David Shoultz leads drug development at PATH. This Father’s Day, David reflects on the influence his father had on his future global health career and his own efforts to impart values of health and community service to his two sons.
My father Steve retired last year after nearly 50 years as a dentist in Hawai’i. Growing up, I learned from him about the essential role that health plays in productivity and quality of life. I also saw that his career was about more than his practice, and even the dental health of his patients—it went beyond that, into his role in the community and in his patients’ lives.
We often take dental health for granted in the United States, even though it can play a crucial role in our overall sense of well-being. There were countless times I witnessed how something as simple as an infected tooth could impair a person’s ability to go to work every day, get proper nutrition, or enjoy time with their family. I saw how important my dad’s contributions were for children and older patients, especially.
In our community, my dad always demonstrated a deep commitment that went beyond his practice to include church, our local Kiwanis club, bicycle safety on the island of O’ahu, and volunteering with programs such as “Dentists with Heart,” which provides patients with dental services at no charge.
As I look back at my education and career choices, I know that in many ways it was his passionate approach to caring for people that first sparked my interest in global health, a field that gives me the chance to help people around the world lift themselves out of poverty and poor health. His example inspired me to stake out my own path, energized by his passion and dedicated to improving the lives of as many people as possible. I was very fortunate to grow up in a family where both parents demonstrated a deep commitment to the health of other people and also made sure that my brother and I were encouraged to pursue our own passions and career paths. Perhaps not surprisingly, my brother also chose a career in health education, currently overseeing the Head Start program for children living in low-income families on O’ahu.