It takes commitment

What does it take to be the very best at what you do? To be one of the "two percenters" who achieve their dreams and become the very best at what they do? When you look at all the kids who play football in the midget leagues, only 10 percent go on to play high school football. Of that 10 percent, only 5 percent will play college football, and only another 2 percent of these will play professionally. What kind of commitment does that take?

A group of men and women are coming together in Salt Lake City from all over the world who can answer that question very quickly for you. Those who are representing their countries in the Olympics can tell you all about commitment. These athletes can talk about endless hours of practice, pushing themselves beyond the limits of endurance day in and day out to reach the top of their sport. (I hear some dentists whining about the number of continuing-education hours their state requires!)

These fine athletes also could tell you about the thrill of competition, particularly in the individual events. This is the time when you put it all on the line. These people have been training for years for this one moment in time when they will stand at the top of a hill, or on a ski jump, or on an oval of ice. In minutes, they will experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. Milliseconds can make the difference.

What type of commitment have you made to your skill level? Are you satisfied with the skills that you learned in dental school? Do you take only enough continuing education to maintain your license? If you fail to stay abreast of the changes in our profession, are you really giving your patients the best care available?

My mentor literally pushed me into attending the Chicago Midwinter Meeting when I had been in practice less than a year. I haven't missed one since.

A couple of years ago, Sue and I were out shopping, and we stopped at a Chili's restaurant for dinner. Our young waitress heard us talking about dentistry and told us that she was in a General Practice Residency program at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis. We talked a little bit about her plans; she said that she planned to go back to Ames, Iowa to set up a practice. She was working other tables, so we didn't get to talk much, but I gave her my card and told her to keep in touch.

This morning, I had an email from her asking if I remembered the evening. I did. The job at Chili's had helped her finance her dream. Six months ago, she opened the Ames Center for Cosmetic and Family Dentistry — and she loves it! Dr. Aime Rockow-Nelson made — and kept — a commitment!

As I write this, the 2002 winter Olympics are beginning. Talk about commitment — the Eastman Kodak Company has been a worldwide sponsor of the Olympics since the modern games began in 1896. In Salt Lake City, Kodak is operating the 25,000 square foot Kodak Imaging Center to support accredited photojournalists covering the games. Kodak's Health Imaging division has outfitted a medical digital radiography room to provide imaging exams of athletic injuries. at the Olympic polyclinic. Dental services at the Polyclinic include diagnosis and treatment of injuries to the oral maxillofacial region as well as routine dental restorative procedures. Kodak's dental business is supporting the dental care Kodak InSight Intraoral Film, Kodak Ektavision G & L Extraoral Film, Kodak Ektavision Imaging Screens, Kodak Readymatic Chemistry and Cook-Waite Local Anesthetics. Kodak's staff has assisted in setting up and testing the dental diagnostic equipment.

By the time you read this, the Olympics will be a memory. But think back to that athlete who broke the record and stood on the podium beneath his or her country's flag to receive the gold medal. Think about the commitment that was necessary to reach this pinnacle of success. Think about the commitment that you have made to your family and to dentistry. Are your priorities in the right place? If not, are you ready to make a change?

Joe Blaes, DDS, Editor —

Email: joeb@pennwell.com

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