A profile of Dr. Edward J. Green, 2017 recipient of GDA's Award of Merit
In 1983, Dr. Ed Green and his wife, Lorraine, waited in their newly-opened downtown Albany practice. With no practices available to purchase, they started from scratch, and it was their first day of operation in a building that had been vacant, waiting for the Greens throughout four years of study in Augusta. “On day one, when the door opened,
neither of us had anything to do,” Green recalls. “And then the phone rang two times—and I thought it was one and a half times too many!”
Thirty four years later, that first patient, her children, and her grand children are still patients of the practice. This is a clear indication of Green's dedication to patient care and passion for his profession.
The Georgia Dental Association honored Dr. Edward J. Green on July 23, 2017 with a well-deserved Award of Merit, the association’s highest honor. “Edward J. Green is a servant,” Dr. Jay Phillips wrote in a letter of recommendation. Calling his curriculum vitae a “novel of an obsessed dentist that never sleeps,” Phillips praised Green's integrity, ambition, drive, leadership and mentorship, commenting, “If I had a dollar for every mile Green has traveled and fifty cents for every hour he has spent doing business of the GDA, I would be rich. Because of his passion and dedication, the GDA is rich.”
Remarkably, dentistry is Green’s second career. A graduate of Albany State University, Green received a degree in chemistry and spent twelve years working as both a high school teacher and, later, a chemical engineer. “After graduating and spending time as a chemical engineer, I was trying to figure out what I could do that would make people the main part of my work, rather than materials and processes,” says Green. Speaking with friends who were in law, medicine, and even pilots, it was a college friend of Green's who introduced him to the idea of pursuing dentistry.
A Family Affair
It’s not surprising that Green was persistent in his search for the right career; his perseverance was demonstrated as early as high school, when he met Lorraine Green in the high school band, where both played the clarinet. Lorraine recalls the first time he asked for her telephone number, she was at a high school dance running for homecoming queen. “Not interested in pursuing courtship at the time, I told him my number was ‘0-0-0- 0-0.’” But Green didn’t give up, and after Lorraine graduated high school, he finally received her telephone number and their relationship began.
From even the earliest days, the Green family worked closely together. “I was everything from administrative assistant, janitress, bottle washer, sanitizer and chairside assistant—you name it,” Lorraine shares. She took Dr. Jack Sherrer’s dental assisting course at the Medical College of Georgia to learn some of the skills that she needed to assist in the practice. Additionally, their daughter, Dr. Erica Greene, helped out at the practice, which played a large part in her decision to follow her father’s career path. While Erica worked in the practice as a teen, she became interested in dentistry after completing her undergraduate degree. After attending a family orientation at the Mercer University College of Pharmacy, where she had been accepted, Erica made
the decision to work for her father for a year—and is now also a committed, involved member of the Georgia Dental Association.
“Not every family has the blessing and privilege to work closely together as we have,” says Lorraine. “We have been able to keep our family together in spite of the tragedy of losing our 22-year old daughter Edythe in 1992,” she adds. “We have always tried to select our friends and associates based on the content of their character as Martin Luther King, Jr. urged. We have wonderful friends associated with the Georgia Dental Association, and to be able to pass that on to our daughter is a tremendous blessing to us.”
A Lifetime in Dentistry
Green has practiced dentistry for 34 years, and he reflects on how dentistry continues to evolve. “I had good working relationships with some of my older colleagues and we would compare notes as to how I would do things after graduating from dental school compared to how they were doing it. Even then there was quite a difference in the technique, but the outcome was good patient care whether you did it the old way or the
newer way. Now, having practiced dentistry for 34 years, in many ways it’s significantly different than when I started. That metamorphosis has occurred in my practice and I’m sure Erica has seen more of it than I have. When we were in school, implants were basically getting started. Implant dentistry now has become the standard of care. Initially in my practice, I said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do implants, and now it’s a regular part of what we do without a second thought.’”
Erica joined the practice in 2006, and the pair have spent years learning from each other as they work to provide the highest standard of patient care. “Erica is always asking me about new things,” Green says. “She does the research, we talk about it, and many things we try and find to be quite a nice change from the way we’ve done things.”
Erica adds, “Even now I still like to get 30 years of experience and advice and opinions. There are certain things that my father is really good at and I try to pick his brain as much as I can. It works both ways, and there are times that he’ll ask my opinion about a case as well. It’s been a real privilege and honor to be able to work alongside my dad.”
