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Overcoming unnecessary fear, or why I ate bugs in Thailand – New Dentist Blog

by adminjay

Stephanie Ganter, D.D.S., is a board-certified periodontist in private practice in Dallas, Texas. She serves as an ADA Wellness Ambassador and new dentist member on the ADA Council on Members Insurance and Retirement Programs. She completed a two-year integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, followed by a one-year surgical leadership program at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ganter is a seeker with an international focus that includes hosting medical-dental mission trips around the world, all to pursue her mission in life: to connect, discover and inspire.

Imagine standing at a bustling street market in Bangkok, the air filled with exotic scents and the sounds of a vibrant city. In front of you is a vendor, his cart adorned with an array of unusual delicacies. He gestures toward a bowl of fried insects, a common snack in Thailand. For many, this scene epitomizes the very essence of stepping out of one’s comfort zone. But what if this leap into the culinary unknown is more than just an adventurous anecdote? What if it’s a pathway to personal growth and well-being?

Thailand came at an extremely busy time in my life, and I’m grateful for the lessons from the integrative medicine fellowship that allowed me to take the time to experience a part of the world I have always dreamed about. I booked the trip through AHI Further, the active travel partner endorsed by ADA Member Advantage. AHI provided a flexible yet detailed itinerary that included flights, transportation to and from the hotel, meals and daily activities. The best part for me was knowing this experience would be with a group. I turned 34 years old in 2023 — I celebrated a birthday on this trip (bonus!) — and each year, I increasingly recognize the value of relationships and the people with whom you spend your time as part of the magic to life.

After a long but steady journey, my partner, Robert “Bobby” McNeill, D.D.S., M.D., and I touched down in Bangkok. We immediately were shuttled to a stunning hotel in the middle of the city situated next to a Buddhist temple and the Chao Phraya River, often referred to as the “River of Kings” and integral to the city’s commerce. The time we spent in Thailand was split between the capital city of Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai. We were able to try various traditional and modernized Thai cuisines served by street vendors and restaurants. We also had what Bobby called the best meal of his life while dining with a local family at their farm. We toured the farm with an elder who showed us many of the medicinal plants his family uses in their daily lives. All of this brought experiences from my integrative medicine fellowship to life.

Now the bug part. At a street vendor in Chiang Mia, we ate bugs. Literally! Fried and stirred up on a stick — talk about being outside your comfort zone. I was hesitant at first, but I also did not want unnecessary fear to hold me back. Our local guide had not steered us wrong on the prior day’s adventure, so I took the leap, well, chomp. One was crispy, the other not so much. I actually felt good about pushing my limits. I have let unnecessary fear hold me back from many things in life. This would not be one of those days, as evidenced by this video.

We also had the opportunity to celebrate the spiritual practice of the Alms Giving Ceremony, an early morning ritual where locals rise with Buddhist monks headed to their temples for the day to feed the monks. The monks present with an empty bowl and depend on the community for their food. A truly beautiful and meaningful experience.

Our group was a mix of all generations and by happenstance included two other dentists, orthodontists Terri Neufeld, D.D.S., and Roland Neufeld, D.D.S., from California. Experiencing the world is great, and sharing that experience with a diverse group of professionals made the trip truly unforgettable. Bobby and I have a YouTube channel called Between Two Teeth — with the purpose to connect, discover and inspire. Travel is a way to take a pause from the daily grind of practice. We would say it is necessary. We love our patients, our team and our practice. However, a part of well-being is taking time away from the ordinary to connect. Connecting with nature, cultures, cities, people and yourself. Travel can be a way to gain a perspective on life. I also had three of the most luxurious and inexpensive massages of my life during this trip. Talk about a physical and mental reset.

Would you like to take an adventure like this? Do you need an adventure like this? There are several studies showing the benefits of travel for stress relief and mental health, especially in young professionals. It is with an adventurous spirit that I push you to connect, discover and be inspired by this incredible world.

I’ve been able to have these experiences and make these connections because I am part of the ADA family, giving me access to the AHI Further travel program, which offers a discount to ADA members, and wellness resources that we share on our channel. It’s been a wonderful journey with the ADA and one that will continue. Stay tuned — literally — to Between Two Teeth.

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