With our family practice nearing its 37th anniversary, one of the greatest pleasures I have experienced is forming relationships with our patients that go beyond the typical “How are you?” and “How are your teeth doing?” We have the wonderful opportunity to get to know more about our patients’ lives, and to care for multiple generations. During many of these conversations, patients have asked me, “Why did you decide to become a dentist?” Here is my story (and I’m sticking to it!):
My mom was a nurse and my uncles were physicians so for me, so caring for people and going into the medical field was meant to be. At the same time, I really enjoyed working with my hands, being creative and making things. I thought of our family dentist, Dr. Abbott Kagan, and realized, “Yes, that’s what I want to be too.”
Dr. Kagan was more than a dentist to me. He was my scout master and my coach and guru when I took up competitive swimming.
He spent an immeasurable amount of time helping me excel – even to the point where I became an Eagle Scout and later when I achieved a college scholarship for swimming. He was a powerful mentor and guide, and I learned so much by shadowing him all through high school and college.
Dr. Kagan’s patience and guidance were infallible, and I certainly attribute much of who I am today to his efforts.
Dr. Kagan was quite an amazing person who set the bar very high. He opened his dental practice in Fort Myers in 1949 and retired in 1993 due to health reasons.
Excerpts from his obituary from the News-Press report, “In his 46 years of practice, he lovingly cared for anyone and everyone, day or night. He was the first dentist to provide dental services to farm worker families in this area. When it came to the children. Doc’s gentle caring spirit would shine it’s brightest. Recognizing all the obstacles they faced, his goal was to give them a smile. In addition to his professional efforts, Doc was actively involved in many organizations, including the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Kiwanis…For his many contributions, he was awarded the Silver Beaver Award and the Distinguished Citizen Award in 1995. In 1958, Doc organized AAU swimming in Fort Myers and worked for many years with the State AAU as swimming chairman for men and later as District Chairman for the entire state… Time and unconditional love were never in short supply. Assistance, strength and support were always at hand.”
I have always felt very lucky to have had Dr. Kagan in my life, and I have always strived to do better to make him proud. His guidance and mentorship have inspired me to be a better mentor to my staff and even to one of our patients, Andrew Grinsell who grew up with the Mitchell Dentistry practice. He ultimately interned at our office and just graduated from dental school. He was also inducted into the United States Navy – we are so proud of him!
I am grateful to Dr. Kagan for the foundation he provided for me that I can now pass on to others.
Feel free to respond with your stories of mentorship or with any other feedback – we love hearing from our patients!
Best wishes from our Mitchell Dentistry family to yours!
All the best, Dr. Jim