When I graduated from dental school in 1978, retirement was the furthest idea in my mind. I was setting sail on a new career the end of which was so, so many years away. We were told in school to start preparing early in our career for retirement and financially I did. I really never gave much thought about giving it all up until my last year in practise.
The last two weeks in July were my traditional time to take vacation. Year after year, I blocked that time off as soon as the schedule for the next year was available. It was a time for us to enjoy family vacations and recharge. I always felt relaxed and after a two week break ready to get right back to the office. After 35 years in practise and at the end of my two-week break, I did not have that feeling that I was ready to head back into the office. I had a sense that change was coming.
My initial reaction was to kick the can down the road a bit. I told my wife Sandra that if this feeling did not go away, then I think it was time to look into a change. I enjoyed dentistry and working in my practise. Things were going very well. I had great patients and a great staff, yet I was considering giving it all up.
My life verse is Proverbs 3:5-6, and I have found that He indeed is faithful to direct my path. I gave my career direction to the Lord. I said when I was an undergrad student that I did not care where He would lead me as long as I could serve Him in that field. When I applied to get into dentistry and subsequent to this, I have always felt His calling, and now I felt a calling to change.
I started to investigate how to transition out of practise. I hired a company to evaluate my practise and then to find a dentist to take it over. Everything went smoothly and a buyer was found. All within the course of 2 months, I went from full time practice to full time retirement.
I was excited by the prospect this new chapter in life was bringing. It was different to wake up each day without having to go to the office. I missed the staff and the patients, but there is something refreshing knowing that there is no rush to get to the office each morning. I have found that our days are full with other things. In fact, with more time to babysit grandchildren, and visit aging parents, I sometimes wonder how I had time for running a practise.
I still have my toe in the dentistry pool. Sandra and I have always been involved in short term dental missions throughout my career. I first went on one as a dental student with CMDA Canada and I continued over the years to participate on and lead some dental missions. In our first year of retirement, we went on a medical mission to Honduras. We were staying at a mission run school in the country and visited the local villages with the medical and dental team. One day was dedicated to seeing the 100 plus students enrolled in the school. Needless to say, even with the two dentists on the team, we were able to do little more than handle a few dental emergencies. I asked the school if next year I could come a week earlier than the team and just see the students and assess their dental needs. We have been doing this for 5 years now. We are going for over 3 weeks each time to examine all of the children and treat their dental needs. For many it is their first time ever to visit the dentist and treating their dental needs at the start of the school year allows them to be free of any dental needs during the year.
I asked the Lord in my undergrad year. allow me to serve where you call me. Retirement is the next chapter in my life and I still feel the Lord’s leading and my serving. I am thankful for the career that I had in dentistry and I am now enjoying the next phase of that career, retirement.
When I first started in practise, a gentleman in our church had just retired. I asked him how he was enjoying retirement and he said, “I highly recommend it” and I do too!