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Dr. Joe Vaughn

End-of-Year Review: A Time for Family, Holidays, and Reflection

WSDA member Dr. Joe Vaughn reflects on 2017 and his first full year as a new dentist.
seattle skyline

This is the view from my office window. On any given day, I spend most of my down time just looking out that window, staring at my city and the Sound, and the way the sun reflects off the buildings as it rises behind me.

I love looking out this window. I imagine we all would. Why do we love beautiful views so much? Why do we go out of our way to see a sunset? Or spend an hour staring up at the starry night?

They are beautiful sights, yes. But staring at these things, things that are larger than ourselves, like the setting sun or the Milky Way, give us a moment of escape. A place for our mind to go. A reason to divert our attention away from the rat race and have some reflection. 

This December is a lot of things. A time for friends and family, for generosity, for holiday cheer. But most importantly, it’s a time for reflection. A chance to look back at 2017. To reflect on our options, our choices, the mistakes we made, the things we did right, the accomplishments and successes we had. And it’s also a time to look forward to the year to come. A time to think about resolutions we might make at the turning of the year. 

My first full year as a new dentist was 2017. It was many things for me, but more than anything, it was a battle of professional emotions. I had really good days, and I had really bad days. I made many mistakes. I learned many lessons. And overall, 2017 made me a better member of this profession. 

In July I wrote an article for the ADA New Dentist blog called “The dark days of dentistry.” You can imagine what kind of day I was having when I began writing it. Of all the events surrounding that post, what was most impressive to me was the response I received. Many dentists, a lot of whom probably read this magazine, spoke up. They commented online. They sent me private messages. A couple of them offered to take me to lunch. They all reached out with empathy and stories of encouragement, assuring me that everyone has the dark days, but they’ll surely pass, and the profession will always show its true colors when the dust settles. 

I’ve learned that dentists truly love their profession. Most importantly, dentists care about their fellow members. We care about each other. And that alone makes me proud to be a part of this profession.  

I sat at a HealthPoint benefit dinner recently and listened as Cheryl Strayed stood on stage and talked about her life. For most of her childhood, she lived below the poverty line. She was a child to a struggling single mother. By all accounts, her life was on track to be average and insignificant. But she decided to change that course. Today Cheryl is an author. A multi-time New York Times best-selling author who wrote the book “Wild,” which was later made into a movie. 

You see, we can be anything we want to be. This world knows no limits. 

The most important thing I’ve learned this year is that we all have a choice. Not only in what kind of person or dentist we want to be, but a choice in each and every moment. A choice of how to use it, how to view it, and what to do with it. 

And so, as I think about what I am and where I’ve come from, and the things I’ve done and seen this year, I’m filled with hope. Hope for what is to come. The world just brimming with opportunities.

So this December, as you’re wrapping up your year, or as you sit by the fire with your family during the holidays, make some time for reflection. And as you reflect upon the year and all it brought, see it for all that it was. The good and the bad, the easy and the not-so-easy. The choices you had to make, and the lessons you learned from them. And then look forward. What will 2018 bring? What challenges and choices and new opportunities? Where will you go? What will you do? Who will you choose to be?  
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