Saturday, May 15, 2010

Academy of Prosthodontics Presidential Installation Acceptance Speech

Members, guests, and sponsors – welcome and thank you for being here. Thank you, Laraine, for your support, encouragement and help with this endeavor. I never could have done this without you. Our dear friends Michael and Kathy Gahagan are here tonight to share this evening with us. Michael is a world class periodontist, and Kathy is a world class vocalist. They are great friends.

Howard Landesman and Charles Goodacre are contemporaries of mine, but I always think of them as mentors – inspired by their incredible accomplishments. As many of you know, Charlie was President of the American College of Prosthodontists this past year at the same time he was President of this Academy. Only Charlie could do that. He is so gifted, so talented and so organized, he does the Deanship at Loma Linda in his spare time. Thank you Charlie, for a great year as President, and your many years of dedication and devotion to this Academy. I speak for everyone when I say you are very much appreciated.

And Howard. For 14 years, Howard was Dean at two different dental schools. Although not at the same time (in jest). Come on Howard (admonishing tone for not being Dean at 2 schools at the same time). Howard is a great fundraiser, and as noted on Wednesday evening, probably the best ever. Just like Charlie, Howard is a phenomenal clinician and clinical instructor. Howard and I go way, way back. We were classmates in grad pros at USC. There is something you should know about Howard. He has an identical twin named Ed. They are indistinguishable. Some time ago, Howard and Lynn were at the airport waiting to go off on their honeymoon. Howard glanced around and saw Ed. He thought it was so great that Ed would take time off work and come to the airport to wish him well on his honeymoon. Howard immediately jumped up and down, and waived and shouted to Ed to get his attention. As Howard was jumping up and down and shouting, he suddenly realized there was a mirror on the wall.

This is the 92nd annual meeting of the National Society of Denture Prosthetists. As you know, in 1940, the members voted to change the name of this organization, and I’m glad they did. Think about their commitment way back then. The meetings were two weeks long. The distant members spent 4 days on a train to get to the meeting, then another 4 days to get home – without a Blackberry, an iPhone, iPad, iPod, laptop, or Kindle. Imagine telling your office staff or university "I’m off to the meet the Prosthetists, back in 23 days". They did this all the way through the Great Depression. Are we less committed, less dedicated, less devoted now? I don’t think so. Our students commit to a 3 year residency and a lifetime of learning, teaching, discovery and service to our patients, our communities, and our profession. Our task as the Academy of Prosthodontics is to build upon our legacy — our leadership of evidence based dentistry, the fellowship and scholarship of our meetings, our community outreach to underserved populations, the glossary of prosthodontic terms, our contributions to the prosthodontic literature, and the goals and objectives of the Academy Foundation, among many other activities of the Academy. We can make a difference and we do make a difference.

Some time ago, there was a cruise ship traveling at night off the East Coast of the United States and found itself on a collision course with a freighter. No problem, whenever two ships are on a collision course, every one at sea knows to turn right. Think about it. If ships are headed towards each other and they each turn right, they will go off in different directions. However, on this particular night, a young officer was at the helm of the freighter. He panicked, turned left, and crashed the freighter into the side of the cruise ship. The bow of the freighter went into a stateroom occupied by a woman sound asleep in her bed. The noise of heavy steel plates buckling, bending, shredding, and tearing apart woke her up. The momentum of the cruise ship pulled the two ships apart. Miracle of miracles, she was still alive, and still in her bed. However, the bed was now in the bow of a freighter. A few moments ago, I was an average citizen much like that woman. Now, I wake up and look around – everything has suddenly and dramatically changed. I have this enormous responsibility.

I’m not worried at all. I’ve got Sree Koka as the Secretary-Treasurer. He’s the engine of this operation. To top it off, we have J.T. as the Recording Secretary and the very competent Lea as administrative assistant. We have Tom Taylor as program chair, and Dave Felton as social events chair. I am looking forward to a wonderful meeting in Hilton Head next May, and you are all invited. During the year, we have an outstanding Executive Council and a great group of committee chairs to get things done. And we have a full agenda.

Today is Armed Forces Day, and I would like to conclude with a few comments. During the Vietnam War, I served as a Prosthodontist in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Washington, DC. I had the distinct honor of providing extensive prosthodontic treatment for six of our POW’s returning home from Hanoi. Each of them had been in captivity from four to eight years, under the most brutal conditions, not knowing if they would ever see their families or freedom again. They were true heroes. Nothing could have adequately prepared me for being in their presence. I thought, then and there, if I never treated another patient after them, it would be OK. Dental school, graduate prosthodontic training... it would all be worth it. That’s how I feel tonight with the honor of being President of this Academy. Thank you.