Another Milestone for Dr. Arthur Nowak

Posted: 9/8/2017

As most of you know, in addition to being a long time University of Iowa faculty member, as well as many other career accomplishments, Dr. Arthur Nowak served as Executive Director of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, stepping down just over 5 years ago. And now Art is having another notable transition event: after over 30 years he is stepping down as Editor of the Pediatric Dentistry Practical Reviews audio series. Thirty years in any position is remarkable but, as with all things Art takes on, it was a time of change and improvement. From the early days completing reviews on audiocassettes and floppy disks, Art has transitioned the process to smart phone recording and online submission.

I could use this blog to list his many accolades but it would be pages and pages. To sum it up he has practically headed every organization, participated in every committee, and contributed to the literature of pediatric dentistry in nearly every imaginable way. Instead I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about what Art means to me personally.

First, Art has positively influenced the careers of everyone reading this. Professionally he is the reason that you have parents bringing one-year old children to your office. Think of the pain and suffering associated with ECC that has been prevented through his advocacy and vision. He is the reason that many of us obtained board certification in a reasonable manner so soon after graduation. This enabled us to take advantage of membership in the ABPD and the College of Diplomates early in our career when we needed the camaraderie, mentorship, and commitment to high standards the most. On a smaller, but no less important note, there are many of us that remember riding the bus to the testing center with Art and getting that well-needed pep talk and pat on the shoulder while our knees were shaking.

For many of us that went into academics, Art was looking out for us before we really knew him. He would give us opportunities to contribute to one of his many projects before we thought we were ready for them and then help us succeed. When you look at the names associated with his conferences, textbooks, articles, and of course Practical Reviews, you will see that Art has been growing academicians his entire career and many of us owe our success to him.

So how do you define these qualities that set Art apart? Is it leadership? Absolutely. Is he a revolutionary or simply a transformational leader before this term became popular? I’m not sure but I think we can all learn from his ability to see a better future for the profession and make it happen. When I look at Art’s impact on so many people I know it would be simple to say he is a great mentor but I feel that is an understatement. Art is passionate about helping others find ways to contribute to dentistry for children and developing their skills whether it be in leadership, service, or scholarship. More importantly he stands out for his generosity of hospitality and friendship. I’m not sure what to label it other than to call him a great man.

So how can we honor someone that has given us so much? First, I think we can keep up his energy. We all get to rest because people like Art don’t. As he scales back (theoretically) we all need look at ways we can contribute whether it be through academics, service, or leadership. Second, we need to recognize that we can accomplish changes for the better in pediatric dentistry through vision and tireless effort. Whether these changes revolutionize the specialty of pediatric dentistry or they just make our little corner of the world a little better, advocacy is everyone’s responsibility. Finally, we need to follow Art’s example of looking for opportunities to give a hand up to others. We can nominate a colleague for a position they would excel at, invite a new dentist to join a study club, or mentor a promising student with an interest in the profession. This all contributes to a better future for the patients we serve. Taking over the responsibilities for the giants in our field as they step back can be daunting. However, if we can all follow their example in some small way we can continue on the positive trajectory that Art has established for us and that will be his greatest accomplishment.

Janice Townsend
ABPD Diplomate and new Editor of Pediatric Dentistry Practical Reviews
Board Certified since 2008

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