Interview with Dr. Robert Guyette
What is your personal and professional background?
I grew up in a small Midwestern river town (Ottawa, Illinois). My father was an engineer and played football for Notre Dame. He encouraged me to consider the dental or medical field. My first passion was basketball. I attended the University of Kentucky on a basketball scholarship, majoring in pre-Dent, and played in the NCAA championship game against UCLA in 1975. UCLA coach, John Wooden, announced his retirement the night before the finals. We lost that game but I gained a mentor and role model in Coach Wooden. Considered by many to be the best basketball coach in the history of the game, he was also a humble and gracious man and an inspiration to all who met him, including me. Upon graduation from Kentucky I decided to delay my dental/medical career. I was drafted in the NBA and the old ABA but decided to accept an offer to play professional basketball for FC Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain. I spent five great years there traveling with the team throughout Western Europe, the Middle East and Communist countries behind the Iron Curtain. Gina, who I had met while at Kentucky, and I, married after my second year in Spain. We immensely enjoyed the people, culture, food and lifestyle in Barcelona. However, a back injury during my last year forced us to consider our next move. I applied to and was accepted at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. During my third year, I was introduced to Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and found my calling. I was fascinated by the new surgical techniques that were being developed to treat patients with severe facial injuries and to correct facial skeletal deformities. These were truly life altering procedures. By my fourth year of dental school, I also knew that I wanted to expand my practice beyond the standard scope of oral surgery so I applied to the four programs in the US that offered a medical degree in combination with OMFS residency training. I was accepted at the University of Alabama, so Gina and I and our first two sons packed the U-Haul and moved to Birmingham. During medical school at UAB, I decided to do my trauma rotation at Banner Samaritan in Phoenix. At that time, my brother-in-law, Dr. Tom Wachtel, was Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Good Samaritan, as it was known at the time, Director of Trauma and the General Surgery residency program. He was a great mentor. After looking at several other areas of the country, we decided to move the family to the Phoenix area and begin my practice in Facial and Oral surgery. I opened both our Scottsdale and West Valley offices in 1989. I joined the staff of five Valley hospitals and went to work meeting dentist colleagues and building our practice. As a sole practitioner and father of three boys, life was busy. In 1998, we opened our current Scottsdale office and surgery center. It was designed specifically to provide facial and oral surgery procedures with either IV sedation or general anesthesia. Our practice is focused on functional and esthetic surgery of the face and mouth.
Has giving back helped to make you a more successful dentist?
Success means different things to different people. The older I get, the less it is about doing new procedures and the more it is about developing positive relationships with patients. The joy in what we do comes from positively impacting patients lives, even if it is something as simple as making an injection of local anesthesia less painful than what your patient expected. Volunteering gives us the opportunity to help some of the people who need it the most.
Why is Brian’s case special to you?
Brian’s case is special to me because it personalized the plight of those who have been incarcerated. Before, it was an abstract idea. I have not worked in the prison system and have only treated a few prisoners for acute dental needs. I have learned that when given the chance, some people can turn their lives around and make a significant contribution. I have watched Brian carefully over the past eight months. He has gone from being quiet and somewhat unsure of himself to becoming more engaging and confident.
What would you like to share about your personal life?
I’ve been married to Gina, my life and business partner, for 39 years. We have three grown sons. Rob who graduated in Aerospace Engineering from USNA. He flew the F/A-18 and F-35B and is currently a Marine test pilot stationed at Patuxent River, Maryland. Kevin, who works with Medtronic Spinal and Biologics Division at Barrows Neurological Institute and Brian, who graduated in Systems Engineering from USAFA. He flies the B-1 bomber for the US Air Force and is stationed at Dyess AFB near Abilene, Texas. They are all married, and we are blessed to have four fantastic grandchildren.
What would you like to share about your professional life?
Since dental school, I have been amazed by the analgesic, anxiolytic and safety profile of nitrous oxide and the benefit that it brings to dental patients. What did not make sense to me were the bulky and uncomfortable delivery systems that were available on the market at that time. Fast forward thirty years and I have the same thoughts. The delivery systems had not improved during that time. In 2008, I started what turned out to be a seven-year research and development project to solve the problem of poor patient comfort and dentist access. This resulted in the development of the Silhouette nitrous oxide delivery system. Silhouette came to market one year ago and is fabricated under a licensing agreement with Porter Instruments. It is sold through all major dental distributors in the US and is available in Europe, Australia and Canada. This project was an amazing learning process and I hope that Silhouette helps dental patients throughout the world. We are currently looking into how the benefits of nitrous oxide can be shared with the medical world.