Viewpoints from Alaska - The Last Frontier

Viewpoints from Alaska - The Last Frontier

I had the privilege to spend a week with my two boys in the Pacific Northwest, primarily Alaska and Seattle.  We cruised on the Royal Princess ship through the inner passage to Glacier Bay.  Our stops included Seattle, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Victoria and back to Seattle.  I have never been on a cruise, and I truly enjoyed the experience.  Taking two teenage boys that love to sleep in, order room service, nap, watch movies, and have their “downtime” (I thought was only at home….nope!)…I had plenty of time to make friends with the workers on the ship.

The commonality of this whole experience is the dependence of the local communities to the ships that come into and out of their harbors.  People work for 6-9 months on board the ship, local excursion and shop owners in the little Alaskan Villages work 7 days a week during in-season to support their financial needs.  It is a life of weekly repetition for most, but in the end, there is a mutual dependence needed on both the tourist and the provider to match each other’s needs and goals.

Interestingly, the average worker on the boat was from India, Southeast Asia, or Southern Africa.  I imagine their opportunity to live and work on a ship for 6-9 months straight is a blessing and their smiles, work ethic, the Midas touch with hospitality, and humble gratitude everyday was infectious. 

On the docks, my tour guide on a boat ride said she works 6 months 7 days a week in season, and part-time at a jeweler’s store off-season making jewelry.  Her energy was palpable, and she loved what she did.  They got food delivered at the local store only on Tuesdays and if a watermelon arrived it could cost up to $80. 

What am I getting at?  These small parts of our society are symbiotic with the cruise industry, a machine of extravagant hospitality.  But, if you strip it all down, the people both on the boat and on the dock make “THE EXPERIENCE” for me.  My barista knew my name by the second day, asked me where I was if I missed him on my first coffee of the day. It is small touches like the conversations with our cab driver that escaped Iran to give his children a better life in Canada…my boys will remember that man! They witnessed true “service” in an industry that has mastered it! My youngest works at Chick fil-A and they have it down well, so he was taking it all in!

Bringing this perspective back home it mirrors the goals and hospitality I hope our team provides our patients on a daily level.  From Alicia’s knowledge of every face that walks through the door and where they last vacationed or got married, to Lesley’s gentle care in her room and familiarity with all her patients, to our newest member with Carissa’s dynamic personality and zest for adventure that seeps into our conversations chairside.  For me, I worked in my mom’s medical office as a 7th/8th grader helping with document storage and mailings.  I witnessed nice ladies, and impersonal doctors. In dental school I worked as a blood gas technician in the NICU of a busy State Hospital and was the bottom of the ladder in a stress-filled environment.  I got all the attitude dumped on me and I had nobody else to offload it to, so I learned to take it and quietly let it “roll off” my shoulders. My mom told me as a teenager, when you own your own office one day…treat your staff and your patients right! I hope I am making her proud and my patients feel like family.  Like those small businesses in Alaska, I too depend on great patients and new referrals to feed the success of our office. 

In a world of impersonal business models, large corporate dental and medical offices, we stand proud as a 4-person team delivering what I stand firm as the best personal dental care in the Valley. I humbly thank you all for your trust in allowing us to be a part of your family’s health care providers and wish you the best of health and success going into the new school year!

Kevin Ortale, DDS PLC