Being in the spirit of the upcoming American Thanksgiving, I want to dedicate this post to one of the people who have inspired me professionally and made me the prosthodontist I am today. This person is Professor John (Yahia) Ismail.
Dr. John Ismail was the head of the department and the program director of the Graduate Prosthodontic Residency program at the University of Pittsburgh during the time I was a resident. Indeed, he was the one who accepted me into his program more than 15 years ago. I still remembered the first few months of settling into Pittsburgh. I was totally broke. I didn’t have a car or much possession with me other than my books and my clothes. As I settled into a very run-down apartment, I asked myself what I have done to myself. I could have started working as a general dentist and started enjoying more luxury in life. But I decided to get myself into more debt and to move to a city with no family and friends in order to study prosthodontics. There were moments during that time I doubted if I had made the right decision. But knowing myself, I knew that I would not be happy until I have reached a level of understanding in dentistry.
During the next three years, I worked really hard, took every opportunity there is to read, to learn and to pick the brain of the many faculty members at the school. Monday afternoon was always the case presentation day by the residents, followed by a lecture presentation by Dr. Ismail. Those days were always my favorite days. When Dr. Ismail started presenting his material to the residents, I knew I was in the right place. To me, his material was stimulating, forward thinking and made a lot of sense.
Sometimes, it was even an eye opening or jaw dropping type of experience. To this day, I am still amazed of the case he had shown on an edentulous patient who ended up having orthognathic surgery to correct the prognathic mandible. He ended up using the dentures for intra-oral stabilizations. Yes it must not have been fun as they had to use intra-osseous wires to stabilize the dentures back in those days.
His unique method of taking an impression on a severely resorbed mandible was equally mind blowing. The method was a closed mouth impression technique incorporating elements of the swallowing physiology for intra-oral manipulation. In this method, Dr. Ismail applied his understanding of biology and science to a technique that will assist him in impression taking.
Dr. Ismail was never a big technique person but rather one who has many big ideas. His ideas and his management of TMD were not published anywhere. But I later realized, after taking some continuing education courses on this topic, that his treatment approaches were ahead of his time.
During my residency, there were many times I felt so stimulated after listening to Dr. Ismail’s lectures, that as I walk out of that seminar room, I tell myself that learning from him was the very reason why I had to move away from my family and friends. He really took the confusion out of me, gave me back clarity of how everything works in dentistry. Unfortunately, he passed away few years ago and I never had the opportunity to say thank you to him one more time. But I am forever grateful to have learned from Dr. Ismail during my residency program. I hope one day that I can be an inspiration to other dental colleagues as Dr. Ismail had been to me.
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