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It’s Never Too Late: A Story of Commitment and Perseverance

By Joel L. Dunsky, D.D.S.

A long-awaited letter from the American Board of Education in July of 2017 was the culmination of a dream for Dr. Ian C. Grayson, a 62-year-old native of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. What is unique about this saga is that Dr. Grayson thought his career was all set when he graduated from the University of Toronto School of Dentistry in 1981 and began a very successful practice in general and restorative dentistry. He soon discovered an attraction for providing more and more endodontic services for his patients and began seeking additional training by taking continuing education courses in endodontic therapy to enhance his knowledge and skills.

Over time, the passion for private practice diminished and after 33 years, he decided to pursue full-time academics. There was one slight problem. In order to teach endodontics, a post-graduate degree was required. In his words, “I reached a crossroad in my life. Do I play out the string and retire dissatisfied or do I take the challenge and attempt to gain admission to a post-graduate endodontic program?” He chose the latter.

After much discussion with his family and making plans to sell his practice, he began the application process for formal training in both Canada and the U.S. During this time, he became quite aware of the subtle age bias working against him. Remarks such as “he’s too old;” “he will never finish if we accept him;” “the work and technology will be too much for him;” and other comments were directed at him. Nonetheless, Dr. Grayson persevered and was successful in obtaining an interview for the three-year endodontic residency program at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston.

Dr. Grayson’s credentials, recommendations and personal interview convinced the committee at HSDM to give him a chance. He was granted acceptance and, true to his word, completed the program. In 2016, he graduated with both a Master’s in Medical Science and a Certificate in Endodontics; therefore becoming, at age 61, the oldest resident in the school’s history. Along the way, he successfully passed the North East Regional Board examinations, attained a Fellowship in the Royal College of Dentist of Canada for endodontics and became a Diplomate of the ABE. After graduation, he was offered a faculty position to teach and practice in the Advanced Graduate Endodontic program at HSDM, where he is now employed.

Not bad for an old guy with a dream.

Dr. Joel L. Dunsky, D.D.S., is an assistant professor at the Department of Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterial Sciences at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Diplomate, American Board of Endodontics. He can be reached at