Forty plus years ago a group of dentists in the Green Bay Wisconsin area had the opportunity to meet Dr. L. D. Pankey. In his presentation and discussion Dr. Pankey stated that one of the secrets to success in life is to become a “perennial sophomore”, never stop studying and asking why. After meeting Dr. Pankey a number of us took advantage of attending The Pankey Institute. The Institute was, at that time, in downtown Miami in the DuPont Plaza Hotel. We were lucky enough to learn from, and rub shoulders with, other legendary dentists like Loren Miller, Harold Wirth, Hennery Tanner and Alvin Filastre. Although our group did not attend The Institute all at the same time, we soon found one another and decided to start a study club. We decided to meet for dinner at The Union Hotel in De Pere, Wisconsin and discuss dentistry once a month during the fall and winter.
This month we celebrated the thirty ninth year of existence with dinner at the same hotel dining room where we have met monthly during all those years. Over the years we have all been back at the Institute and celebrated its new venue and continued efforts to remain at the forefront of postgraduate dental education and private fee for service care. Our initial group of about a dozen members has grown smaller as we have aged. We have added a few new members over time and lost some members due to age or illness. In our early years we invited speakers in and sponsored CE programs in the area. As we all have developed more mature practices and our relationships within the group moved into higher levels of trust we decided not to try to grow larger. Some may consider that to be self-serving. However, we see our group as having moved from a dental study club to a study club and support group. We have never given up the goals of continuing to ask why and continuing to learn.
We argue dental techniques, philosophy and technology. We discuss our business successes and failures and share ideas on how to improve. Individually we offer to mentor our younger colleagues. We have provided solace and support after death and divorce, as well as tough love in situations where a member needed honesty as well as support. We continue to come to meetings even though several members drive sixty miles or more to attend and several others are now retired. Although we refer patients to one another, we seldom see one another other than at our meetings. We challenge one another to think critically, demand proven research before adopting new treatment modalities and to continue on a path of learning.
Others of the group are now approaching retirement. In fact one member of the group just celebrated his eightieth birthday and has decided that it is finally time to give up his position as part-time faculty in the Oral Surgery department of a nearby dental school. Others in the group are out of the area during the winter. We know that these facts will force us to consider disbanding. However, when we poll the members we find that no one wants to quit meeting. We may have to meet less often but we will not give up on the relationships, friendships and support. For those considering joining or forming a study club we encourage you to take the risk and commit to making your group a group of perennial sophomores.