AAE member and Diplomate, Rico D. Short D.M.D., B.C.E, F.I.C.D, is a microsurgical root canal specialist and clinical assistant professor at Dental College of Georgia. He is also an author, lecturer and inspirational speaker. We recently caught up with Dr. Short, who described the life-altering injury that inspired his latest book, In the Eye of a Storm, and also discussed his thoughts on some major events of 2020.
AAE: Tell us about the eye injury you suffered which inspired you to write the book.
Dr. Rico Short: My family was on fall break. We went to a water park with my kids on September 28th. I went down a water slide. I hydroplaned and held my nose while going down the slide. I crashed into the bottom of the slide when my thumb slipped off my nose and went directly into my left eye. I went blind and was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room. It was bad news that I would not practice again and surgery looked bleak. While I was trying to wrap my mind around my current situation and future, I decided to write a book in the middle of this situation. This was actually therapy for me to put my thoughts, hurts and fears in writing. People need the most help in the “middle” of their “storm” in life…not at the end. I wrote this book using one eye and a lot of tears in the middle of mine.
AAE: What was it like not being able to practice endodontics during your recovery?
Dr. Short: Not being able to practice endodontics felt like something precious was stolen from you. Imagine you are at a park with your kid. Soon as you turn your back someone snatches him or her. You panic and don’t know if you would ever see them again. That’s how I felt about being able to practice endodontics again.
AAE: How does your eye injury experience parallel with the challenges all endodontists have had to weather during this latest “storm”: the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Short: Not being able to practice for over six months gave me strength and hope after my eye surgery. I understood the perspective of my dental colleagues not being able to practice for a few weeks. Many called me when COVID-19 hit and asked me my opinion. I inspired them with my message of staying calm and this, too, will pass, the things I wrote in my book In The Eye Of A Storm. My faith in God is what kept me strong during my injury and I believe that’s what going to keep others strong during COVID-19.
AAE: Any best practices you can offer for adapting to the “new normal” of COVID-19 as an endodontist?
Dr. Short: I started back practicing on March 2, then that next week COVID-19 started to become a reality in the United States. I could not have left my practice again because we would not have made it. Not having income for over six months with the same bills coming in was devastating financially even with disability insurance and savings. We, by the grace of God, weathered the storm. While I was out for six months, I still paid my staff full salary because I treat them like family. They responded when the COVID-19 situation came to return the favor. They would not be in fear and would continue to work at the office.
Here are a few nuggets to implement during COVID-19: I would recommend to keep spending and cost down while trying to complete patient’s treatment in one visit if possible. This will increase production while allowing your office to minimize patient interaction and practice social distancing. We cut our normal patient load in half and it has been working out fine. Also, be in communication with your referrals to let them know that you are still seeing patients but on a scaled down basis.
AAE: “2020” seems to be an appropriate year for gaining clearer vision! What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned so far this year?
Dr. Short: 2020 has been a very interesting year. Dealing with COVID-19 and racial injustice has been a real defining moment in our history. However, I think we can learn from both of these events. One thing is that we are all interconnected as human beings. No one is an island to him or herself. We must embrace this moment and unify to eradicate this virus and racial discrimination. Both are bad for us as a country and a profession. As we communicate and become more educated about both of these significant issues, we will become stronger for the next generation.
AAE: Any final thoughts to help inspire your fellow endodontist members?
Dr. Short: As a final thought, I would recommend no matter what happens to you in your personal or practice life, don’t isolate. Have someone to speak encouraging words to you and inspire you to stretch, learn and grow. We are all a work-in-progress and we should desire to leave this world better than how we found it.
In the Eye of a Storm is available for purchase on Amazon. You can follow Dr. Short on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.