Monday, February 8, 2016

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. - Pericles

Each week, when I think about writing a post, I have three objectives in mind: to educate, to inspire, and even to entertain my readers.  As I go through the days of each week, people, stories, situations, or words catch my eye or my ear, and I think about those attention-getting items, mentally “turning them over,” until I make a decision on a topic and write the post. I had an inspiring experience this past week in an unlikely place that I would like to share with you.

If you have seen my picture, you know that I am a fair-skinned blue-eyed blonde, who spends a lot of time on the golf course. Unfortunately, I have had skin cancer numerous times, despite wearing number 55 sunscreen and a hat.  (I am 63-there was no sunscreen when I was young and did so much damage to my skin.)  On February 1, I had a large section of basal cell carcinoma removed from the end of my nose, by a surgical procedure called Mohs surgery. If you are not familiar with Mohs surgery, the surgical method is named for Dr. Frederic E. Mohs, and it is a precise surgical technique used to treat skin cancer.  The surgeon removes a small amount of tissue, and that tissue is examined microscopically.  More tissue is removed until all of the surrounding cells are clear of any cancerous cells.  Mohs surgery is considered to be the most effective treatment of skin cancers, and it is a highly specialized field of dermatological surgery. Monday's surgery was my fourth Mohs surgery, all by the same doctor.

I am blessed to have a talented and dedicated Mohs surgeon/dermatologist named Dr. John Zitelli in my life. He has literally been "saving my face" since the 1990's. During all of the procedures I have had through the years, he has always been patient, caring, humorous, and exact.  Additionally, Dr. Zitelli is usually surrounded by other doctors who are learning the techniques and nuances of Mohs surgery.  Dr. Zitelli, who is also a member of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons,  has truly made Mohs surgery into an art form. (I should know!)  I would be remiss if I did not also mention Dr. Zitelli’s modeling of empathy and caring for his patients as he mentors the new doctors. My heart was touched by one such exchange that I must share with you. Three months after my husband died, I was diagnosed with oral cancer inside my lower lip. Scott always accompanied me on these surgical trips, but not this time.  Dr. Zitelli looked around and asked “Where is the Big Guy?”  I started to cry when I answered that Scott had died a few months ago.  The three interns looked more than a bit uncomfortable with this woman’s tears, but Dr. Zitelli put his gentle hand on my shoulder, gave it a little squeeze, and leaned down to whisper in my ear “Dede, I am so sorry.”  Although I was still crying, you all know that I am first and foremost a teacher, and through my tears, I addressed the three interns, saying, “Gentlemen, take a good look at this- it’s called bedside manner, and it is really important.”  (Like most teachers who are passionate about their calling, I can never allow a teachable moment to pass by, even when I am crying. I hope this story gave you a little smile, even though it still brings tears to my eyes.I am SUCH a teacher! )

When we talked before my surgery this past Monday, I asked Dr. Zitelli if he had any plans to retire.  His answer was a quick and resounding "No." I told him that as both a patient and a teacher, I was grateful for his answer. He wasn't sure of exactly what I meant, so I explained my feelings:  that through his practice and his teaching, he continues to make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people every day, and that his “ripple effect” will live on forever.  When he shares his expertise through training other doctors and teaching empathy, his shared knowledge lives on through other surgeons, who then will go on to train more doctors, all directly impacting the lives of thousands of patients, some of whom have yet to be born. Isn’t that a breathtaking thought? To think about helping others even after one leaves the earth?  

I often write about the impact of teachers and their influence, but today I am tipping my hat to a man who is both a doctor and a teacher.   To Dr. Zitelli and many other teacher/physicians, Pericles said it best:  "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." Thank you for sharing your expertise. Thank you for being a caring doctor. Thank you for humor and empathy. Thank you for not retiring. Thank you for making the world better- for today, and far into the future. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

This post is published with the permission of Dr. John A. Zitelli. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  Many colleges have made the book required reading. 

Signed copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

Contact Dede if you would like her speak to your faculty or student teachers.

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Here is the link the my 15 second Grady Gets Glasses commercial!

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at .  The website IS UP AND RUNNING!!!.  Signed copies ARE available!  Coloring books and Grady plush toys are ordered! 

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. 

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Dede is the co-host of The Total Education Q & A, which can be heard on Blogtalk Radio at 

1 comment:

  1. I really loved reading this! We have been blessed with having a fantastic family doctor for most of my life, who also teaches us new things every time we see him. I hope he never retires! Years ago, I remember randomly breaking down in tears at an appointment and instead of ignoring it, he stopped talking, sat down beside me and looked into my eyes and told me he was sorry that I felt so bad...And I knew he meant it. It's something I will never forget. It's far too rare to find doctors who can express genuine compassion.