Street of Realities

Street of Realities

Julie Clouse, D.D.S.*:

One of the greatest challenges facing students and new dentists alike is the decision on where and how to practice once dental education is complete. In an attempt to sample the palate, the MDA sponsors an annual tour of dental practices, the “Street of Realities” in an offering of the myriad colors and flavors that are available on the dental palate. Dental students and new dentists can tour practices that MDA members have volunteered to open and answer questions that the students may have.

This year’s tour visited three non-metro practices in the northeastern quadrant of the state. Seventeen dental students attended the tour, which was moderated by Dr. Joe Towbridge. There were also representatives present from Bank of America and Patterson Dental. They provided information on financing, equipment, and practice planning and design services. The Street of Realities tour visited the practices of Dr. Mary Shipp in Chisago City, Dr. Kathrynne Dryke in Duluth, and Dr. Abby Johnson in Cloquet. All three dentists are happy in their respective environments, despite the very different settings in which they practice dentistry.

The Min-no-aya-win Dental Clinic is owned by the Fon du Lac Band of Chippewa. The dental clinic is part of a larger health care facility that contains a pharmacy, as well as optical, behavioral health, medical, and dental clinics. The facility has 12 operatories and can staff up to five full-time dentists. Dr. Abby Johnson graduated in 2007 and has been working at the clinic since graduation. The clinic exclusively treats Native Americans from the surrounding region. She has enjoyed working in a community clinic setting and cites good administration, a nice facility and patients, and computerized charting as important elements to her job satisfaction. She also added that her commute is “quite a bit shorter than it used to be”. She especially appreciates the extra time she gets to spend getting to know her patients, and was advised to “never feel like you don’t have enough time to really get to know your patients [and to] spend those extra minutes learning about their lives before you even consider the dentistry that they need.”

Dr. Kathrynne Dryke is the owner of Gallery Dental in Duluth. She is a 1997 graduate of the University of Minnesota. She has owned her practice for 10 years, and associated with two different dentists during her early practice years. In August, she and her team relocated into a brand new 3,200 square foot practice, with an emphasis on cosmetic dentistry. She also noted that she is a busy mother of four, and has thus been pregnant for most of her career! She notes that though her schedule can be challenging at times, dentistry is “very conducive to family life”. Special emphasis is put on continuing education in her office; she and her staff have made a commitment to keeping abreast of the techniques and knowledge essential to maintaining a cutting-edge practice. Dr. Dryke said that an awesome staff, the ability to help people every day, and a wonderful profession keep her enthusiastic about her career. She also noted that she was especially impressed with the questions the students asked of her regarding hiring, practice management, and business ownership, and she hopes that more office management topics are being discussed in dental schools.

Dr. Mary Shipp is the owner of Shipp Dental Care, Ltd., a general dentistry practice in Chisago City. Native to the area, she has many family members and friends who reside close by. Her philosophy is to provide a comfortable atmosphere where patients are respected as individuals. Her team delivers custom-tailored dentistry with personality, and she believes it is possible to have a pleasant and fun dental experience. Dr. Shipp is very active in the MDA and is involved in many community events. In 2005, Dr. Shipp was presented with the Minnesota New Dentist Leadership Award, based on the dentist’s contributions to the people and dental community of Minnesota.

When it comes to offering advice to upcoming graduates, Dr. Johnson remembers the advice of her mentor at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Paul Schultz. He encouraged her to look at a variety of practice situations in a variety of places before choosing. Dr. Dryke advised people to look outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area for employment. She noted that all the dentists in her city have a great sense of camaraderie, and that in general, smaller communities will appreciate and embrace new practitioners.

Keep an eye out for information on next year’s tour! The event is open to all D3 and D4 students, as well as all new dentists (those who have graduated in the past ten years). We rotate regions, and there are always different practices to visit!

*Dr. Clouse is a general dentist in private practice in New Brighton, Minnesota. E-mail is

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The American Dental Association 23rd New Dentist Conference, “Making Waves in Miami”, will be held April 30-May 2, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency in Miami, Florida. Join the ADA Committee on the New Dentist for a weekend of networking, continuing education, and camaraderie while savoring the tropical paradise around you. Attendees can earn up to 11 credit hours, including hands-on workshops to be held at the Pankey Institute.