“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”

Editor’s intro
The value of implementing emerging technologies is significant to the future of endodontics. Read Dr. Hetz’s insights in this issue’s introduction.


Our specialty of endodontics has evolved, and continues to evolve, through the application of emerging technologies.  As you reflect on the experiential process of adopting microscopes and CBCT into your clinical practice, were you late to the game or an early adopter? What has been your level of consideration to use new calcium-silicate sealers based on nanoparticles or applying advanced fluid dynamics and multisonic energy to remove biofilm and dissolve pulpal tissue?

Scott K. Hetz, DMD

In a recent podcast, nephrologist Dr. Jason Fung discussed Evidence-Informed Medicine and using ethical judgment in deciding to bring new concepts to your patient care. Evidence-Based Medicine remains the bedrock of our clinical decision process, but he said that sometimes it feels like less of a search for the truth and more like a search for consensus.

We’ve all heard the clever quip in the title above about whether or not to ask for permission before going “experimental,” but where does it come from? Google it, and you will find reference after reference crediting Grace Hopper — a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and pioneering computer scientist — as the author.

Grace Hopper earned both her Master’s in Mathematics and Physics and her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale University by 1934, and then joined the Navy Reserves, where she worked on the military’s Mark I proto-computer project at Harvard during World War II. Her close relationship with the U.S. military and the early computer industry shaped Hopper’s career during a time when women weren’t widely accepted as leaders in academics or as military officers. In spite of that, she excelled in these male-dominated arenas.

In 1952, Hopper changed the computer industry when her programming team developed the first computer language “compiler,” making it possible to write programs for multiple computers rather than just a single machine. Her team then developed Flow-Matic, the first programming language to use English-like commands. And by 1959, these innovative contributions led Hopper to become a co-inventor of the Bomarc system, later called COBOL (Common-Business-Oriented Language).

Her biographer, Kurt Beyer, called her “the person most responsible for the success of COBOL during the 1960s.” Her life’s work was significant — by the 1970s, it was the most extensively used computer language in the world. Without a doubt, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper earned her nicknames: “Amazing Grace” and “Grandma COBOL.”

She remained active after retiring from the Navy and became an iconic mentor to future leaders of the computer industry — often speaking at engineering forums and universities — passing on the value of adopting new technologies. She was a leader in the best sense of the word, as exemplified by her oft-stated opinion that “the most damaging phrase in our language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”

Each of us has the opportunity to be an active participant in the direction of our own practice of endodontics. The next time you make that conscious decision to embrace a new intellection, just smile to yourself and think of “Amazing Grace,” a woman who was a legend in her own time. Like it or not, change is inevitable, and new technology options will continue to evolve, so don’t apologize seizing those opportunities that will propel you forward, even though “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Editor’s call to action
Dr. Adam Davis delves into emerging technologies, and whether they are awesome or awful in his article. Read it here.

Scott K. Hetz, DMD, is a 1997 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Hetz served in the United States Air Force for 9 years, including an Advanced Education in General Dentistry program. Also, while on active duty, he received his specialty Certificate in Endodontics from the University of Southern California in 2004. Dr. Hetz is a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics, member of the Endodontic College of Diplomates, and Specialist Member of the American Association of Endodontists and District of Columbia Dental Society. He volunteers as Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Endodontics Naval Postgraduate Dental School at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Dr. Hetz maintains a full-time practice as a partner with Advanced Endodontic Associates in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at scotthetz@mac.com.

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