That little gold crown

The 2017 commencement speaker (and 40-year alumnus) on resilience and confronting change
May 24th, 2017
Dr. Gary Roberts '77, American Dental Association president and 2017 commencement speaker

American Dental Association President Dr. Gary Roberts ’77, Texas A&M College of Dentistry’s 2017 commencement speaker

Dr. Gary Roberts ’77 can still remember interactions with his crown and bridge professor as if they happened yesterday. How could he not? The instructor had an unmistakable way of sharing his satisfaction — or lack thereof — with his students.

“If he didn’t like your wax pattern, he would crush it. If he didn’t like your cast crown, he would just throw it out the window,” Roberts recalled. “And you would be down in the bushes looking for that little piece of gold.”

It happened on more than one occasion, even to Roberts, who is now the 153rd president of the American Dental Association.

“Turns out there are endless opportunities to make changes in your work and your life, and it’s up to you to decide what kind of dentist you will be.” – Dr. Gary Roberts

Though gold was just $32 per ounce then, money was scarce.

“So down I went into the bushes,” said Roberts. “I found that little piece of gold.

“Resiliency was, and still is, something they teach you. Albeit in a kinder, gentler manner. I bet you all feel like you’ve just run a marathon,” Roberts told the audience of dental and dental hygiene students, graduate students, family, friends and faculty during commencement exercises at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on May 23.

“The good news is that as a result of that experience, you’re better equipped to keep that pace than you probably realize. And the bad news is, if you’re doing it right, the feeling doesn’t go away.”

In dentistry, the ability to confront change makes all the difference, he said, whether that happens in the form of taking full advantage of the technology-driven transformative work in the profession today, diving into organized dentistry or accepting the reality of patients who come to your office open for treatment but are less motivated when it comes to following home care.

“Turns out there are endless opportunities to make changes in your work and your life, and it’s up to you to decide what kind of dentist you will be,” Roberts said.

He closed with one final reminder, an ode to his dental school days spent on Gaston Avenue in Dallas, just like many in the audience before him.

“Stay resilient. Never stop looking for that little gold crown in the bushes.”

— Jennifer Fuentes