelain restorations placed on all of her teeth.  She went home and smiled at her husband.  He turned to her and said these are the teeth God intended her to have.

I promise you will have many days like this.  However, some days won’t go quite as well.  A new patient with a long Greek name came into my office.  He wrote on his health history he had recent periodontal surgery in Cypress.  So I asked him, “how is the political situation in Cyprus?"  He said it seemed to be OK.  I asked him if the Turks and Greeks were learning to get along and live together in Cyprus?  He said he did not know of any skirmishes, but he would keep an eye out for me.  I look a little closer on his health history and noticed he lives in Cypress California.

Some of you will go into teaching and research.  You will have opportunities to develop new materials, new techniques, new procedures, and new medicines for the benefit of humanity.  Cleft lip and palate is a great example.  For decades, many decades, children with this congenital defect were subjected to multiple surgeries of bone grafting and skin grafting to close the spaces between the different sections of the upper lip, maxilla, and nose.

That has changed.  Now the individual sections of the upper lip, maxilla, and nose are brought together with a system similar to orthodontics, and to a position that is a composite of the parents.  As the individual sections approximate, they are fused together with one simple surgery, no bone grafting or skin grafting.

In the future, thanks to those of you going into research, cleft lip and cleft palate will be treated in-utero.  Children with this congenital defect will be born with normal lips and normal jaws.

Ectodermal dysplasia patients are typically adolescents and teenagers with missing teeth, malpositioned teeth, and malformed teeth. The teenagers typically don’t smile spontaneously.  When they do smile, it’s with a hand over their mouth, or with their face downward.

You will learn how to replace the missing teeth with dental implants, move the misaligned teeth with orthodontics, uncover hidden parts of teeth with periodontal surgery, and restore the malformed teeth with prosthodontics.  And your reward for all the hard work learning how to do this will be to witness parents seeing their child smile, truly smile, for the for the very first time.

Dentistry has ergonomic hazards.  Dentistry is a sedentary profession.  Extremely important to maintain a routine of physical activity during your career.  Dean Sadan is a perfect example.  With that in mind, you are all invited to the Third Annual Running/Hiking Scholarship event on Saturday, September 21st.  You can join the running group and challenge the Dean to a 10 K course up Black Star Canyon, join the hiking group and challenge me on the same course, or just come out and have a good time with your fellow students.

Remember, without character and ethics, your dental education is worthless, and probably dangerous.

Character does matter.  It is the only thing that matters.  Everything else, in every human endeavor is a matter of chance, a matter of circumstance, a matter of being superficial.

Each of you is truly blessed.  Be sure to give back to your local community, the world community and your school with your time and resources.

I wish you the very best in your chosen profession – the noble profession of dentistry.

Thank you.