Global Health Nexus, Summer 2002

Practicing for LifeSM

Recycling and E-ZPass: An Invitation to Retirees

Dr. Clarence M. Calman
Class of 1951

We dentists know about many things, but two areas we should know more about are recycling and E-ZPass. My hope is that other “mature” (I hesitate to use the word “elderly”) dentists will take heed and also realize the value of recycling—ourselves.

When I retired from practice 10 years ago, I played tennis daily, went fishing, and traveled. But always there was the return home to the same routine. It was difficult to reconcile my previously active life with the letdown I felt after the tennis, fishing, and traveling were over.

Then one day I ran into Larry Salman, the former chairman of the Mecca Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, who invited me to teach part-time at NYU Dentistry. The two-day-a-week salary would do little more than cover commuting and parking expenses, but the process of recycling, enhanced by the savings and convenience of E-ZPass, was about to begin.

Fast forward to 10 years later, and here I am today, having been completely recycled as a clinical associate professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery. I’m convinced that the process has extended my life; it has certainly made it more interesting. The only activity it is depriving me of—thank God—is spending my days as a couch potato. Until the infirmities of old age caught up with me recently, I still played tennis, fished, and traveled. Now, because of health problems, I’ve given up those activities. But because I’ve been recycled, I can still teach students.

It is not an overstatement to say that I have been rejuvenated intellectually. The synapses in my brain are growing because they are continuously being stimulated by students who challenge my knowledge and abilities. In spite of increasing age, a process we cannot stop, my mind is sharper than ever. Sure, the commute is a hassle, especially since September 11, although E-ZPass certainly helps. Sure, parking is difficult and often expensive, but arriving at NYU Dentistry, raring to go, makes it all worthwhile.

To all you retirees, I have this to say: Teaching opens the door to a life that remains professionally active, but without the headaches of private practice. There is an acute shortage of dentists in teaching positions. And while you will not be richly rewarded financially—after all, recycling a can or a bottle only gets you a penny— you will reap other benefits. Just as recycling a can or bottle promotes the greater good, so does a recycled dentist promote the well-being of the profession. And think of all the money you’ll save by using E-ZPass on your commute to NYU Dentistry.