Developing Lifelong Friends in Dental School

To our students, present and future:

Each year, when we matriculate a new class, I have the opportunity to spend some time talking to you about oral health and how important a role you are going to play, the greatness of the dental school, and about the friendships that you make during the three years you will be at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. I tell you to look to your right, look to the left, look in front, and look behind you, because some of those people will become some of your best friends for life. I think that is true for all of us, and I think our past graduates can testify to that.

Throughout your life, with your closest friends, you are going to celebrate your accomplishments and mourn sad occasions. Last week, I had that experience of celebrating and mourning: honoring the life of one of my great friends from dental school after his recent passing. He was the inspiration to a group of us to continue on, no matter how difficult it got.

When I attended the Baylor College of Dentistry, it was a three-year program, much like ours in some ways, yet very different in some important aspects. Here, our school is the prime example of the humanistic environment. In those days, Baylor was just the opposite. Much has changed since then, but at that time it was not a place where students were treated with respect and dignity. In fact, even the faculty did not treat each other respectfully for the most part.

In order to get through those difficult and stressful times, you had to draw on your friendships. My friend, Randy Clark, was that person we would turn to. Even though he was in the beginning stages of his body‘s long deterioration as a result of juvenile diabetes, he kept a strong presence, always laughing and keeping our spirits up. At the celebration of his life, I and others made similar comments to his wife Janie: “You dealt with a lot. His antics, his life, and sense of fun, but giving back so much of his time to the people he cared about so much.”

While this was a sad event, it was also a happy moment to celebrate that he finally had come to his resting place. In the true form of an Irish wake, my friends, many of whom I had not seen in 30 years, and I went out one evening to celebrate his life, our friendships and all the good and bad times we have experienced throughout our lives.

The good news is always the good times will highly outnumber the bad times.

Build those friendships, cherish those friendships and work on those friendships.