Hobbies and Dentistry

by Zeynep Barakat, DMD, FAGD with James D. Spalenka DDS, FAGD

Zeynep Barakat, DMD, FAGD

I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Dr.James Spalenka, a general dentist and longtime AGD member. He is a past San Diego AGD and California AGD president. He has been practicing in the Rancho Bernardo community of San Diego for thirty-six years. I discovered his passion for surfing and scuba diving alongside his other passion, dentistry. What follows is my conversation with Dr. Spalenka on his two hobbies:

When not practicing dentistry, you’re in the ocean—-either surfing or scuba diving. How many years have you been doing those sports?

I’ve been scuba diving for almost fifty years and have been surfing for twenty years. So, a long time!

I understand you take surf and scuba diving trips, tell me where you traveled for those.

I have traveled to Nicaragua, Hawaii, Mexico and to Costa Rica for surfing. To Greece, Palau, Fiji, Bolivia, Hawaii and Micronesia for scuba diving.

What was the scariest wave or dive you ever experienced?

I surfed a 25-foot wave in Mexico! It was what’s called an “A-Frame.” I didn’t know how big the swell was, and thought I had easily paddled out during a lull. I realized how big the wave that was coming was, but it was too late; I had paddled out too far thinking this wave was way beyond my skill level and feared for my life. So I decided I have to take one of these waves in and get out of the ocean. I waited for one and went for it. My friend, who knew how big these waves were, was at the shore and took a photo of me on the wave. I made it in eventually and rode the whole wave into shore.

Why do you think it s important to have a hobby or sport outside of dentistry?

Surfing prepares me for my day and gives me a great feeling
first thing in the morning. To catch a good wave, have breakfast with my surf buddies, and to be in the ocean all start my day off right. Dentistry is hard and it’s a must to have a balance and exercise to stay fit.

With all your experience in dentistry, have you any
advice for our AGD members?

Get your Fellowship and Mastership when you can. I’m so glad I got my Fellowship. You’ll be a much better dentist because of doing that. It’s also good to be active in your component and be involved.