The Importance of Thinking Differently

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by Valerie Khayat

Jocelyne Feine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Jocelyne Feine has always thought differently, fortunately. She has always been curious and without a doubt, passionate about her work and about people. When I meet her at her office for this interview, she greets me with a big smile and genuine enthusiasm in sharing her thoughts about life, career and her journey as a dentist/researcher. I haven’t shared any of my questions with her prior to our meeting and although she is curious to say the least, I can already perceive her open approach to the “unknown” and a readiness for that challenge, even in a simple interview situation. Over the years, her journey has led from Houston, Texas, where she once practiced dentistry in a private office, taught at the dental faculty and completed a Masters’ degree in neurophysiology, all the way to Montreal, Canada at McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry. In between, she followed her thirst for putting theory into practice through many travels and continuing education courses across the United States, during which time she met Dr. Jim Lund, her late husband (and past Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry). Many years later, she is now receiving one of the most prestigious awards in the field of dentistry: the American Dental Association’s Norton M. Ross Award for Clinical Research in recognition of her clinical research and research translation contributions.  “This is one of the biggest gifts I’ve received from this award: that this is a very strong validation of the importance of seeing things differently”, she explains. Dr. Feine is quick to point out, however, that it is the strong mentorship and moral support she received from Dr. Jim Lund, as well as the research environment, that gave her the courage to try new things and succeed. In fact, just last year, Dr. Feine was also named the inaugural Editor-in-Chief of the highly innovative Journal of Dental Research Clinical and Translational Research (JDR-CTD).

Dr. Feine is recognized worldwide for her work in clinical oral health and health care, more particularly related to implant supported dentures.  She’s conducted groundbreaking research investigating the benefits of these treatments and has been a pioneer in having those research results (and those of others) translated into routine dental care. “As scientists, we are responsible for doing as much as we can to translate our results to those who will use the information to improve health”, she says. She is inherently concerned about the patient’s experience and reiterates that, ultimately, it is the user of the devices who is the best judge of how efficient they are. Patient’s feedback and an understanding of their experience is essential to ultimately providing solutions that will increase their quality of life.

Listening to her speak, it is clear that she “eats, lives and breathes” what she does and that her work is a vocation, not just a job. As is often the case and, perhaps, even more so in the field of research, one cannot help but begin to perceive life in general, through the lens of one’s academic theories. When I ask Dr. Feine how her research has impacted her own life, she explains that it has made her deeply aware of the definition of quality of life and how relative it is. “Quality of life is really the way you judge your life in relation to your expectations. Through research I’ve been able to travel extensively in the world […] and one of the biggest impacts on me has been that traveling, because I’ve been able to see that in North America, our expectations of our lives are often based more on what we don’t have, the things we see other people have[…], but when you go to countries like India and see that people exist, survive on so little, it changes your expectations. It certainly did mine”. So, how does one strike the balance between contentment and cultivating a healthy dissatisfaction, which may fuel innovation? Dr. Feine explains that it is rooted in a sense of service towards others.

With so many accolades over the years and this latest award, I am genuinely interested in knowing how she maintains such passion for her work. Curiosity seems to be the magic ingredient so I ask her how she manages to remain curious. She explains simply: «It’s a matter of seeing problems and feeling as though perhaps I can make things better[…]In dentistry, we’re a health service field[…]the whole reason why we’re here is to help, is to improve health”. Fortunately for the research community and a multitude of patients, Dr. Feine has always thought differently and furthermore, embraced this about herself. And she has every intention of continuing.

Listen to the full audio interview in which Dr. Feine also speaks about her love of teaching, the importance of critical thinking and community here

 

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