Posts Tagged ‘ School ’

Just Call Me Dr. Mom

Monday, October 24th, 2011

I work in a pretty male-dominated profession.  It’s not so much that way anymore– my dental school class was pretty much 50/50, but historically most dentists are men, and like most fields, it is slow to change.

Because of this, and also partially because I am short and skinny and look younger than I am, patients usually think I’m a hygienist or assistant or nurse.  (Let’s hear it in the comments from the female doctors and dentists out there… I know I’m not the only one with this problem.)  I don’t have anything against any of those professions, but since I have been working my butt off in school for, let’s see, my entire life, I would prefer that people not automatically assume that that isn’t the case.

Usually I laugh it off.  But sometimes, especially when it’s the third or fourth comment I’ve heard that day, I am not so nice about it.

Patient: (nervously, as I pick up a syringe) The doctor’s going to take this tooth out… right?

Me: Yup.

Patient: Well, where is he?

Me: She’s right here.

Or…

Me: Hi, I’m Dr. Landry, it’s nice to meet you.

Elderly male patient: You’re the dentist??  I thought you were the nurse!  I didn’t think women were allowed to be the doc!  HAR HAR HAR!

Me: Oh yes, actually, we can vote now and everything.

(Hey, I’m a dentist, okay?  We never claimed to be nice.)

It makes me think about the world my daughter will grow up in and work in.  I mean, it’s 2011, right?  This kind of stuff isn’t supposed to be an issue anymore.  I suppose that in most ways, the important ways, it’s not.  I plan to raise Caroline the way my parents raised me– not making a big deal out of it at all: it’s not a problem for a woman to be a doctor or a cop or a politician or any of the other “traditionally male” professions, nor is it a special accomplishment for us to become any of those things.  Boy or girl, you can be what you want to be and what you work hard to be, and that is that.

But it is still irritating for me to face it multiple times a day, every day.  Those ideas are still out there and they are more pervasive than they might seem.  My female colleagues and I see it whenever a patient assumes we are an assistant or asks for a male provider out of some misguided notion that we are less competent.  Female dentists I know have told me that they had difficulty finding their first job out of school because the wife of their would-be boss threw down the veto on having an attractive, young female associate.  When I chose to become a dentist I did not think my success would depend on anything other than how hard I worked and how good my hands were.  It is disheartening to learn that that is not necessarily the case.

So, maybe that’s the way it is.  Maybe I have to work a little harder to gain the respect and trust of my patients because I happened to be born not-male.  I’ve worked hard enough to get where I am that I’ll do it.

And my daughter can be whatever she wants to be, and if necessary, I’ll teach her to do the same.

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Dentists Are People, Too

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

As a dentist, I’m well aware of the stereotypes that are out there about us.  We are not popular people.  Dentists are mean, cold, sadistic, and chronically running behind schedule, right?  I get where some of that comes from.  I mean, we stick people with needles and do things that hurt.  And some dentists truly are just a–holes.

Example: a dramatization of a true story, told to one of my friends:

SCENE: dark smoky cigar bar with plush couches and cleavagey waitresses.  A group of old men dentists are kicking back after their grueling 3-day work week, drinking pricey bourbon.  The leader of the pack adjusts his cravat, which I think is like a tie for rich people, or is at least French for tie.  He takes a drag off his expensive cigar.  ”You know who’s not doing this right now?” he asks his companions.  ”Poor people.”  They all laugh.

(What the what?!)

But we’re not all like that!  Dentists are people too.  And you should treat us as such.  Just sayin’.

I mean, it gets pretty old when several people per day walk into your office and tell you “I hate the dentist.”  In what other profession is it okay to walk into the room, meet someone, shake their hand, and then tell them you hate them?

Or say you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks what you do for a living.  You say, “I’m a dentist.”  Basically it is completely socially acceptable for someone at the table to say “You are?  I hate you!”  And everyone else can totally laugh because it’s hilarious and they all hate you too.  It’s okay if you go home and cry yourself to sleep because no one likes you.  You deserve it.  Because you’re a dentist.

