Nathanson Dental - April & May 2018

Apr/May 2018

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MY 90 MINUTES OF FAME How I Ended Up a 3-Time Winner on ‘Jeopardy!’

and won the first game! (The correct response, if you’re curious, was “Who is Lyndon B. Johnson?”). After winning that first game, I felt like I’d managed to prove myself and began to relax. I went on to win two more games, with all three filmed over the course of a single day. Eventually, I was bested by a schoolteacher from Knoxville, Tennessee. I went home from that once-in-a-lifetime experience with some incredible memories. I also went home with some welcome winnings, which I used to pay off a couple of loans and to do some upgrades around the house. When the shows aired the following February, I was fortunate enough to have the privilege using my newfound “fame” to promote Children’s Dental Health Month, setting up my own “Dental Jeopardy!” game at a few local schools and appearing on the local news. My love for special facts and knowledge extends beyond game shows, though. As a dentist, I’m constantly searching for new things to learn. It’s my belief that, in all things, if you’re not a constant student, doing everything you can to absorb the latest knowledge and information, you’re not going to be the best you can be. I’m proud to say that I work hard to learn something new every day, making myself not just a better Jeopardy contestant, but a more engaged and knowledgeable health care practitioner. My patients deserve it! –Dr. Joel Nathanson 443.275.9643 • 1

tremendously excited. I was going to be on TV, competing on one of my favorite shows of all time! Fast-forward and I was in the greenroom of one of the most recognizable television sets in history with a group of my fellow contestants after running through a practice round onstage. Alex Trebek came in to give us a pep talk. “This is a unique experience,” he told us. “You’re here to have fun, yes, but you’re also here to compete. Still, with that in mind, each of you really should still try to be friends with one another.” He continued, “You’re a very, very small subset of the general population to have made it this far. You should be proud to be here, whatever happens.” He was so at ease, and he was eager to make us feel comfortable as well. I thought it was a classy gesture — I knew he didn’t need to take time out of his busy day to speak to us, and it meant a lot that he did. When I was finally called from the pool of competitors, I was thrilled. Standing out there behind my podium next to two incredibly intelligent contestants, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to manage smiling and looking into the camera as if I was completely comfortable. But after a couple of technical difficulties that forced them to introduce us two separate times, we began to chuckle together, and the nervousness pretty much evaporated. As it turned out, I didn’t have much to be nervous about anyway. When the time came for the Final Jeopardy round, I had pulled well ahead of the others. With some careful thought and deduction, I answered correctly

Ever since I was young, I’ve always been fascinated by “obscure” facts and knowledge, little tidbits that help make the world a more interesting place. But when I appeared on the game show “Jeopardy!” in 1986, my status as a “trivia buff” upgraded to a full-blown “trivia professional.” I went from giving responses to Alex Trebek from the comfort of my living room to being an actual contestant having a blast onstage. My wife and I had been fans of the show for years, dutifully watching it nearly every night. When they announced that they were going to be searching for contestants in Baltimore, we practically fell over each other trying to find a pen to write the studio phone number down. A week or so later on my lunch break, I found myself completing a written test of 50 trivia questions with a time limit of just 13 minutes. From 250 people, they whittled it down to about twenty of us, assessing our stage presence by the way we answered questions with a “ding!” from some hand-held hotel bells. They got our information, gave us the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” line, and sent us on our way. Months went by. The day before Rosh Hashanah, while I was getting ready to depart for Savannah, Georgia, where I was serving as a cantor for the Jewish high holidays, I came home to a message on the answering machine from the showrunners — I was in! The next day, fresh off the flight to Savannah, I found a payphone — no cell phones in those days — and called the network to confirm the dates for the following month. Needless to say, I was

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