Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Thank You For Teaching Me

        Recently I had lunch with a wonderful man I'm honored to know; my former employer. We'd met one day at Maple Restaurant, an old establishment in Ambridge, the small, homey town I grew up in. All the pleasant talk and chatter with him brought me back. Back to a time when I was young, the whole world before me.......

      When I graduated business school at eighteen, I was faced with the daunting task of job hunting. What to do? Go on interviews that the school would provide, all of them in the downtown Pittsburgh area? No way.
     As chance would have it, my mother was looking through the paper one day and spotted an ad: Dental Assistant, will read. When she saw it was the dentist I'd gone to as a little girl, she encouraged me to call.
     Dental Assistant? What on earth?
     Thirty some years later, I've never looked back. The dental field has been extremely rewarding for me, teaching me compassion, patience, caring and understanding.
     The man who would help me learn these lessons and many others is my former boss, Dr. Alvin Zamba. A quiet, good soul, this man would teach me more about life, people, work ethics and goodness than I would ever learn elsewhere. With his gentle approach to our patients in the dental office we worked together for twenty seven years, Dr. Zamba showed me that honesty and hard work are the traits we should all strive for.
     The dental work we put out through the years was impeccable. A periodontist, gum specialist, in our area would call Dr. Zamba, "Beaver County's Most Well-Kept Secret". And he was. Our fees were reasonable, and the work of his hands, incredible. Our satisfied patients would tell me in private, how pleased they were with their appointments.
     In all the years working with Dr. Zamba, I would not miss a day's work. I looked forward to the bond and closeness with the elderly patients we saw on a daily basis. I listened to their problems, hopes and dreams. I laughed with them and cried with them.
     Several times, the doctor and I went to the bedside of a sick, older man in his own home. He didn't have much longer to live, but his family wanted him to have dentures made for whatever time he had left. I think of that now, how my boss took the time out of his busy day, and the comfort of working in our office to do this for the family.
     Yes, there were testy moments, as there were only the two of us working together for many years, and maybe my temper wanted to flare at times, but keeping myself in check was also another lesson. First and foremost, respect of my employer, and learning to hold my tongue when I may not have agreed with something.
     I miss those days, a simpler time in a small town, in an old-fashioned office decorated in antiques with no frills, no computer, no exciting major equipment. Only the tools and skills of a wonderful man, a man I am pleased to have called "boss" for many years.
     Here's to you, Dr. Zamba, in thankfulness for all I learned at your side.


  1. I wanted to share the response Dr. Zamba sent me in an email. He was unable to post in here himself:

    “Your words have touched me deeply. It was an honor and a privilege to work with you, Karen.
    You were a fast learner quickly absorbing all of the fine aspects of dentistry. With your enthusiasm, curiosity, interest and quick mastery, you were an asset to the field
    and a delight to work with. Your empathy for our patients and devotion to the community helped us fulfill our mission. You worked hard without complaint; initiated and facilitated successful
    changes to office practices; shared your knowledge to better inform our patients; and always maintained high standards of professionalism.
    We were a great team and I was blessed to have you work alongside me for so many years.”

  2. What a wonderful tribute to an obviously wonderful man. Your blog will be cherished by his family, no doubt. Is there a book in that story?????

  3. Haha, Carol. You never know, right?? Thank you so much for commenting. He taught me so much about life. I started working there when I was only 19 years old, and left when I was in my forties. So much had gone on in my life throughout those years together.

  4. How well I remember the days when you and my mom worked for Dr. Zamba. My mother has very fond memories as well. God bless you all for the wonderful work you did!