And talk about unrealistic expectations.  People will come in for an initial visit with me, and demand that I take this tooth out OMGRIGHTNOW because it’s been killing them for months and they can’t wait one more day.  Well listen here, your tooth didn’t get that way overnight so maybe you should have come in a little sooner and I can’t push back the rest of my schedule because then everyone in the waiting room will be grumping about dentists and their “sundial schedules” and you wouldn’t like it if I did that to you, now would you?  (Of course I’m a pushover and can’t stand to see people in pain, so I take the tooth out anyway.  Usually.)

Or they’ll come in with a list of things they want done, but don’t want to hear about what they actually need to have done.  Example:

Patient: I want my teeth whitened.

Me: You have ten thousand cavities.  Let’s take care of those first.

Patient: I want my teeth to be at least 47 shades whiter than they are right now.  Do you do Zoom whitening?

Me: Let’s focus on this giant abscess that is giving you a fever right now.

Patient: I want my teeth to be so white that they blind people permanently as they walk by me.  Like, unnaturally white.  Picket fence.  Chiclets.

Me: This infection is really bad.  You are most likely going to die.

Patient: You must not have heard me when I said I wanted whitening.

Me: You must not have heard me when I said your face is going to fall off.

Patient: Do you do Zoom whitening?

We want to help you, people.  Well, maybe the bourbon guys I told you about earlier don’t care too much about helping you.  But I do.  I promise.  So next time you go to the dentist, remember: we are people too.

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Teeth: They’re Taking Over My Life

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I know, I know.  I asked for it.

I went to school for 22 years to become a dentist.  Then, after dental school, I chose to do a residency rather than immediately go into practice.  Just because I asked for it doesn’t mean I appreciate the teeth taking over, though.  I’m just sayin’.

So every day, I go to class from 8 to 9.  Then I work in the clinic from 9 to 5.  Two or three nights a month, I’m on call, so I’m at the hospital until 10pm and then I take the beeper home.  Some of those days include weekends, so I’m at the hospital all day Saturday or Sunday.

That’s a lot of teeth.

One of the points of my residency is to learn how to treat patients who are medically complicated or otherwise difficult to handle.  It doesn’t mean all my patients are difficult to manage in some way, but a lot of them are.  Is it violating HIPAA to give you a short, anonymous list of the craziness I deal with on a daily basis for your entertainment?  We’re about to find out!  I’ve had a patient who claimed he was abducted by aliens and had his entire skeleton replaced with steel (do I have to premedicate for that?), a patient who faked a code blue (life-threatening medical emergency) in order to get out of having a filling done, a patient whose “chief complaint” was clicking and popping of her jaw during the performance of, ahem, certain personal activities.  I’ve been sprayed with pus while treating abscesses, accidentally stuck myself with a dirty needle, and on one memorable on-call occasion at around 9:30pm, pulled half of a fingernail out from between someone’s two front teeth.

Yup, I said half of a fingernail.  I suppose it’s better than half of a toenail.

It’s not all craziness, though.  I actually got to place my first dental implant all by myself this week:

And I get to do all kinds of things that I didn’t learn about in dental school.  And it’s great to have the supervision and help there if I need it, and pretty much total independence and autonomy if I don’t need it.  Of course, the best part of it all is… there’s never a dull moment!

Anyway, back to how teeth are taking over my life.  Caroline is getting her last two teeth in, slowly and painfully for both of us (can I get a hallelujah for being almost done with teething?!), and she informs me daily that she, too, is a dentist:

She must have done some kind of accelerated degree program.  I should have looked into that.

Do you ever feel like your work is taking over your life?  How do you get back on track to a more balanced lifestyle?  Right now I feel like I’m totally drowning in it!

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Remembering September 11

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

The tenth anniversary of September 11 is right around the corner.  Somehow, it seems like forever ago and just last week, all at the same time.  I have to say that I have an entirely different perspective on the event at this point than I did when it actually happened.

