Two Worlds Colliding

Tom Filgiano

Tom Filgiano applies the skills he’s learned on the basketball court to the dental clinic

By Crystal Mackay, MA’05

The night before a basketball game, while his team-mates were relaxing, you could find Tom Filgiano, Dentistry Class of 2017, working on perfecting a dentures assignment in his hotel room.

Playing point guard on the varsity basketball team while completing his dentistry degree was a careful balancing act for Filgiano, who spent most of his university career splitting all of his time between his academics and the basketball court.

“There was a point that I would be at school all day, then I would practise from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., come back and work in the sim clinic until 10:00 p.m., and then wake up and do it all again the next day.”

This extremely tight schedule taught him a lot about being efficient with his time, and how to manage high-stress situations with ease.

And he says he often found the two worlds colliding in unexpected ways. When on the court, he started to see ways to apply the skills he’d developed playing basketball to his dentistry practice and vice versa.

From the time he first put his hands on the ball in a game he was making a series of quick decisions based on what he observed in his environment. He had to assess the other team, get a feel for his own team’s strengths and then make a call about what play to run.

“In basketball you can’t be indecisive, you have to make a decision and then execute,” he said. “I learned very quickly that it served me well to apply the same principle to my dentistry training. In dentistry you don’t have the same time pressure, but you still have to look at the issue that you are faced with and decide the best course of action to help the patient.”

And those decisions, he said, have to be made with conviction.

He also found that having a keen attention to detail was crucial both on the court and in the clinic. Vital to the practice of dentistry is being sure that everything is perfectly flush, smooth and sealed. “Similarly in basketball, when you are running plays, you have to be sure that you make the right screen or make the right cut and the play breaks down if you don’t,” he said. Those minor details matter so much in both scenarios.

Based on his long list of awards, he’s mastered the fine art of perfecting both his on-court and in-clinic skills. Filgiano has been an Academic All-Canadian during each of his five years of eligibility playing basketball. This award is given to varsity athletes who maintain an academic average of 80 per cent or higher.

While at Western, he won the Bob Gage Award two years in a row, given to a player who best exemplifies aspects of team play which are essential to success, and the Dr. Craig Boydell Award of Excellence for the player who best represents the team in terms of basketball, academics and community service.

This year he’s used up all five years of eligibility to play basketball, so he’s had to sit on the sidelines. “I have mixed emotions about not being able to play this year. I wish I could be out there, but at the same time, I can take a step back and enjoy the final year of Dentistry and take a bit of a breather,” he said.