A Leader in Organized Dentistry
While his practice’s longevity and adaptiveness clearly demonstrates the drive and dedication his colleagues so frequently describe, Green recognizes the role that his wife played in his involvement in organized dentistry. While at the Medical College of Georgia, Lorraine joined a married dental students group. The group provided social interaction among students and faculty, as well as a support system. “It helped us to be
actively involved in some of the projects that professors’ wives were implementing,” Lorraine says. “When you left school, your primary goal was to continue some of those things in your community.”
Lorraine became active in Albany and started working on projects like a toothbrush swap as part of National Childrens’ Dental Health Month, and securing educational interviews with local dentists on Albany tv stations. Eventually, she helped transform the dentists’ monthly club into more than a supper club. She encouraged Green to get more involved, saying, “It’s your profession. Your involvement matters.“
Green's involvement in organized dentistry has been considerable, serving terms with ADA councils and task forces, and as the first African American president of the GDA in 2004. “I want to be in the forefront of whatever it is that I do. GDA is in the forefront of our legislative thrust. We’re in the forefront of matters that pertain to dentistry not only in this state but across the nation. I felt that was a place I needed to be and was prepared for.”
While working on the ADA Workforce Taskforce in 2006, Green and his colleagues tackled solutions for states and large metro areas that needed auxiliaries like a Community Dental Health Coordinator, ensuring that dentists were at the forefront of solving these issues. Green says, “We worked to be of benefit to the patient in the best possible way and yet maintain integrity of the dental personnel and staff in these relationships."
In his fourth year on the ADA Council on Communications, Green was tapped to serve as Chairman, where he says he had the chance to put the “Georgia touch” on some of the council’s initiatives. Afterwards, Green served as Legal and Legislative Reference Committee Chair for the ADA House of Delegates, and is currently serving a second term on the ADA Foundation Executive Board. Of his most recent post, Green says, “We are looking at the aftermath of Texas’s Hurricane Harvey and facing a Hurricane Irma in Florida; there are all kinds of things that beset our colleagues and their practices. The benevolent side of dentistry helps us to come to the aid of our practitioners who have been displaced not only from their work, but from their homes. It doesn’t make them whole but it gives them a little bit of transition to know that their colleagues care. It’s a role that I’ve been pretty happy to be a part of.”
Admired by Peers
GDA members expressed admiration for Green's involvement in organized dentistry. “Dr. Green has the utmost respect from his peers in the Southwestern District and has proven himself as a well-respected advocate for dentistry on a local, state, and national level,” writes Dr. Holland B. Wright, the Southwestern District representative on GDA’s Awards Committee.
Dr. Steven D. Sample shares, “I have known and worked with Dr. Green in both local, district, and state Georgia Dental Association business for over 30 years and know him to be a tireless and effective worker in all areas of organized dentistry… I can think of no one who deserves this award more!”
Along with similar statements, Southwestern District Past President Dr. Jeffery N. Cox writes, “[Green's] wisdom and leadership have been a valuable resource for our association. He is very deserving of this award for his continuing service to our association.”
Asked when he might consider retiring, Green indicates GDA will count him as a tireless advocate for some time yet. He says, “That I haven’t quit bodes well for my enjoyment of what I do. I enjoy working with Erica and our patients a lot, and haven’t set that date yet.”
A Lasting Legacy
Dr. Jay Phillips, in his letter of recommendation, spoke of Green's dedication to the GDA. “I once asked Green why he has sacrificed his personal and family time to serve the GDA. His reply was, ‘What sacrifice? I have received more than I have ever given.’” Phillips wrote, “Ed has created a lasting legacy through his ethical service, passion for organized dentistry and mentorship.”
Integrity and compassion are evident in Green's own words, as well. “I hope my legacy will be that I have set a good example for my daughter, who admires the profession as much as I do.” He emphasizes the importance of education, and speaks of the importance of finding one’s own niche as she determines what she wants to emphasize in her practice. In addition, Green shares his efforts to ensure his practice has always operated with adherence to rule of law, ensured high standards of care and shown compassion for others who are less fortunate.
Erica echoes Green's sentiments. “In carrying on the legacy, it’s my goal to continue to provide optimal care for patients.” She recalls a highlight from her time in dental school, when she provided care for a husband and wife who were patients of Green in school. “I was removing gold crowns that had been placed when I was about six years old.”
An Inspiring GDA Leader
We are privileged to count Dr. Edward J. Green as a member of the Georgia Dental Association. The Award of Merit is well-earned, and it’s certain Green has exemplified his inspirational words, “When I became president of the GDA, I felt that if I leave anything behind it is this: Put your best foot forward. Do it with integrity, do it with sincerity, and do it with intensity and your colleagues will get the point and will acknowledge that and be spurred on to other activities themselves.”