The morning of September 11, 2001, I was seventeen, in my senior year of high school.  I was in biology lab, and I vividly remember that I was dissecting a fetal pig, because it was disgusting.  One of my classmates raced in, yelling that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and something about fires on the National Mall and that they were pretty sure the world was ending.  My reaction was pretty much a frightened and confused “huh?” but then it was time to change classes, and I went to English class, and there the teacher turned on the TV.  He turned it on just a few minutes before the second tower fell.

Dead silence in the room.  We were all scared.  It was hard to believe that something so unbelievably catastrophic could be happening less than two hours away from where we sat.

All day, we watched news coverage, and then I went home and watched some more.  For me, it was the first time in my young adult life that I could tell that no one in authority really knew what to do or say.  The newscasters seemed bewildered.  My parents seemed stunned.  Everyone seemed afraid.  My mom hesitantly told me that I should stop watching it, but then she sat down and watched it with me.  No one knew what to do and to a kid, who is used to following and obeying, that is a really scary and unsettling thing to realize.

That day, I was a kid.  On this tenth anniversary of that day, I have a kid.  I live in a completely different world now than I did then.  (Although I guess, in a way, we all do.)

What would I say to her, if this happened again, and she was the one who was seventeen?  If it happened while she was preparing to leave home for the first time in her life to go to college several states away, like I did?  It’s a terrifying thing, when it dawns on you that something so terrible has happened that your parents cannot protect you and in fact, they are terrified themselves.  How do you explain to a kid the concept of evil?

I have no idea.  And I hope that I never have to figure it out.

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Family Court: Promoting Hostility?

Monday, August 8th, 2011

child support

To be honest, the family court system served me pretty well throughout my divorce.  Everything went smoothly and efficiently.  Tyler and I were able to do everything without lawyers, and we ended our marriage on relatively good terms.

We’re having a little bit of an issue with the system now, though.  And the issue is with child support.

I try to avoid talking about money and child support on my blog, especially because it appears to get people worked up if I talk about how cash-poor I am these days.  (I mean listen, I may technically be a dentist, but for now and the immediate future, I’m basically one missed child support payment away from switching to “the family cloth” (google it), okay people?)  But this topic doesn’t exactly have to do with money, so I’m going for it.

I’m not a fan of how the system forces everything to be so hostile.  Here’s the story: when we got divorced, I was still in school, so I had no income, and I filed for child support accordingly… with the mutual understanding between Tyler and I that we would modify the order to reduce his payments once I started residency and started making a little bit of money.  (It isn’t fair now that I have a job, of course, for him to continue paying as much as he did when I had no income at all.)  Now that time has come, so we went to see what we had to do to make that happen.

We figured we’d just re-do the calculations and have the order modified.  But oh, no.  Apparently not.  Apparently he has to sue me for the modification, pay a fee, pay to have me served with papers by a state marshal, and both of us have to go back to court.  It’s L, Tyler v. L, Julia all over again.  And then, next July when I get a “real” job, my income will change again, so he’d have to sue me again.

I mean really, Connecticut?  This is nobody versus anybody.  This is two parents, who have struggled enough in the past to civilly co-parent their child, working together to figure out who is financially responsible for what, and for how much.  Yes, I do understand that all of this is supposed to promote fairness, objectivity, and equality for both parties.  But when it comes to family cases, there is already enough discord between the parties, and it’s so important for the children involved that things stay civil and friendly… why is it set up this way?

We have worked so hard to develop a coparenting relationship, and now we have to take a step backwards with something that is a simple, straightforward calculation?  Can’t there be a way for us to fill out the requisite paperwork and file for the order to be granted without having a lawsuit involved?

So we are going to do our best to calculate it on our own, outside of court.  We’ll come to an agreement on a new amount.  There won’t be any documentation, but I think I can be counted on to be mature enough not to go running to Support Enforcement Services about how he’s legally required to be paying me x and is only paying me y.  He might not be my favorite person, but I’m not out to screw him– I just want him to financially support his child in an appropriate manner, in accordance with his income and mine.  And in that respect, we are 100% on the same page.

With all of that said, it is encouraging that we both feel the same way about it, and are willing to come together and figure it out all on our own, for our daughter’s benefit.  The system might have to be set up in a way that promotes hostility, but fortunately, that doesn’t mean we have to operate that way.

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