More than a 15 years ago, I worked with this man, J. Carbone. He is the dental chief at a VA Hospital. Every few months he comes up to visit his former residents and see how they’re doing. I happen to be one of them. Today, it was my turn.
When we first met, Dr. Carbone was so nice and quiet. All the other directors spoke and he hardly said anything. As the months passed during my residency, I got in a couple of disagreements with the head director of my residency. I fought for a 4 y.o. boy to NOT undergo sedation because he was cooperative. But since he was referred to us by a pedodontist, I apparently overstepped my bound. “Do you think you know more than a specialist, Ms. Vu?” No, I don’t but…I was right. The boy was cooperative for my co-residents and myself. During a disciplinary session, Dr. Carbone spoke up and said, “…but she was right.” That vindicated me and spared me of any further reprimands.
Then I got in trouble again because I encouraged my co-resident to go with her gut feeling and not do a hemisection (cutting a tooth in half) on a molar for a patient. But that was against my other director’s recommended treatment. Instead, I referred the patient back to his physician for an ear exam. Because my co-resident took my advice and not our director's, we both got in trouble. As it turned out, the patient had an ear infection. Yet we still had to face a panel of “judges.” Again, Dr. Carbone said, “…but she was right.” So again, I was spared.
As I was losing points with some directors, I was gaining them with others. I had one co-director sending me his private pay patients when they needed hospital dentistry. He made sure I was there to treat them. When I was not on the schedule, he pulled me from my other rotations. So that was my saving grace as I was beginning to question my choice of residency. I was having a hard time with my new title as “dentist”, making my own decisions, but only to have them be questioned later. My ego took a hit. As if that wasn’t punishment enough, my heart was wounded. A lot was going through my head. I was trying to decide if I even wanted to be in dentistry. It was rough.
Subsequently when I finally got around to working with Dr. Carbone; he was anxious. He sat down and talked to me, as we were treatment planning for patients. Then he confessed that he was apprehensive about my working there before I came. But now he just sees a talented young lady with a strong mind. Actually, if you ask him, he would probably say, “She was determined and so smart. I saved her butts A LOT.” Honestly, by the time I got to the VA, I wasn’t putting up with another male ego. I knew what I was doing. I had gained a lot of experience. There were only 3 females in my class. The other 2 had decided they were not going to continue to work in dentistry so they gave me all their tough cases. One went into a MBA program and the other just took some time off right after graduation.
So when I talked to Dr. Carbone, it was more like telling him what my plans were and not asking him for a confirmation. He was impressed. I can see him in awe sometimes because I was not intimidated. He allowed me to learn what interested me and experience all the surgeries I wanted to do. It was so much fun. I began to love dentistry again. So Dr. Carbone and I sat and talked for the next few months. He showed me the wide spectrum of dentistry and I appreciated it. But he wasn’t always nice. He put a stop to my friends requesting a “Dr. Vu” dental consult for their patients in the ward. He said, “Those boys need to stop trying to ask you out.” That was hilarious. I had no idea they were trying that. You gotta love this man. He knows how to boost my ego and self-confidence. Ever since then, we remained friends.
I wanted to take a picture of us. Apparently, he doesn’t know what a selfie entails. He kept going towards the phone. I asked him to just sit still and yet, he wanted to see how it works. That’s why all the pictures are blurry. It was entertaining. Did I mention he just recently got a cell phone last year?