Dr. LD Pankey was born and reared in Southern Illinois over five miles of countryside. His father had a grocery store and a farm, but he didn’t venture into the larger world until he was ten years old. When he was about 12, he fell in love with dentistry while climbing the steps to a dental office for the first time. He knew then it was what he wanted to do.
Dr. Pankey moved to Indiana halfway through high school to get an accredited high school education. Then he went to the University of Louisville and graduated at 22 in 1924. That was the beginning of his career.
His wife was a dentist’s daughter who he met at a board meeting. They married in 1933. He has three daughters and a son, who went on to be an orthodontist. But without a crucial move early in his career, everything might have been different for Dr. Pankey.
Courage in the Face of Complacency: Why Dr. Pankey Moved to Florida
Dr. Pankey’s first practice was in Newcastle, Kentucky. After graduating, his advisor in dental school told him to take on this practice in Kentucky from a dentist who was moving to Florida, as he knew Dr. Pankey was young, broke, and $3300 in debt (at the time, this seemed like a lot more money).
He suggested Dr. Pankey gain some maturity and security in a practice that was already built up before moving on to bigger and better things. Dr. Pankey had nine patients the first day and fourteen the second, a trend which continued for many months. He paid off his debt, was happy, and bought a new car.
At the time, he wrote a letter to his mother about how well he was doing. She responded saying she was glad for him, but that she hoped he wasn’t providing poor dental care. She had recently had dentures placed and hadn’t felt good since.
This formative interaction made him very unhappy because he was in fact practicing the kind of dentistry his mother had experienced. He also felt he had become too comfortable. In 1925, he left for Florida and promised to save teeth not remove them. This was the beginning of the development of his philosophy of practice and his journey of continuous learning, a concept he taught other dentists until the end of his life.
The rest is Pankey history!