After 30 years of dentistry, Dr. Bruce Patterson is at the point in life where he can do the things he most enjoys.
In fact, Dr. Patterson’s family vacations in recent years have included snorkeling with sea turtles off the Galapagos Islands, hiking to the “Gate of the Sun” at Machu Picchu in Peru and cycling across parts of Ireland and also California’s Napa Valley.
But there’s something else Dr. Patterson still considers worthy of his time. As a veteran dentist affiliated with Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, he still regularly takes “call” in the Emergency Department, providing urgent dental care to any and all patients who need it.
“I enjoy my work and taking call is part of the territory, even though there are only a few dentists that do it,” he says. “To me, I feel it’s kind of an obligation to help out our community, and I really appreciate this community.”
As a younger man, Dr. Patterson never envisioned that southeastern Connecticut and New London would become his home.
He grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania. Always good at math, he attended Cornell University as an undergraduate, earning a degree in chemical engineering. From there, it was on to dental school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and then next to a general practice residency at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.
It was at Lenox Hospital that two momentous events occurred. First, he met his wife-to-be, Carol, who today is a nurse educator with the Joslin Diabetes Center at L+M. And, secondly, the opportunity to come to New London presented itself.
“One of the attending physicians at Lenox Hospital happened to be a classmate of Dr. Barry Bienstock, who was practicing dentistry in New London,” Dr. Patterson explains. “Barry happened to call this guy up one day and ask if he knew anybody who might be interested in joining his practice. And that’s how I ended up coming to New London.”
Today, Dr. Patterson and Carol have three grown children: Gilbert is a veterinarian in Minnesota; Lucy is a nurse practitioner in Boston, and Danny works in banking and finance in New London.
Looking back over his career, Dr. Patterson is glad he came to New London.
“It’s a very nice lifestyle,” he says. “We’re by the water, there’s not too much traffic, and, if you want to go get a dose of culture, you can go into the big city. And, the Garde Arts Center provides a lot of nice things to see right here in New London.”
Dr. Patterson is also glad he decided to become a dentist.
“I always liked working with my hands,” he says. “When I was a kid, I enjoyed working with models and I did a lot of wood working. In high school, my local dentist took me down to his office. He had a laboratory where he made up the different crowns and things like that, so it was probably by 10th or 11th grade that I knew being a dentist was something I wanted to do.”
As for the fact that most people don’t exactly love going to the dentist, “You get over that,” Dr. Patterson says. “You can’t take it personally.
“What’s really satisfying is to see people come in with a broken tooth and they walk off with a fixed tooth, and they feel good about themselves, and you feel good that you were able to help them.”
As a dentist, “You can really change attitudes for people and change their whole self image,” Dr. Patterson says. “People with really bad teeth – they never want to smile. But if you can get everything fixed up, then all of a sudden they have more self confidence and they feel better. And they look better. It can change their life.”
Dr. Patterson is also proud of his 30-year affiliation with L+M. It’s one of the reasons he’s still on call with the Emergency Department.
“The hospital is a great resource for this area,” he says. “L+M has affiliations with Yale and the Joslin Diabetes Center, and now, with the new cancer center going up in Waterford, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“L+M has been able to sort of reach out and pick the brains of some of the best teaching hospitals, thereby offering the best care right here, so you don’t have to travel,” Dr. Patterson says. “It’s part of why I’m proud to be affiliated with L+M and still happy to be on staff.”
To learn more about Dr. Patterson, click here.