Despite tough year, there is a lot to be thankful for

I don’t think I’m alone in wondering where this year has gone?

Photo of Dr. Champion

Dr. Champion

It seems like we were all ringing in 2020 with a toast and a renewed sense of hope that the trials of 2019 would be behind us and a fresh start was right around the corner. Then the absurdity of this year hit us all in the face like a ton of bricks, and we had no choice but to absorb that absurdity and grapple with it the best we could.

While it has certainly been a challenging year, I’m also doing my best to reflect on the elements of it that have made me most thankful, not only personally, but professionally as well.

As a self-proclaimed “type A+” person, I have a hard time slowing down. Ever. The COVID-19 pandemic forced me to really take the time to evaluate the things that were most important to me, and that opportunity for introspection has proved to be quite invaluable and something I wouldn’t have allowed myself otherwise.

I was able to spend uninterrupted quality time with my husband, being present to enjoy our current life, while also talking through and mapping out our goals for the future. Those goals may shift and change over time and within the landscape of our new reality, but I was able to identify what was truly meaningful to me, namely professional fulfillment, autonomy, and a commitment to continually educate myself and those around me.

I was also capable of realizing how thankful I am for the dental profession, and those in it who are as passionate as I am about making it a meaningful and fulfilling career through our mutual dedication to patient-centered care.

I relied on my dental mentors to help guide me through these demanding times where patient and community safety were at the forefront more than ever before. My colleagues shared with me tips and tricks of how they were facing these challenges and attempting to overcome them, and they did so with humility and grace — traits that can often be overlooked in our profession due to pride and competition.

This year has made me realize how important it is to lean on others to help me through tough times, and that I’m not paddling upstream alone, as it can often feel. Together we make ourselves and our profession better.

The slower pace of clinical care allowed me to focus back on the basics of how I want to deliver care in the most humanistic and helpful way possible, and I was able to delve deeper into areas of dentistry that interest me such as TMD issues, occlusion, and co-discovery. I had the opportunity to begin a class at the Harvard Macy Institute for Educators in Health Professions, and met some of the most brilliant and empathetic health care providers who are as equally eager as I am to lead change in our educational landscape and improve the culture of our profession. I am thankful for their openness to share their opinions and ideas on how we can navigate the future in a purposeful way.

I am thankful too for the support of my family, particularly my husband, in allowing me to pursue my passions and give me the space to work through my complex emotions on our cultural climate and how I may affect change. This year has been trying in so many ways, and has compelled me to re-evaluate my perspective towards social activism and the role that I play in reshaping the landscape of our collective future. I have had so many meaningful conversations with those who think differently than I do, and I am thankful for their willingness to share their valuable opinions with me and allow me to reframe my worldview.

Mostly, I am thankful that this year has pushed me to slow down, re-center my goals, and shift my perspective to the things that matter most to me in life — my family, my friends, and my patients. I can’t know what 2021 will hold, and if I’m toasting this year, it will be to the unknown possibilities of where it can take us, and to how I can continue to change and improve with the unpredictability of life. I hope that all of us can find the silver linings in the clouds that covered 2020, and that we continue to look for them amidst the storms that will inevitably come. Hardships in life will always be constant, but our outlook on how we face them will define our character.

Dr. Katie Champion is a New Dentist Now guest bloggers. She grew up in Ohio where her mother owned a dental practice, and graduated from Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine in 2018. Katie is a general dentist in an established group practice in Deerfield Beach, Florida. She is passionate about dentistry and staying up-to-date with current dental practices, and attends multiple courses a year at the Pankey Institute for higher dental education in Key Biscayne, Florida. Outside of dentistry, she enjoys PureBarre workouts, hanging out with her husband and 3 dogs, and reading on the beach.

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