Frank Sessa, DDS
My sister and I grew up in Stamford, Connecticut. I am a first generation Italian-American. I grew up in a very small, lower-middle class neighborhood. My father was a machine worker and also a musician. He played clarinet and sax. He was also a music teacher and conductor of the Stamford Concert Band. He tutored many of the local students who were going to various music schools. My mom was a cook in the telephone company cafeteria.
I became interested in dentistry when I was about 14. I had always been involved with music and played clarinet, sax, and oboe. In Stamford there was a music studio on the second floor of this building and I would go there after school every day and play with the older musicians who would give me helpful hints. One day I ended up on the third floor and walked into a dental laboratory instead of the music studio. Something came over me there. I liked what they were doing. I used to visit them from time to time. I eventually lied about my age and got a job there. Worked there all through high school and part of my way through college.
I then put all my time into dentistry and gave up music. I still enjoy it though. That is one reason I am here in the Berkshires, because of all the music. I graduated from high school, worked for a year as a laborer to earn some money to go to college and at night I worked at a dental lab. Eventually I applied to Worcester Academy – they have a post-graduate program. From there, I went to the University of Dayton, majored in Chemistry. Graduated and went to Seton Hall College of Medicine and Dentistry mainly because there were only 40 people in the class and I felt that I wanted to be in a small school. I applied to 5 dental schools and was accepted at all of them. Graduated from Seton Hall and went into the Air Force. Came out of the Air Force in 1965 and opened my practice in Stamford. I met my wife during my second year in practice. She died about five years ago. So I had a lot of time on my hands.
I was exercising at the Lenox Fitness Center one day and saw Jay Wise, who was one of the VIM dentists. I noticed he was reading the ADA Journal. I introduced myself and we talked for a bit. He mentioned the clinic, and he invited me to go over and see it. I liked it. I got my Massachusetts license and here I am. I work full time in my office and devote one day a week to the clinic, every single week. I am very proud to have been the president of the Connecticut State Dental Association. Also the past president of the Connecticut Academy of Dental Dentistry. I served 15 years on the Board of Governors of the Connecticut State Dental Association. I served on every committee and every council of the Connecticut State Dental Association. I happen to have a great love for continuing education so I served on that council for more than 40 years and am still serving there today. I am also a Fellow of the American College of Dentistry, and of the International College of Dentistry. I have served 22 years as delegate to the American Dental Association and have served on ADA’s council on Ethics, By-laws and Judicial Affairs. As part of the group, I had something to do with the wording of the ADA’s policy on HIV/AIDS. It was about 16, 17 years ago, at the very beginning of HIV/AIDS. There were dentists refusing to see people. We convinced everyone that as long as they used the barriers we defined, they would be fine. A person could walk in your office and not be honest, and not say anything so one was at risk. It was a learning experience for the profession. I had something to do with the policy and I am proud of that.
The experience at VIM is so extraordinary and different from my private practice. First of all, the staff, the people, the volunteers are all wonderful people. Very warm and loving. The one thing I don’t like about private practice is that you are dealing with a patient’s needs and then the financing of it. If I do a treatment plan in my office, the first thing out of a patient’s mouth is “How much of it is going to be covered by insurance?”. Many patients out there are guiding their health by how much the insurance is going to pay. Here at VIM I do a treatment plan and do what’s best for that patient. The quality of the dentistry here is outstanding. I do what I’ve been trained to do, what I love to do. I really don’t care about getting paid. I want to do the dentistry. I am just loving it.
My longtime friend, Vinni Abate, owner of York Dental/Cerama Lab, found out that I was volunteering for VIM. He stopped in one day and asked who was doing our laboratory work, crowns and bridges. I told him we can’t afford to do crowns and bridges. He said he would do it for us at no charge. That’s remarkable. We owe him a lot.
Some of our patients have come in with severe periodontal disease. Many times diabetics have that problem. We ended up sending the patients to the medical side and found that they did have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. It goes both ways. There are patients who go in the medical side and are sent over to the dental clinic. I think it is a very efficient way to have both teams under one roof.