I saw my first U.S. Navy Air Show two months ago. We had to drive, walk, hike and climb to get there, but we finally found a nice patch of grass on the shores of Lake Washington. It was a great show on a beautiful August day. The crowd “oohed” and “aahed” throughout, and I would imagine that after what we saw that day, a few of the tiny spectators will grow up to be pilots and astronauts and world explorers.
The climax of the show was, and always is, the Blue Angels. They are daring and incredible and inspiring. Did you know that they will get as close as 18 inches apart during a few of their stunts?
In that moment, I was overwhelmed with stimuli as I sat there cross-legged in the grass. Gravity-defying feats of human wonder were going on above me. But all around me, on the ground, is where I found truth that day.
It was the people. The kids. The parents. The college students. The retired and the unemployed. They were all there. Looking up at the sky. Amazed. And what I noticed was that even though we enjoyed the entire show, we didn’t really start paying attention until the Blue Angels came. The “oohs” and the “ahhs” didn’t really begin, until the Blue Angels came. The gasps and the iPhone flashes didn’t really start until the Blue Angels came. Why?
Because community and teamwork are impressive.
A single Blue Angel is pretty cool. It’s fast. It’s agile. It can twirl and swirl and fly upside down. But add four more Angels doing the exact same moves at the exact same times, and you have a crowd pleaser. You have a show. You have something that now deserves fliers and a website and media coverage.
Why? Because teamwork is impressive. When a group comes together and does something that even the best of individuals could never do alone, it is amazing and inspiring and impressive to us.
The Blue Angels is just an example. We could also talk about sports teams and cities and governments and nations and rights movements. We could talk about bands and religions and everything in between. But the underlying theme is community. Togetherness. Teamwork. Coming together to accomplish something that, before, was only an idea. A nice thought somebody once had.
The other day I was reading the ADA News when I came upon statements made by the candidates running for ADA president-elect. Falling membership numbers and a perceived lack of interest among new dentists were recurring themes that concerned the candidates. And it bothered me too. The relevance of the ADA and organized dentistry as an idea is being questioned by new dentists. “Is it relevant?” “Why do I need the ADA?” “All I want to do is set up a practice, work, and retire.”
As I was sitting there on the shore of Lake Washington, with jets spiraling past each other at frightening speeds, I felt the weight of this truth on my chest. Because in dentistry, it’s easy to choose not to be on a team. It’s easy to sit out during P.E. To sit on the bleachers and become an apathetic bystander.
I’m asking you not to do that. I’m asking you to be on the team.
Because we are dentistry.
Me and you and my classmates and your classmates and your mentors and my mentors and every dentist you’ve ever met or heard of. We’re all on the same team.
And what happens when everyone joins that team is that your world becomes very small, and your voice becomes very large. You meet a lot of new friends. And you make a lot of big things happen.
So if you’re already on the team, thank you. We’re doing big things because of your support. ASDA and the ADA and every dental organization in between is meeting and talking about where we are and where we’re headed. Big things have already been accomplished, and there are sure to be more on the way.
If you’re not on the team, I want to invite you to join it. Be the voice that we need. Stand up for your fellow dentists. Stand up for the struggling dental students fighting to have their voice heard. Stand up for your New Dentist peers. Remember what it was like to go through the licensing process? The sleep you lost. The stress you felt. The feeling you had in your gut through it all.
Join the team. Advocate for your profession. Voice your concerns. Make suggestions. Have a conversation with your local officers. Check apathy at the door. Remember what it was like to be a dental student or a new dentist. And then help pave a better path for those that follow.
You belong on the team. Because we all do.
Individually, I can live a successful American life. I can recreate smile lines. I can give a man teeth who has none. I can prep GV Black Class II’s. But I can’t do anything about student debt. I can’t protect our profession from Washington. I can’t change outdated policies, and I can’t do anything about the licensing exam process.
I can’t . . . But We can.
Together, we can change dentistry. And together, we can change the world. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I signed up for.
Dr. Joe Vaughn is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. He grew up in Alabama and recently graduated from The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry in 2015. He now lives in Seattle, Washington, where he attends the General Practice Residency at the University of Washington. Two cups of coffee, writing and indie music are everyday occurrences for Joe. Go Seahawks and Roll Tide!