An interview with Dr. Walter Hunt, D.D.S., founder of Personal Care Dentistry.
The Reasons for Becoming a Dentist
“When I was in undergraduate school at the University of Minnesota, I knew I wanted to be in health care of some sort. I knew I wanted to serve people in whatever profession I chose, and becoming a dentist was appealing because of the autonomy and the opportunity to create my own culture of patient care. I didn’t think I would be able to do that if I had become a medical doctor working in a health care clinic system or hospital.”
Competition Creates Better Dentistry
“I have always been highly competitive – it’s one of the most important reasons that I did so well as an athlete in football and baseball – and I took that competitiveness into dentistry. I have always wanted to be the best dentist possible, and to treat my patients like our slogan says – The World’s Greatest Patients.”
What’s Their Story?
“I really try to get to know who each of my patients are. I want to know – what’s their story? That’s the only way I can truly make a meaningful difference in their individual oral health issues. For example, I have a patient who is a structural engineer. He wants to know a lot of detail about any treatment I provide to him. Other patients just want to know that they will get the results they are expecting – they don’t want the details of how we will get that result.”
“Capturing the beauty that I see in the world with my camera has been a passion for decades. The joy I find trying to look beneath the surface layer we tend to see when we observe nature and discovering images that can capture our imagination and bring depth to the composition is what motivates me to continue taking photos.
“Nature is my specialty and love, as you can see from my images, and it is a subject matter that just seems to ‘speak’ to me in a unique way. Many people who have been with me when I am taking photographs tell me that the images and scenes that they walk right past seem to catch my attention and camera. The images captured are often surprising to them and I often hear ‘You see things in nature that I just don’t see until I look at your photos’.”
“I’ve used a Nikon D800 to take photos for the last several years. I especially enjoy shooting digital images because they give me the opportunity to use editing software that often allows me the ability to bring to life what I see in nature in terms of form, texture and light. For me, it is an artistic expression that I truly enjoy as part of the photographic process.”
All of the images on the walls at Personal Care Dentistry and on the TV screens in the treatment rooms were shot by Dr. Hunt. At last count, he has shot more than 60,000 digital images in the last decade.
Playing Baseball Has Been a Nice Change-Up from Dentistry
“I kept my athletic competitiveness satisfied by playing in a men’s over-35 league until I was 59 years old. I played second base and also pitched. I wasn’t one of those guys who could throw a great fastball and overpower a hitter. Instead, I had a great change-up, a good curve, and a decent fastball when I needed it. I would often have younger guys that I was pitching to come up to bat expecting to hit a home run off me. I would strike them out swinging and you could see them thinking ‘How did that old guy strike me out?’ We played 30-40 games a year, including quite a few tournaments across the country. I had to finally stop playing competitively when I was 59 because of an arthritic hip. I eventually had to have both hips replaced. But I’m back to playing tennis and I’ve been throwing batting practice for fun to a men’s over-35 team.”
Working with His Son Has Been a Dream Come True
“It’s very cool working with Kyle (who joined the practice as a dentist in 2014). It was never planned when he was growing up, although he was interested in the practice and Kyle used to come to work with me when he wasn’t in school. He seemed to really enjoy dentistry even when he was 10 years old. But I thought he would become a medical doctor as he got older because that seemed to be his primary interest. But near the end of his undergraduate studies he decided that he wanted to be a dentist. I had thought I would retire in my mid-60s before he joined the practice, but now I’m having so much fun with Kyle in the practice that I’m not sure when I’ll retire.”
Is Retirement In the Future?
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me about retirement and when I’m thinking of not practicing anymore. And I’ve thought a lot about it, but I have a lot of reasons why I want to stay. Start with two sons working here, plus a staff that I truly appreciate and value. I have so many patients that have become friends and that I enjoy seeing when they come in. Plus, I love having the ability to serve people – it’s what has driven me for the last 40 years at Personal Care Dentistry. Also, I have a competitive side that I’ve mentioned before and this gives me a good outlet for that. It has translated into being able to build the practice from one dentist and three staff in 700 square feet to 4 dentists and nearly 30 staff in 8,000 square feet. But I still feel like we can continue to grow our practice and improve our patient care.”
You Don’t Attach Dollar Signs to People
“We believe in conservative care at Personal Care Dentistry. That means we don’t overdo treatment plans and only provide the care that is necessary. I’ve never let my patient care judgement get clouded by a dollar sign. Making money for money’s sake never motivated me. People are too sacred to me to attach dollar signs to them. I’ve put my values of compassion and caring ahead of money for the last 40 years as a dentist.”
Going Back in Time
“Kyle grew up with dentistry. He would listen to me talk to patients and then we would talk about the conversation. He needed to understand the philosophy of the practice if he were ever going to consider joining it as a dentist. I get a kick out of the fact that he still observes how I handle patients because he feels it’s an opportunity for him to learn. Watching him now in the practice often takes me back 40 years in many ways – he is very much the dentist I was at his age. Of course, he was able to join his father’s practice while I jumped off the proverbial ‘cliff’ without a parachute when I went into practice. I was married and had two kids and not a lot of room to fail when I became a dentist.”
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