Day 269 - Adam (1st person I approached)
September 26, 2014 - Adam was sitting by himself listening to music. Although, at first I couldn’t tell if he was listening to music or talking on the phone. When I approached him, he smiled and put a hand up which I took to sign he as on the phone. But no. It was a sign to hang on while he turned the music off. Adam was listening to a new album from the American metal band ‘Body Count’ fronted by rapper Ice T. He took his earphones out as I explained what I’m doing, and agreed to chat with me.
Adam was born and raised in Kamloops, British Columbia (BC).
“I have a twin brother and three older sisters. My twin is ten minutes older than I am. We’re fraternal twins, so we look more like brothers than twins. We’re very different people as well. He was very involved in sports in school and I was more of the black sheep. We each had our own different circle of friends. I was social and experimented a bit with alcohol,” said Adam.
“I did alright in high-school, but I did better when I went to college,” he told me.
After finishing high-school, Adam got a job working for a company that makes scratch-and-win lottery tickets.
“I worked in the production area where the clear shiny coating was applied to the paper. There were so many different stages. And so many different chemicals and things that go into the making of lottery tickets. We wore gloves, but you’d get holes in those. I got a pretty bad rash from the chemicals I was working with. I did that for about a year,” he said.
“I moved down to Vancouver, and went to BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology). I took an eight month Electronics Technician course. I figured I should be doing something with my life and I sort of randomly picked that because I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. Adam got a job after finishing the course, repairing electronic equipment used in fishing.
“I worked in that field for a few years. It was like a desk job, sitting all day doing repairs. I felt like my bubble was starting to get rather small. I needed to do something more stimulating,” he said.
Going back to school, Adam enrolled in a sciences program at Langara College, in Vancouver.
“I started my undergrad degree knowing I wanted to work in healthcare. That meant eight years of schooling,” he said. Adam stayed at Langara for two years before moving back to Kamloops.
“I finished my undergrad at Thompson Rivers University. My sister is a Dental Hygienist and was working for this incredibly nice guy. He was an oral surgeon, and he allowed me to go in for a few job shadowing days and observe his work. I really liked what he was doing,” he said. After completing his Bachelor’s degree in Sciences, Adam started to apply to Dental Schools. He applied to three schools in the USA, and a number across Canada as well.
“I went to the University of Toronto (UofT). In dentistry it’s not a Master's or a PhD program. There used to be two different classifications. You could do certain things with one, and not the other, but now they’re all rolled into one. It used to be Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). I went the oral surgeon route, “ he said.
“I was in a long term, long distance relationship, and when I graduated I moved back to Kamloops and moved in with my girlfriend. I was planning on buying a practice,” Adam said.
“The relationship didn’t work out. I also realized that I didn’t want to buy the practice as I had originally planned.” Adam moved back down to the coast and started working in a practice in Coquitlam.
“I wasn’t so happy working there. A friend of mine from dental school told me about an opportunity in Merritt (BC). That’s where I’m working now. I do a lot of work with members of the First Nations there. I’m glad to be doing something that I feel good about. I work there during the week Monday to Thursday and then I have my place down here in Gastown (Vancouver). I was carrying a large student loan debt. It was up at almost two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand (dollars) by the time I graduated from dental school,” he said.
“Dentists make pretty good money. But I also struggle with certain aspect of the industry. Stuff like a patient that shows up with the start of a cavity. As a dentist you can encourage the patient to change their habits and through proper brushing and flossing, and monitoring the progress, that tooth can actually remineralize. There isn’t always a need to do a filling. But many dentists will do work that doesn’t need to be done. I don’t want to ever be that kind of dentist. That’s why I decided not to buy a practice just yet. It takes a lot of money to hire staff and run a practice. But I don’t want to be a dentist who makes a lot of money from people that can’t afford to pay for work they don’t need. Or even for work they do need,” said Adam.
“I’ve probably got about another year before I can pay off the student loans. Then I’m thinking of taking some time and perhaps traveling for a while,” he said.
“Sometimes I feel like my youth is closing in on me. I’ve got a bit of a medical situation that I’m working through right now. I’ve got some pain that I’m dealing with, mostly in my neck, because of my work. I’m thinking that taking some time off and traveling would be good for me. Perhaps do some dentistry in countries that need support. It’s not as easy in the US because you need to write their exams before you can practice. But in the UK, Australia and New Zealand I could practise. Or even better yet, doing some work in a country that needs some help. I’d like to do something that helps people.”
We spoke a bit about tattoos as well. Adam told me that he has two.
“I have one down here,” he says, pointing to the back of his right arm.
“It says ‘therapy.’ When I was doing my undergrad, a group of us would get together for drinks once a week or so and we called it therapy, so I got that. I also have another tattoo that I got recently. A good friend of mine from dental school committed suicide a month after we graduated. Dentistry as an industry apparently has one of the highest suicide rates. Every time I hear that I think of him. So I got this tribute piece to my friend,” he said. Adam lifted his shirt and shows me the tattoo. It is a strikingly beautiful shade of navy blue. An illustration of two characters, done on his ribcage.
“The Dean of UofT gave us an Anaesthesia lecture with this picture in his presentation. I liked the image and kept it. It had three characters in the original image, but I just got two of them doe, as a tribute.” Adam wasn't sure who the artist was that drew the original illustration. I came home and did some research. It was drawn in the year 1900, by Hans Tegner, a Danish artist, as an illustration for a children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen, called “Aunty Toothache.” #notastranger
*Fact Check - the tattoo illustration - http://bit.ly/1uutffy
**Fact Check - ‘Aunty Toothache’ - http://bit.ly/1olMfFI