An artist’s touch
Lisa Germain D.D.S., M.Sc.D. (above)
Lisa Germain was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she lived until the age of 11, when her family moved to Silver Spring, Md. She remained in Maryland through college and dental school, earning both her B.S. in 1974 and D.D.S. in ’78 from the University of Maryland.
Throughout her childhood Germain balanced a passion for art with a curiosity for the functions of mechanical thingsc . As a young girl she attended classes at the Pratt Institute of Art. Her interest in dentistry however, stemmed from an experience that most children usually dread. “I remember watching my dentist do my first filling,” she recalls. “The tools that he had were interesting, and I think he sensed my fascination because he gave me one of the little mirrors to take home. I still have it after all these years.” Her curiosity solidified during her freshman year at Maryland, when she enrolled in the pre-dental track.
After her near-decade of studying and training at Maryland, Germain moved to Detroit to complete Mount Sinai Hospital’s one-year residency program in general dentistry. After her residency she went back to school, this time to Boston University School of Graduate Dentistry, to earn a Certificate in Endodontics in 1981 and continuing on to earn a Master of Science in Dentistry in Endodontics in ’82. The American Board of Endodontics recognized her with a board certification in ’86 and she’s currently the only board-certified endodontist in private practice in the greater New Orleans area.
Endodontics, in the most simplistic sense, is the practice of performing root canals. One of her major challenges is making patients comfortable. But, “the bad reputation is usually associated with the toothache patients typically have before the procedure. When a tooth has a deep filling, or an injury, the tissue inside the roots gets infected. Therefore, by having a root canal, the infection will be cleaned out and the toothache will subside,” she says.
Germain began actively practicing in Boston as an endodontist even before earning her M.Sc.D., working there from 1981 until ’84. “But,” she says, “I visited a friend in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.” The result was predictable. “I knew I had found my home,” Germain says. “I moved to New Orleans several months later and I’ve never looked back.”
Germain similarly has no qualms or regrets about her profession. “I have the most rewarding job in the world,” she says, “because I get to relieve someone’s pain every day.” Endodontics has its challenges outside of simply making achy patients comfortable but Germain has an outstanding colleague to balance out her practice. “I have the good fortune to practice with another highly skilled endodontist, Dr. George Arch,” she says, “who shares my philosophy that we are treating people – not teeth.”
Germain doesn’t limit her work to her practice. “I am involved with an organization called [Donated Dental Services],” she says, “and volunteer to do pro bono work on a regular basis.” DDS is a national organization with state branches and provides dental services for patients who don’t qualify for or cannot get money from Medicare or Medicaid. Patients are usually disabled, elderly or simply unable to pay for professional dental services.
Although she enjoys the conjunction of art and science provided her through practicing dentistry, Germain has never stopped producing art simply for art’s sake, and has since become a patron of the arts as well. Most recently, the Fuller Crafts Museum has selected a mixed-media piece of her creation for inclusion in an exhibit that will run from June 6 until Jan. 3, 2010.
When she’s not wearing a white coat, Germain is also a family woman. She is married with two children, her son a junior at Vanderbilt University and her daughter a senior at Isidore Newman High School (soon to be a freshman at Washington University at St. Louis).
Rebuilding citizens in a rebuilding city
Michael Block D.M.D.
ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL SURGERY
Michael Block grew up in Allentown, Pa. and Stamford, Conn. He remained in the Northeast for college, attending the University of Rochester in upstate New York. While studying biology and biomedical engineering at Rochester, he met dentist Hynan Goldberg who piqued his interest in dentistry. “Dentistry seemed to be a good match for my love of technology and engineering,” he reflects. “I did my honors thesis using a non-invasive method [for] measuring how blood flow through the gingival [soft tissue lining of the mouth] reflected systemic problems.”
Block moved on the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and then to Louisiana State University where he received his advanced specialty training in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. After completing his residency, Block joined the faculty practice of the LSU School of Dentistry, where he worked until the end of 2007, at which point he opened his private practice in Metairie.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery is an area of dentistry based on the “surgical treatment of the structures of the face, including but not limited to removal of teeth, placement of dental implants to reconstruct patients who are missing one or all of their teeth, correction of craniofacial deformities (such as cleft lip and cleft palate), reconstructive surgery including bone graft to correct bone loss and soft tissue grafting to correct smaller deficiencies involving aesthetic appearance of the teeth and associated structures, treatment of temporomandibular joint (connection between the mandible bone, or jawbone, and the skull) problems and treatment of facial fractures,” he explains.
“I spend a considerable amount of time practicing the core of the specialty – reconstruction and rehabilitation of patients missing teeth and those with facial deformities,” says Block.
Although Block’s practice promises a healthier future for its patients, there’s no e1scaping the ominous stigma of dentistry. “The challenges that I and other oral surgeons face is to perform these surgical procedures [as] painlessly as possible and with minimal downtime for the patient,” he says. “The use of new technology can result in enhanced patient care with very effective treatment. I am excited to use in-office CT scanning and computerized software to perform virtual surgery on the patient to evaluate different options that are available.”
The payoff for these painstaking measures is the healthy, relieved smiles of Block’s patients. “The most rewarding part of what I and others do daily is the way we can change someone’s lifestyle,” says Block. “By replacing someone’s teeth and reconstructing their missing teeth and jawbone, we can improve one’s self-esteem and health. These are life-altering therapies …”
Block tries to give back to his profession in equal measure. “I have published research and clinical articles since 1979, with evidence-based recommendations for many of the methods we use today,” he says. He also chairs the committee charged with educating the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons on the ins and outs of dental implants. “Our annual dental implant conference in Chicago draws over 1,650 doctors yearly to learn state-of-the-art techniques for patient care,” says Block. The AAOMS has recognized Block’s service with their Committeeman of the Year Award, Distinguished Service Award and, most recently, their Research Recognition Award.
Block also donates surgical service to those in need through the Handicap Dental Program and teaches residents and students at the [LSU] dental school gratis.
Block likes to stay active with his wife of 26 years, their two daughters and their Maltese dog. Together they “spend time gardening, cooking, skiing, cycling and other family activities,” he says. They have regularly participated in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Tour for Cure, and love watching Lance Armstrong champion cures for cancer while cycling around the world. For a dentist, that’s something else to smile about.