MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
For more than a week and a half, the Robert M. Casey Medical and Dental Clinic acted as the training ground for Navy Reservist Capt. Richard Burke, pediatric dentist, Navy reserve station, Illinois.
Burke first made a tour to the station in July 2010 and has returned every year since for a two-week period of annual training in his pediatric dentistry specialty.
“It’s always great in the Navy Reserve to get out and do what one's specialty is,” said Burke. “For the most part, when we reservists do our annual training, we tend to do general dentistry, so having the ability to come to Iwakuni and perform my specialty is great training for me.”
Though becoming a pediatric dentist usually takes two extra years of training on top of the years already required
for general dentistry, the real challenge can be dealing with the children.
“The main difference is the ability to manage the behavior of children, which is actually the most difficult part of being a pediatric dentist,” said Burke. “It takes time to hone one’s skills when dealing with children, because stress levels tend to rise. So you just have to know how to properly deal with them. You have to be able to see things from their point of view.”
When Burke is not attending his annual training, he is teaching others to become pediatric dentists.
“When I’m not wearing my Navy uniform, I’m a full-time faculty member at the University of Iowa,” said Burke. “When I am there, I teach dental students how to perform pediatric dentistry. I tell them how important it is to kids that we show them proper ways of taking care of their teeth at an early age.”
Dealing with children can be a difficult task, even for people who work in pediatric dentistry. Though, as a reservist, his training is usually done one weekend a month, two weeks a year, moments such as this help to expand upon that training and also help families, both in the states and abroad.