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The second Saturday in May this year marked the final occasion for me to ad- dress a dental school graduating class as dean. Graduation is always a satisfy- ing and exciting event and this year’s was especially so for me. In the valedic- tory spirit, I will share with you the gist of my commencement remarks.

When I addressed the School of Dental Medicine Class of 2009 in their orien- tation week in 2005, I promised that the first and last words they’d hear from me would be about the values of our profession.

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Now, four years later, welcoming them into our profession, I emphasized once again that dentistry is one of the world’s noble and honorable professions. Dentistry is a public trust built on three principal elements: a sophisticated body of knowledge, specialized technical skills, and a professed value system that always places the patient’s welfare first among our priorities.

dean Of these three fundamental elements, our values are, by far, the most important. The body of knowledge in dentistry and our specialized skills both evolve. But the essential values of the profession endure immutably. When we join the profession, we commit ourselves to a life of consummate integrity in our interactions with professional colleagues and in our service to patients. The patient is never a means to some other end; the patient’s welfare is always the end of all our professional endeavors.

Albert Einstein said that sophisticated knowledge and special skills in the hands of the corrupt pose the greatest danger to mankind. The knowledge and skills we possess as dentists are only tools; the purpose we bring to their use arises from our values.

I would commend this aphorism to every dentist: “The mediator between the brain and the hands is the heart.” All of us, young and old, should keep our knowledge current, maintain our specialized skills and, most important, hold the profession’s values in our hearts. Doing so ensures that we can enjoy the deep professional gratification and the derivative benefits of dental practice, and also ensures that dentistry will remain an honorable, self-regulating, noble profession throughout the careers of even the newest dentists—our 2009 graduates.

Richard N. Buchanan, DMD

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