Gems Publishing - August 2019

By Dr. Tom “The Gems Guy” Orent

SOMETHING MY EX-WIFE SAID ABOUT SHAWN 25 YEARS AGO

I’ll never forget Shawn (not his real name). True story. Shawn is one of the most successful dentists I know … and Shawn graduated number 150 out of 150 in my Tufts Dental School Class. He was the nicest guy, but he just didn’t have academic smarts to make the grades. Before you assume that perhaps he was gifted clinically, he was not. In fact, the poor guy just didn’t have any hand eye coordination. Oh, did I mention (I’m not making this up!) he confided in me that he was color blind, too? During orientation at Tufts Dental, Jay Stinson, our Dean of Students, told us we were on our way to being “Doctors.” “Forget the dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself competition you suffered during your undergrad pre-med days,” he said. “You made it to dental school, and, if you have the desire to graduate, we’ll do everything in our power to make sure that happens.” On the one hand, that was incredibly reassuring. I wasn’t the brightest in the class. I had pretty average grades coming out of undergrad. Eventually, though, I buckled down (in dental school) and graduated in the top 20% of my 150 “Doctor” class. Although he was addressing us all, in retrospect, Dean Stinson was really speaking to Shawn … DEAN STINSON ASSURED US WE’D ALL GRADUATE

If you’ve been on planet Gems for any length of time, you’re likely aware that my former wife and I have a great relationship. But I’ll never forget a comment she made some 25 years ago as I was entering the vortex of my “Perfect Storm” years — $1 million in debt, soon to be divorced, and being embezzled by my office manager! "How was Shawn, number 150 of 150 in our class, able to grow a booming practice from day one … while I for the better part of my first 15 years in practice, struggled just to make my minimum mortgage payments?" “Tom,” she began, “I don’t get it. We have unpaid bills stacked high on the kitchen table, can barely make the mortgage payment each month, and have criminally high- interest credit card debt that seems to grow unchecked like a malignant tumor. Yet Shawn, who had to repeat more classes than anyone in Tufts’ history and couldn’t prep a decent crown to save his life, paid off his home two years ago and just bought a second home right on the water on Cape Cod!”

#150 of 150 in his class!

The sad thing was I agreed with her. I was delivering the highest possible quality dental care and service to my patients, yet I was failing to properly provide for my family. Even though it was 25 years ago, I remember that sick-to-my-stomach feeling of anxiety and concern for our future as if it were yesterday. How was Shawn, number 150 of 150 in our graduating class, able to grow a booming successful dental practice practically from day one out of school … while I, for the better part of my first 15 years in practice, struggled just to make my monthly school loan and minimum mortgage payments?

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