Dentist turns life’s challenge into new mission of hope
Dr. Steven Steinberg, a former dentist and author of "Light, Love, Life, Shalom," experienced a sudden change in his life after a severe bike accident and diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
DR. STEVEN STEINBERG
Job: Former dentist, current author and speaker
Book: “Light, Love, Life, Shalom.”
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:46PM
SKOKIE — Any day — even one that begins routine and expected — can change in a flash and alter one’s life in an unimaginable direction.
Dr. Steven Steinberg of Skokie, a former dentist and current author and speaker, knows that better than most people.
Steinberg’s life was changed during a bicycle ride on Sunday, June 24, 2001.
“It was an absolutely gorgeous Sunday morning,” he remembered.
A teenager who had his license for only six days drove past Steinberg in a van and made a left turn, erroneously believing the cyclist would stop.
“Because he had such little experience with actual cars, he was wrong,” Steinberg said. “The car stops for the biker and the bike actually has the right of way.”
A former triathlete, Steinberg said his fitness couldn’t save him. He had no place to go.
“I cannot tell you what goes through your head when you’re looking at a van that is absolutely in your way and you’re going 18 miles per hour,” he said.
Steinberg believes a “higher power” made him turn the bike, which reduced the severity of the crash.
“I thought about this later and I thought this is God,” he said. “It possibly saved my life.”
But Steinberg, 57, now an engaging inspirational speaker and author, had additional questions when he looked back at that critical moment.
If this was God, he said, why not make the van soft? “Turn it into a marshmallow or make it disappear.”
The recovery from broken ribs and other painful ailments was long and difficult, and his shaking hands were later disagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. He had taken his last bicycle ride and he soon had to give up his dental practice.
But what is most remarkable about Steinberg is the spirit in which he lives his life, the determination to motivate others in the face of challenges.
That, in large part, is what his inspirational and faith-based book, “Light, Love, Life, Shalom,” addresses. (See adjoining story). Steinberg was already writing it, he said, and he already was an effective speaker to colleagues. But suddenly his life-changing experience brought a credibility and an urgency to these endeavors.
Steinberg was born in San Antonio, Texas, on an Army base where his father was a dentist. The family moved to Chicago when he was still a toddler.
It wasn’t his intention to follow in his father’s footsteps — he wanted to be his own person, he said.
He applied to medical schools and only one dental school, but the latter is where he ended up.
Dentistry allowed him to accomplish all the goals he had set out for his life, he said, but in less time. He loved being a dentist.
“I’m the kind of person who tries to enjoy whatever I happen to be doing,” Steinberg said. “I mean, life is short. This is not a dress rehearsal. Therefore, any situation I’m in I either enjoy it or try to get out of it.”
He first went into practice with his father and then worked at a North Side dental office before beginning his own practice in the early 1990s in Skokie.
Things were working out, but he realized he had not chosen the best location. He later was able to build a state-of-the-art dental office near Old Orchard in Skokie where he moved his business.
“Six months before the accident, we leveraged everything we had, sold the building and moved,” he said.
After recovery in the hospital and when he first returned home, Steinberg had little idea how bad the accident was. His family, which includes four children now ages 27 to 35, helped out during the worst times.
Steinberg eventually tried to return to his dental practice in much more limited capacity.
By then, however, he was dealing with shakes that later were determined to be Parkinson’s disease.
When diagnosed, Steinberg said he was relieved because at least he knew what he had and how to treat it. He’s had two deep brain stimulations for the disease, and medications have helped him as well.
“It got to a point where I just didn’t feel the quality of my work was what it was once up to,” he said.
He sold the practice in 2005 and continued to re-evaluate his life. Steinberg still speaks to dentists, but he would like to branch out as a motivational speaker.
His life is different now, he says, but it has purpose and meaning.
“One of the frustrating things about Parkinson’s disease,” Steinberg said, “is that you can no longer do things the way you could, and time becomes an issue. It just takes longer to do things and that makes you cherish the things that you do.”