Is your dental team Boston Strong?

Nov. 6, 2013
April 15 and October 30 in 2013 will forever be linked in the collective memory of Boston history — one day so tragic and unbelievable, and the other so exhilarating and unbelievable — the Boston Marathon bombings and the Boston Red Sox World Series Championship.

By Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH

April 15 and October 30 in 2013 will forever be linked in the collective memory of Boston history — one day so tragic and unbelievable, and the other so exhilarating and unbelievable — the Boston Marathon bombings and the Boston Red Sox World Series Championship. From the opening pitch on that fateful April morning to the horrific bombing event that afternoon, to the subsequent manhunt and week-long pursuit ending in Watertown on Friday to David Ortiz’s (Big Papi) “This is our [expletive] city” speech and the beginnings of Boston Strong, to the incredible season the Boston Red Sox put together, these events will forever be a sign of triumph over tragedy.

The third Monday in April is a semi-legal holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Patriots Day. The day is set aside to remember the Battles of Lexington and Concord that began the American Revolution. Marathon Monday coincides with Patriots Day and is the annual running of the Boston Marathon, a 26-mile grueling race from west of Boston in Hopkinton to downtown Boston. The day begins at 5 a.m. with a reenactment of the Battle on the Lexington Green, shifts to Boston with a late morning game for the Boston Red Sox that ends as the runners are making their way into the city.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to have a perch working in an office at the crossroads of these two events, witnessing the crowd exiting from the ballgame converging with spectators cheering on the runners as they made their way down the final miles. An awe-inspiring vision. But Marathon Monday will now also represent a tragedy so horrific that it is indescribable. But the Boston Red Sox were the ticket that has helped the city heal to some extent.

After a disastrous 2012 season, 2013 was to be a rebuilding year with a number of new faces and veterans returning under a new manager. The events of that week in April bonded the team to the city in a way that has not been seen before from any sports team. Yes, there have been individual players from various professional teams who have endeared themselves to the city, but never an entire team. This band of “bearded brothers” kept hope alive when the city was at its darkest. Many players have reportedly “adopted” many of the victims and their families and during the Championship Parade invited them to be a part of the celebration as well.

But what does all of this have to do with dentistry and dental hygiene you may ask?

We don’t deal with life and death in our daily practice so what lessons has this for me? It comes down to teamwork. It was the strangers who rushed to save others working as a team in the moments after the bombings. It was the teams of first responders and medical professionals who cared for the injured. It was the team of the Boston Red Sox that brought about the World Series Championship. Does your practice function as a team? Does the clinical team communicate effectively with the business team and vice versa? Does the doctor(s) respect and appreciate the little things the team does on a daily basis to provide the utmost in patient care, does the team respect and appreciate the doctor(s) for what she/he/they may do? Are you focused as a team on patient-centered care? What steps can you take to focus on communication and patient centered care?

Embracing change is an important component of teamwork. Effective and productive teams embrace change and strive to improve through the change process. But change can be difficult for many. The Red Sox faced the challenges of change throughout the season, adjusting the lineup to improve their chances. Different players daily stepped up to the plate to produce the desired results. Do you have team members who always “carry the load” or does everyone work to the betterment of the practice?

Those affected by the bombings have had their lives forever changed. Although I do not know anyone affected directly, my community has a number of victims. The town has rallied together several times to support and encourage our neighbors. During ADHA’s Annual Session, I ventured to the site of the bombings with several friends to pay respects. It is a moving and somber place. The Red Sox Rolling Rally of Duck Boats during the Championship Parade stopped and paid tribute to those impacted, another example of how the team has bonded with the city. How does your team bond with your patients?

With the words of the Standells 1966 song Dirty Water “luv that dirty water, Boston you’re my home,” ringing in my ears, I am proud to be a Bostonian and a member of Red Sox Nation. Both have shown the strength and resilience that triumph over tragedy brings about, along with the teamwork that produces the best in all.

Author’s note: This article is dedicated to those affected by the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. She is currently a Technology Advisor for Patterson Dental. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].