“It Takes a Village to Raise a Dentist”

I was sitting at my little bean-shaped Narrator table on the lobby landing today, finishing another story, when I noticed the tell-tale signs that a graduation had just occurred: flat black boards and flowing black gowns.  Then the inevitable hat hair (only on the guys, of course).  I couldn’t tell if they were high school grads or college grads, but then a young woman entered the lobby holding an oversized Crest toothpaste balloon.  Marquette University’s new dentists.  Because I know a good handful of dental students there, I headed up to the Grand Ballroom.

“It takes a whole village to raise a dentist,” proclaimed the new Dr. Zazell Staheli to a packed crowd in the ballroom for the School of Dentistry’s graduation luncheon for the Class of 2016.  Dr. Staheli and eighty others graduated with everyone at the BMO Harris Bradley Center this morning, then were presented with their School of Dentistry diplomas at the Pfister luncheon.

This short post is about two villages.  The first, of course, is the one Dr. Staheli spoke about when she thanked everyone who helped her juggle dental school and raise a family, everyone who ever got her coffee to keep her going, everyone who helped her survive the “stressful rubber dam final.”  To her classmates and the hundreds of friends and family present, her challenge was to “be involved,” whether that meant mentoring, volunteering, giving back to the community, or something entirely different.  She called her new title–doctor–a “leadership title” that charged her and everyone else to lead by example, to “be the difference” (echoing Marquette’s motto).  I learned from the Marquette Magazine that Dr. Staheli hails from Kiana, a small town in Alaska of fewer than 400 mostly Iñupiaq Eskimos, surrounded by remote villages that are 30-150 miles away.  She will be returning to Alaska and will be providing her hometown and its neighboring villages with dental services, something that used to be difficult to come by.  Talk about giving back to her community.  It helps that she’s a commercial pilot.  Here she is being featured on National Geographic’s Alaska Wing Men.

Now, onto the second village.  One of this year’s graduates is Dr. Ben Schwabe, who will be leaving soon to serve in the Dental Corps at the Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois.  Today, he was commissioned by Capt. Brian Hodgson, DC, USN, as part of the ceremony.

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Commissioning ceremony. Dr. Ben Schwabe, second from right.

In a moment of insight and profundity, he recalled his first time actually “getting in there” (my quotes).  “It was our Dentures course.  These people, of course, have no teeth, which is kind of funny.  At first, we’re all timid, holding the patients’ jaws open, kind of looking there.”  He bobbed his head around as if searching for something to polish or pull out.  “Now, we can just pry their jaws open and move in.  No problem.” In all serious, though, Dr. Schwabe is going to miss being part of the village of classmates and teachers.  He said, “Going through hell with people who are going through the same thing as you–that’s what I’m going to miss the most.  And not ‘hell,’ really, but rigor.”

I know Ben as a former “tribe” leader (along with Daniel Birk Graham) for November Project Milwaukee, a free and fun fitness group that meets every Wednesday and Friday at 6:26 am for cardio and strength training that always ends with sweaty hugs and high fives.

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Our teeth look pretty good!

When Ben learned that he’d been offered the residency at the Naval Station Great Lakes, he passed the torch to a new leader.  For almost two years, I have been “raised” into something close to my best self by Daniel and Ben (now Roger).  Here’s an example of our November Project village’s farewell workout for Ben (I mean “Dr. Schwabe”), a testament to how much he means to our village/tribe:

And more photos from today:

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Preparing to process into the Grand Ballroom.
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Doctoral robes. Designed for comfort.
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Fancy mirror shot. Everyone proud of Ben!
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Ben and his grandparents.