Here’s the last photo Dr. Durbin and I took together.

It’s been a tough week.

Today I attended the funeral of Dr. Douglas Durbin. Doug was my former business partner. We successfully practiced orthodontics together in the central Kentucky area for over twenty years.

Back in 1995, when I completed my orthodontic residency at the University of Kentucky, Doug already had an established practice here in town. My dream was always to practice in Lexington, but the opportunities for new graduates at that time were slim to none. Upon the recommendation of a mutual friend and colleague, Doug took me in without batting an eye and gave me that chance of a lifetime. For that I’m eternally grateful.

You don’t spend twenty years working intimately with someone and not get to know them. After all, business partnerships are like marriages. With all due respect to his beloved bride Gina, Doug really had two wives during our two decades together. Trust me, I knew Doug well. He had a big, compassionate heart.

Personality-wise, Doug and I were polar opposites. He was bold, brash, and confident. I was quiet, unassuming, and self-conscious. Somehow, we made it all work. That’s not to say I didn’t want to wring his neck at times (and I’m sure he wanted to do the same to me). But at the end of the day, I knew he was always acting on what he thought would best benefit our patients, staff, and practice.

I still can’t believe he’s gone.

Whenever a well-known person suddenly passes, it’s always a shock to my system. John Lennon, Princess Di, and Kobe Bryant come to mind. You always picture those icons as living forever. I thought the same about Doug. He’d be the one writing about me—not the other way around. For anybody that knew him, the guy was larger than life, like a real-life Captain America always swooping in to save the day. It’ll take a while for his death to sink in.

As we grieve, here’s what I want everyone to know about Doug. He did everything with gusto. He treated every single task—however menial—as if it were the most important duty on earth. Sometimes that attention to detail and persistent over analysis drove me nuts. Yes, he was often arrogant, pompous, overbearing, and bombastic in arguing his points. But I seldom felt uncomfortable because I knew exactly where he stood. I admire people with passion and conviction, and Doug was certainly passionate in what he believed.

As you might expect, a person such as that is also extremely competitive. Doug always wanted to be number one. I often wondered how we could coexist as equal partners within the same dental practice. Wouldn’t he always be looking to build himself up in front of our patients and staff at my expense? During one of our long discussions at the end of a grueling work week, I asked him about just that. His answer surprised me.

“There’s no competition between us,” he said. “I consider you totally a part of me.”

I didn’t necessarily understand it at the time, but looking back in hindsight, I can see where Doug always had my back. It really was like a marriage to him—united together in one flesh. Brotherhood, solidarity, and esprit de corps. Loyalty meant everything to him. What more could you ask from a colleague or friend?

At the end of his life, Doug had his priorities in order. He loved the Lord, he loved his family, he loved practicing orthodontics, and he loved his country. You might say he went out in a blaze of glory, completely at peace while surrounded by loved ones with all his priorities totally intact (although he’d never admit to the United States being “intact” with Democrats still in office). He was extremely proud of his military service.

Last but not least, Doug would have wanted everyone to know that he was an Eagle Scout. He once told me he valued his scout badges more than his orthodontic degree. It’s not surprising then that one of his favorite Scripture verses comes from the book of Isaiah.

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  –Isaiah 40:31

Douglas Drymon Durbin—my Christian brother, orthodontic colleague, fellow patriot, and friend—a superhero of sorts to all who depended on him.

May you—Captain America—forever rest in peace.

10 thoughts on “Brother, Colleague, Patriot, and Friend

  1. He had such a good heart and was an excellent teacher. He taught me everything I know, I always loved when he would stop the clinic and ask if we knew the answer to one of his clinical questions. Much love to his family, I will keep them all in my prayers.

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  2. Thank you John! Great to hear those words! Sorry I did not get to say hello today at the funeral. Feel really blessed to have known Doug and you for that matter. Keep up the good work!

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  3. This is so beautifully written Dr. Huang. So perfectly accurate & authentic. Dad was ALL these things you shared. Thank you for sharing.

    With Love,
    Angeline Durbin Speaks

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  4. Thank you Dr. Huang, your words are Beautifully written about Dr. Durbin and I thank you for this, my heart is broken and I have been struggling losing such a wonderful person who meant so much to me. He taught me about life, God, politics, teeth, and that now is to late like he would always say. He made me who i am today and i will continue to honor him by teaching others his way “Dr. Durbins way” A brilliant man gone way to soon.

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