leadership · Residency

How to be a great mentor

Ode to Dr. Raymond Scott

Raymond Scott, DDS, MDS, was a professor of Endodontics to the General Practice Residency program at Alameda Health Systems in Oakland, CA. He practiced general dentistry for 10 years prior to his post graduate training at the University of Pittsburgh. He practiced endodontics for 20 years in Napa, California, and became a full-time endodontic educator after selling his practice. He presented at the American Association of Endodontists, International Association of Dental Research and lectured at conferences worldwide.

There are few people who come into our lives and leave an impact far beyond one imagined. For me, and many of his students, that person was Dr. Scott. 

I started residency at Alameda Health Systems in June 2022. At the time, I knew we were going to have an endodontist teach us. However, I hadn’t the faintest clue who it was going to be. One of my co residents has heard that it was going to be Dr. Scott and that he was ‘amazing’. His reputation as a professor at University of Pacific preceded him. 

I was still doubtful. My experience back in dental school left me with a big fear of root canals. After one poor case selection, and a broken file later, I was emotionally burned out from doing endo in practice. So, while I was curious about who Dr. Scott was, I was not overly enthusiastic. 

Dr. Scott broke all of my preconceptions. He was not only the nicest endodontist you would ever meet, he was funny, witty and a gem of a person.

We recently lost Dr. Scott. The news of his passing came to me from my GPR program director in August 2023. I knew something was up that week because one of my messages to him about a patient went unread. Always quick to reply, it was out of character for him. I miss him dearly and think of him every time I diagnose a tooth needing RCT. Here are a few things that made Dr. Scott, a fantastic teacher and mentor. 

He accepted you as you were

All of the residents in our GPR program came with a varied level of endodontic experience. Yet he taught us all to love endo! There was a time when I was coming back to the clinic after a few months of rotations in oral surgery and general medicine. I was rusty with my first root canal. He understood where I was at, and gently nudged me along, helping pick out instruments and watching over my shoulder. 

He had high expectations from us

Even though we were only GPR residents, he expected our work to be great. He would rejoice after the perfect post op radiograph with us. And would be visibly impressed if we got the perfect coronal seal. ‘It’s what will take care of your endo, you know. You need to get the best coronal seal and build up.’ I still remember this any time I see voids in my own work. I think to myself, Dr. Scott would want me to redo that. 

He taught us about case selection, which also included ‘patient’ selection

If it is a second mandibular molar and the patient can’t open beyond two fingers. Or, it’s a patient that is mean and has a bad attitude towards the team. ‘Send them to a specialist!’ He taught us that our time is valuable and we should focus on doing our best work with patients we love. We learned over the course of the year that life is short and to select our patients well. 

He believed in our goals

When I told him of my plans for working with patients with special health care needs and getting certified in IV sedation, he was the most excited person in the room. He encouraged me to open my practice and start working towards my goals as soon as possible. He reviewed my layout plans and followed up with me when I started taking my certification classes post graduation. 

He was the cheerleader I didn’t know I needed. It is probably one of the biggest reasons why I miss him. 

He was fun and shared stories of a life well lived

Ever had a teacher who was all work and no play? I’ve seen several and while I do respect that, it’s fun to meet someone who is well rounded and has hobbies outside of their profession. Dr. Scott loved to travel and eat. He loved socializing with his residents and students at dental conferences. In the one year that we knew him, he visited Puerto Rico, Spain, Portugal, Chicago and Texas. When I told him I was visiting the Dolomites with my husband following graduation, he sent recommendations. Of course, he had already been there! I found his life inspiring and worthy of emulation. He also had a great sense of humor and was a hit at the BBQ party I threw during residency. Everyone wanted to listen to his stories!

He had a passion for teaching

Not all great dentists can be good teachers. He was one of those exceptional people who did both with flair. His lectures were always insightful and engaging. He made root canals interesting to GP’s for God’s sake! 

He also asked us questions throughout his lecture that kept us on our toes. If you got anything wrong, he never judged you. He never assumed you should know something just because you graduated from dental school. He taught us as though we were blank slates and infused us with knowledge throughout the year!

Dr. Scott, you made a huge impact on my career and life trajectory. I never thought I’d leave residency enjoying endo, but miracles do happen! You were not only a fantastic teacher, you were also a great mentor, friend and advisor. I miss you deeply.

2 thoughts on “How to be a great mentor

  1. This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your kind words. I hope you continue to pursue your dream practice a do wish you all the best.
    I miss my father dearly. The mentorship and guidance he provided me throughout my dental career was unmatched, and it is lovely to hear the impact he has had on your career.

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