I recently spent a week in the city of Cartagena in Columbia South America. There is a dental school in Cartagena where hands-on training is offered to dentists from all around the world.
The dentists are trained how to use a particular type of dental implant. The implant is made in the United States but has a unique design. These implants are very, very small and require less surgery for the patient. This type of implant is a good fit for my practice but there are things I needed to learn that I did not think I could learn from a video or a book.
I was one of three student dentists in Cartagena. Our teacher was a brilliant Italian dental surgeon named Dr. Marincola. I learned he speaks four languages fluently. He has been teaching other dentists how to place these very tiny implants for about 10 years.
My first case was an older man who needed an implant placed close to his sinus. This can be tricky for the dentist. Dr. Marincola reviewed the procedure in detail with me and the other dentists before I met the patient.
When I entered the treatment room, I introduced myself. Mr. Ramirez was a 55 year old Columbian man. Without a question he opened his mouth and allowed me to help him.
The implant placement surgery was successful. Dr. Marincola stood by my elbow for the entire procedure. He answered questions and gave advice but did not touch an instrument, he allowed me to perform the entire procedure.
When we were done, I asked Dr. Marincola to translate a message to the patient for me. I told Mr. Ramirez that I had traveled from Virginia to learn from Dr. Marincola but I could not have learned very much if I did not have a patient like him who was willing to let me treat him. I said that there were people in my home town in Virginia who would benefit from his trust in me.
I understood his reply in Spanish. He sat up a little straighter in the chair and said: “it is my pleasure”. His mouth was numb and he was biting on a sterile piece of gauze and he said, “es un placer.”
I am convinced Mr. Ramirez helped me more than maybe I helped him. I learned how to successfully place a tiny dental implant into the bone near the maxillary sinus. Mr. Ramirez taught me something much more important about grace and trust and friendship.
Dr. Douglas Wright