Surfing Toward a Career in Dentistry

December 2006

By: Dr. Scott R. Harden

The waves were kicking up perfect sets after several days of being “blown out” by onshore wind. The ocean breeze instantly restored a mystical energy and intensity that had been missed for a long time. Scanning the water and without a second thought, my innate sense of awareness was already guiding me toward the impact zone, the spot where waves were breaking.

The 4/3 O’Neill wetsuit and boots provided the necessary insulation to protect me against the frigid 50 degree water of San Francisco this last December. The 7-2 board was waxed and ready to do battle against the ravaging seven footers that were breaking.

The challenge of getting up on the “shoulder” and “carving a wave” into “power zone” instantly renewed the excitement I vividly remembered from many years of surfing and was truly great to experience again, especially after several decades. This day also brought back the memory of one particular ride as a young man, when I got “closed out”, meaning the wave suddenly collapsed beneath me. I immediately perled – crashed into the wave – which left me with the agony and embarrassment of missing my front bridge as I had severely face-planted onto my surfboard.

Being without my front teeth was a very helpless and vulnerable feeling. This was quickly alleviated by an excellent dentist that demonstrated care and compassion and restored my smile. This truly reinstilled my appreciation in dentistry. Dentistry has been and remains a dynamic profession filled with wonderful opportunities. It offers a rewarding career in an exciting field. Opportunities in the oral health delivery system abound, including the areas of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and research of oral diseases. In the 21st century, dentistry will provide an even broader variety of options to individuals involved in the oral health sciences. With the many innovative advances in technology, dynamic changes in dentistry are eagerly anticipated by dental professionals and patients alike. The future of dentistry is bright and promises to offer a gratifying career.

Dentists help people maintain and improve their oral health, quality of life and appearance. Dentists receive a great deal of personal satisfaction by providing an essential community health service, by educating future dentists and by doing valuable research. Dentists treat everyone-the healthy, the ill, the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and those with special needs. Dentistry has a distinguished history of leadership in improving world health. One of my favorite aspects of dentistry is that it is one of the few areas of healthcare that has the challenge of simultaneously treating both form and function. Most every other field in healthcare treats one or the other but not both and this makes treating patients especially difficult, but the results notably rewarding.

In retrospect, surfing has clearly reminded me of why I have such a strong commitment to dentistry. My professional career in dentistry has always required individual achievement, a strong value I borrowed from surfing, and in return both dentistry and surfing have provided an opportunity for unlimited achievement and its corresponding satisfaction.

The sport of surfing has provided me a tremendous channel for personal growth and imparts a level of defined balance that carries you throughout your entire life. It gives you the sense of overcoming great obstacles by using an inherent awareness and set of achieved skills that prepare you for many of life’s challenges, including dentistry.