This article originally appeared as a news article in the January 2015 issue of ASDA News. At the time, Laura Nelson was an associate on ASDA’s Council on Communications. ASDA’s new print publication is a magazine called Contour. You can read Contour here.
For many of us, dentistry is a dream job. And for some, it’s a profession that lets us chase our other dreams.
Dr. T. Bob Davis saw dentistry as a chance to keep up with a childhood passion. He started playing piano as a kid, and his first memory is of watching “Goodnight Irene” and trying to play songs from the movie on a piano. Dr. Davis took lessons throughout high school and began recording albums in dental school. He played for, as he puts it, “Anybody and everybody that would listen.” Dr. Davis has traveled all over the world to perform and played concerts in Japan, Mexico and Europe. His favorite memory is performing the national anthem for the Academy of General Dentistry in the 1980s. This past year he created a combination of God Bless America and America The Beautiful for the meeting.
Dr. Davis says pursuing a second passion has kept him busy and contributing in a unique way to the profession. He now plays for his church and organizes mission trips for dental students to Guatemala. He tells students to start chasing their dreams outside of dentistry early and try to link them to your dental career.
“Sometimes you can inspire people,” he says.
But pursuing a second vocation doesn’t need to start at such a young age. Dr. Jon Kolon started his second profession while in college at the University of Michigan. He worked at a local bicycle business through undergrad and dental school, and now owns Dharma Wheels Cyclery, a bicycle shop in Park City, Utah. Although this career started as a hobby, Dr. Kolon says dental students should begin any venture with a business plan. He finds that his bicycle shop and dental business are related in many ways. He says making a business plan isn’t so different from creating a private dental practice. The bicycle shop shares one of its locations with his dental office.
“The No. 1 thing is being able to work with people,” says Dr. Kolon. “And when the going gets tough (because it will),” he says, “Never give up the ship!”
Dr. Kolon says a second vocation is important for keeping balance in your life, but he recommends being flexible and knowing your limits so you can be successful in each business separately. His suggestion for dental students interested in work outside of dentistry is to be honest with yourself and the people around you.
Dr. John Syrbu has built an entire second career doing just that. He’s is an author and artist whose works include “The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry” and the Facebook page, “Dental Art & Humor.” He is also currently working on a social medial marketing guide for dentists. Dr. Syrbu says he’s been drawing since he could hold a pencil. His interests in art and dentistry came together when he started doodling during dental school lectures. He published cartoons in ASDA News, and realized it was possible not only to practice dentistry, but to draw and write it, too.
Although Dr. Syrbu’s work outside of dentistry has led him back into the profession, one of his favorite aspects of the job is that it allows him time to pursue other passions.
“You can make a decent living and have time to explore other interests,” he says. He also encourages students to start their second vocations early and to keep doing what they enjoy, regardless of the results. He’s proof that a second vocation can contribute to the dental profession. His drawings and books explain dentistry to audiences like pre-dental students and patients that may know nothing about it. Each of these dentists has worked hard to chase their dream jobs, but they also show us that a life of dentistry doesn’t need to involve dentistry alone. If you’re worried about giving up one of your interests to pursue dentistry, remember the stories of these dentists. You may not need to let your profession get in the way of your passion.
~Dr. Laura Nelson, Houston ’16