In 2015, I, along with my wife Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty, was inducted as a Fellow into the International College of Dentists—an honor only about 4 percent of U.S. dentists receive. The ICD is a worldwide dental organization that recognizes professional achievement, advancement and service to dentistry.

My wife and I graduated from dental school less than 10 years ago (7.5 years to be exact). We practice in Texas, but we aren’t from Texas and didn’t go to dental school there either. This isn’t common for ICD inductees, who are typically older than us and have long standing connections and friends in their communities.

So how did we make names for ourselves in our dental community and receive such a prestigious honor in such a short amount of time? I attribute it to three factors: participating in organized dentistry, moving to a city with a great community of dentists, and simply turning some disadvantages into advantages.

It was daunting to move to San Antonio in 2010. We didn’t know a single person. Texas is a welcoming, friendly place, and within a few months, we made friends and connections. By showing up to meetings, participating in committees, and valuing every relationship, we built a network.

When you’ve been part of a community for a long time, it’s only natural to stay in a small comfort zone of friends and associates. When you’re new and have no comfort zone, there’s a lot of freedom and opportunity that comes with that. There’s an opportunity to consciously define who you are. Before and during dental school, I wanted to become a dentist. That was such a big goal I didn’t really think about anything bigger than that!

After being a dentist for a few years, I recognized there was opportunity for so much more. I asked myself questions like, “What do I want to be known for?” and “How can I make things better for people around me?” I wanted to be known as someone who served others; this motivated a lot of my decisions about how I would spend my time. I’m not sure I would have been so introspective if I had stayed in one place. I’m not sure I would have taken advantage of every opportunity to give back if I felt it was always going to be there for me.

We wouldn’t be ICD members if it wasn’t for our sponsor and our generous friends who wrote letters to support us. Six years ago we moved into a community with many of the best dentists in the country. Whether it’s with service to the profession, contributions to advancing dentistry, or clinical excellence, there are so many shining examples in our own city. These are our  mentors and our friends. We’re very fortunate to be surrounded by great people.

Larry DoughertyLarry Doughtery, DDS, is a 2008 graduate of Nova Southeastern University. He has chaired a number of committees on new dentists, has taught at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry, and now owns Rolling Oaks Dental, a start-up practice in San Antonio, where he practices with his wife who is also a dentist.

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