Former Mercy Dental Services resident George R. Williams embraced the complex and challenging cases hospital-based dentistry often presented. He views his experience as a gift he can pass on to his current patients and the Stark County community.
Guest post by Sterling Haynes and Mary Beth Breda
Even as a young teen, George R. Williams always knew he had a passion for the medical profession. His father, George T. Williams, DDS, had his own dental practice. His mother worked in Mercy’s surgical post-acute care unit. As soon as he was old enough, George began to shadow various departments at Mercy Medical Center.
“I think I shadowed pretty extensively in 10 different departments,” he says. Following graduation from Central Catholic High School, he enrolled at The Ohio State University to pursue a career in dentistry. As a college freshman, he met his spouse, Shannon, who now works as a grant reviewer for the Sisters of Charity Foundation.
Following graduation from dental school, he came to Mercy Dental Services, where he served as chief dental resident for the last two years of his residency. According to George, each year of residency equals three to five years of experience due to the complexity of hospital-based cases.
“Residency has taught me independence, cemented my goals, affirmed my morals, and formed the methods I want to implement in my own practice,” he said.
His residency in the clinic gave him the opportunity to care for patients from a wide range of ethnicities, economic levels, ages, and dental problems. Because of cultural differences, George learned to tailor his approach differently to meet the needs of each patient. For example, he presented the facts straight up to a no-nonsense patient who preferred a direct, focused approach to care. However, he chose a softer approach for the patient coming from the emergency department in extreme pain and looking to him as the person to take the pain away.
George was also committed to helping clinic patients overcome the barriers to care, including lack of transportation, fear of needles, painful dental procedures, shame from the appearance of their teeth, and lack of education of good oral hygiene practices. He was especially dedicated to the American Dental Association’s Age One dental program. He firmly believes in establishing programs that encourage education and awareness of the importance of bringing children to dental visits as soon as they are cutting their first teeth.
“Most parents take their infants to the pediatrician, why not the dentist?,” George said.
He hopes to see greater collaboration in the future between obstetricians, pediatricians, and dentists in the education and promotion of several oral health topics, including proper feeding habits and checking the water supply in homes. He says some homes have too much fluoride and, more often, many homes do not have enough. He does encourage the use of fluoride supplements in children because prevention is the key to establishing good dental health.
George believes that building relationships builds trust. He recalls a patient who had brain cancer. He arrived at the dental clinic in extreme pain. Because of his complex medical condition, he had been refused care at other facilities. Now he was sitting in the chair in William’s office and looked up at him through tears and cried, “All I want to do is be able to eat!”
George was determined to do his best to provide some level of comfort and restore the patient’s ability to eat. He saw the patient and his wife through multiple visits where he performed various procedures as removing a tooth and performing a couple of root canals, all the while trying to keep the patient as comfortable as possible. By the end of his treatment, George had the satisfaction of knowing he had restored the patient’s ability to eat and provided some level of comfort.
“This is why we are here,” he says
George concluded his time at Mercy Dental Services and joined his father at his family practice this past June.
“It was hard to say good-bye,” he says, “but I’ve already set new goals for the next step in my career. I want to run an organized practice that exhibits caring and compassion; I want my patients to feel comfortable to come to me for care.”
From his early shadowing days to the time he has spent during his residency, Mercy Medical Center has played an integral part in partnering with a medical professional who will take his training, mentoring, and passion to the community.
“Sometimes our hardest challenges become our greatest gifts,” he says.