Keepers of the Meaning

November 8, 2019 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

In 2003, I was fortunate to dine with Pete Dawson and he spoke about his friendship with Dr. Morty Amsterdam and how he so enjoyed coming to Philadelphia. He spoke about L.D. Pankey. At one point he said something I will never forget, he said, “You know, L.D. was no fluke.” I asked what he meant. He told me, “L.D. really loved dentists and loved the dental profession. That is what drove him.”  

Dr. Dawson was no fluke, either.

Through his writings and teaching of over 50 years, he was a warrior for meaningful, excellent and dutiful dentistry. When news Pete’s passing came, tens of thousands of dentists all over the world wrote about how much he meant to their lives and careers. He had carried the torch of meaningful comprehensive dentistry into the hearts and minds of dentists for as long as I can remember. 

I carry a coin in my wallet which readsMemento Mori. The Stoics used that phrase to remind themselves that everyone is mortal. “You could leave life right now.” When the news of his passing came, I was shocked. Joan Forest reported that Pete was prepared and yet on the Tuesday before he was still preparing lectures and writing a chapter for a new book. I guess that is what the keepers of meaning do right to the end. 

Excellence, duty, and meaning are the primary sources of Stoic joy.

Not the surface cheerfulness and pleasure that we have come to know on social media. The essence of what L.D. and Pete taught led to real inner happiness. I know it did for me.  

Erik Erikson, the developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on the psychological development of human beings, described the last tasks of adult development as generativity and keeper of the meaningErikson claimed that if one completed these tasks, the reward would be a full life. 

As the Pankey Institute continues passing on the knowledge of meaningful comprehensive dentistry to younger dentists (from one generation to the next) and to never waiver on the meaning of dentistry for patients and dental professionals, there is true potential for a new generation to become keepers of the meaning. And this makes me smile. 

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About Author

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Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Dr. Polansky has delivered comprehensive cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, and implant dentistry for more than 35 years. He was born in the Bronx, New York in January 1948. The doctor graduated from Queens College in 1969 and received his DMD degree in 1973 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Following graduation, Dr. Polansky spent two years in the US Army Dental Corps, stationed at Fort. Dix, New Jersey. In 1975, Dr. Polansky entered private practice in Medford Lakes. Three years later, he built his second practice in the town in which he now lives, Cherry Hill. Dr. Polansky wrote his first article for Dental Economics in 1995 – it was the cover article. Since that time Dr. Polansky has earned a reputation as one of dentistry's best authors and dental philosophers. He has written for many industry publications, including Dental Economics, Dentistry Today, Dental Practice and Finance, and Independent Dentistry (a UK publication).

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