Something to be thankful for

As we prepare our hearts, minds, and bellies for the season of thanksgiving, I found a symbolic comparison of those English immigrants and refugees to the journey dentists take. The definition of a pilgrim is a person who travels to a holy place for religious reasons. In a sense we are a 21st century pilgrim as we travel for a decade and sacrifice our pleasures and time for the chance to earn our doctorate in dentistry. The black robes we wore on graduation day is a legacy of the same cloth worn by clergy in the Middle Ages. The road to medicine is in fact a journey, a pilgrimage. A medical attendant/pilgrim entrusted to heal those entrusted to their care is the fusion of holiness and science.

dr. Norlin

Those pilgrims of yore could have stayed in their status quo, not rocking the boat of the ruling English elite, or moved to Holland that allowed religious freedom. Instead, they wanted more, their hopes and dreams for something better than their current state. We could have walked so many different paths, roads, adventures, but for whatever reasons, opportunities or influences, dentistry was the course we set for our sails.

Like the pilgrims, we thought the grass would be greener, the balance between life and work would be easier and our mental/spiritual would flourish. Those who decided to make that journey to the new world were struck by the brutal realities of crop failures, frigid weather, hungry bellies and funerals of loved ones. The dreams of dentistry can seem more like a nightmare with debt, saturation, lower insurance rates, competition, damage to your body, shrinking middle class, COVID-19 and more and more angry patients.

When the pilgrims came to fulfill their personal and spiritual beliefs, they were also exposed to mental and spiritual trauma. While we may not die from the elements, disease, or malnutrition, many of our minds are crushed. Let’s face it, Americans and especially the young medical and dental professionals are calling for help with burnout, anxiety, depression and suicide rates that can be four times higher than the general population and even twice as high as veterans and members of the military. armed forces. In August 2020, the ADA Health Policy Institute conducted a study on the impact of COVID-19 on dentists under the age of 35. Responses showed that 87% reported experiencing anxiety, 76% reported financial problems and 55% reported experiencing depression. If you are in pain, please reach out to someone, especially during this holiday season.

I am sure many of those pilgrims asked questions and regretted why they left their familiar homes to a new place they were told was the promised land. Instead, they were tormented by need, despair, and death. The fulfillment and hope seemed to crumble into fables and lies. I know some dentists who are looking for other jobs and careers outside of dentistry. After the sacrifice to earn this PhD and new dentists willing to leave, it becomes clear what real challenges this profession faces.

In the fall of 1621 AD, exactly 400 years ago, the first recorded Thanksgiving took place. After months of hardships and trials, that happy moment must also have been a gloomy one. There were relatives whose smiles and smiles would never grace an earthly table, and the survivors still bear the scars of physical and emotional trauma as they hope for the future.

Even on our best work days, holidays and weekends, we can probably remember those hard days, the time we spent away from loved ones with an ever-demanding schedule, the pain in the arms and back, the stress of rising costs and falling wages. , the worries of a company or no show constantly tugging at your head or even just the mundaneness of trying to keep a tongue out of MODBL prep on #18.

To earn a seat on the table of the family of dentistry, the pilgrimage is voluminous, labor-intensive and challenging. It has its blessing, it has its curse. Some of us are excited and happy to be seated at this table, others may be sorry and can’t wait to leave, and others look somewhere in between. But take heart, we are still pilgrims drawn to a sacred place in search of well-being for our souls, and each day is a journey you decide to take. That’s something to be thankful for.

*If you don’t have a dentist to talk to about the stresses of our profession, stresses in life, etc., don’t hesitate to email me at

dr. Casey Norlin is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and attended Oregon Health and Science University. He comes from a rural background and lives with his beautiful wife in Oregon City, Oregon. Casey works in public health, was a volunteer firefighter/advanced EMT for Colton Rural Fire District, an assistant professor for OHSU SOD, and is an army dentist for the ORANG 41st Infantry Brigade. As of now, he still hasn’t decided what he wants to do when he “grows up”.

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