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Faculty Spotlight - Dr. Ray Stewart

Monday, May 18, 2015   (1 Comments)
Posted by: CSPD Bulletin
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BY Dr. Amita Ruehe, Warren Brandli Intern

Q: What are some of the highlights of your career?
A:
My first job after dental school at University of Oregon and residency was a faculty appointment at UCLA. Up until my teaching career came full circle at UCSF, my 12 or 13 years at UCLA were the highlight of my career. These were rewarding days, I published books and was the dental director of the craniofacial anomalies clinic at UCLA. I spent more time in that clinic than in pediatric dentistry! I left academics in 1983 to go into practice. The reason I did it is because my residents were better clinicians than myself and I thought to myself, I better catch up with my residents! At first I had no intention to stay in practice for 30 years but that is how it turned out. After 30 years in private practice, I missed the challenge and intellectual effort that comes with academics. I retired, took over the CSPD Executive Director position, and when the opportunity arose to be at UCSF, I embraced it whole-heartedly. I went from a few days at UCSF to full time. I feel as though the circle has closed – it is very gratifying to spend time with residents again. It gives me a fulfilled feeling, as I believe it is extremely important to give back what I have learned.

Q: What would the 25-year-old Ray Stewart think of you now?
A: Good question! At 25 I was in the middle of dental school. I knew I would be a pediatric dentist and work in academia through my research and genetic work in the cleft lip and palate clinic at the University of Oregon. However, I think my 25 year old self would be surprised at how many different directions and how multi-variable my life and career have been. But I don’t think I would have a single regret. I took a couple of detours now and then. Earlier in my life I would’ve seen myself spending my career in one place instead of bouncing around. I certainly would not have seen myself being involved nearly as much as I have been in organized dentistry. At 25 it is hard to realize how important that is – regardless of the type of practice you are in.

Q: How do you think organized dentistry has influenced your career?
A: Tremendously. I did not become involved in organized dentistry until I was in private practice. In academics, I did not realize how important it was. At the invitation of David Goode, I became involved in CSPD. I joined a couple of committees and then served on the Board. Later, I became president and joined the Academy as a trustee. This course has changed the way I think of my profession and specialty. One almost has to be on the frontlines of providing care to understand the importance of CSPD at guiding policy. I feel very fortunate that some of my mentors showed me the light and got me interested in being involved. Without organized dentistry, our profession would be in a life raft out there floating aimlessly. Everybody would be rowing in a different direction.

Q: How do you see the future of pediatric dentistry?
A: Never has it been more important for us as a profession to stick together as a cohesive voice. We are a special group because we are here advocating for children; we are not advocating for our own personal interest. There are so many changes we are about to face in dentistry. Unless we speak with one voice and find a place at the table, others will decide how we will be regulated. Large corporations are now beginning to consolidate dentistry as a business, and with their size they will be able to negotiate better equipment, marketing, IT and HR services. If we, as a profession, continue to maintain our separate private practices, we will not be able to form networks with the same negotiating power for these contracts, products and services. The Affordable Care Act will bring about a lot of change as well. If we allow dentistry to be rolled over and embedded into medical plans, we won’t have a whole lot to say in how patients will be treated and how we will be reimbursed. If we lose control of our specialty and the public view of dentistry, we will not survive in the inevitable change of the health care system.

Q: What advice would you give to new pediatric dentists?
A: Don’t bury your head in the sand. Be very aware and weary of the changes that are here and increasing rapidity with which the changes will occur. Take advantage of organized dentistry. Be flexible and manage change or change will manage you! Also, pay your debt off as soon as you can. The future of our specialty is partially changing because of the decisions we will have to make as we are burdened with all this debt.

Q: How do you balance your personal and professional life?
A: I have difficulty with that. I have come to realize that throughout my career my professional life has maybe displaced some things in my personal life. My children grew up often times with me coming home after they went to sleep and leaving before they woke up. I have had some guilty feelings over the years but hopefully they realize that I have impacted them in other ways. I hope they see that I am true to my word and follow through on commitment.

This will also be a challenge that young dentists will face. It is healthy to keep a balance. You have to work at it constantly. If you go too far on one extreme or another you are going to suffer some consequences as well. The bottom line is we need to pursue our lives in a fashion that we have the greatest happiness and in a way that we impart the least amount of stress and discomfort to those around us.

Q: How do you foresee your future in pediatric dentistry?
A: I am now at the age where I am no longer looking at my future in ten-20 year increments. Looking three-five years into the future, my main goal is to have enough of an impact on this program to have it be able to realize its true potential. If I can make at least some positive steps in that direction, I will feel like I closed my career in a worthwhile fashion.

Comments...

Oariona Lowe DDS says...
Posted Friday, July 24, 2015
Great article Ray! You genuinely came full circle and made an impact on pediatric dentistry. People around the world still comments on the Stewart-Barber-Wei- Troutman book on Pediatric Dentistry. Ora lowe

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