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1 Creating an Environment of Trustby janet brooks Photography by Ivar Vong Dr. Mark Stapleton is someone who I felt an instant connection with; he s relatable, approachable, and focused on creating a lifetime of good health for his patients. Throughout our interview Dr. Stapleton refers to himself as Mark, and emphasizes how important it is for a child to feel comfortable in a dental office. His biggest priority for his young patients, who call him Dr. Mark, is creating an environment of trust. 24.

2 Dentistry was always part of Dr. Mark Stapleton s life. His father, Dr. Mike Stapleton, is a pediatric dentist and owned his own practice in the Portland area. Today he is part of the faculty at OHSU for pediatric dentistry. As a teenager, Mark emptied garbage and filled charts in his father s practice. Although they keep their professional lives separate, Mark admits that his father always served as a mentor in his own career and has been an instrumental part of his practice. Prior to beginning his career in dentistry, Mark studied history at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. After completing his Bachelor of Arts he spent a summer commercial fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and then moved back to Oregon where he was a ski patroller and ski racing coach on Mount Hood. In that time when I was ski patrolling and coaching ski racing I was really reflecting on what I was looking for. At that point my focus became the idea of owning my own business or practice and having the freedom that came along with that. At that point my focus started to become dentistry. Mark says, I saw what my father had, and his enjoyment in the profession, and also his time and energy he had to devote to his own family...i realized that was something that I wanted. Following his winter on the mountain, Mark returned to his undergraduate education and spent one year taking the pre-requisites needed for Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) at Portland State University (PSU). Road to Dentistry After completing his D.M.D. at OHSU in 2003 with both general and clinical honors, Mark went to Butte, Montana to work as a dentist in a community health clinic. His experience in dental school helped him be motivated to learn what he needed to while he was there; he wanted to have a clear vision of what he needed to learn and gain once he went on to complete his residency. I really wanted experience to draw on, says Mark. I wanted to have some experience in a health clinic, serving low-income patients and gaining some experience before residency. I knew at that point that I wanted to go into pediatrics but I wanted to work for a year first, he says. Mark reflects on his time in Butte as a great experience. During his time at the clinic, Mark served as the primary dentist, working alongside an oral surgeon who worked one day a week. By the time he left, the office went from being a temporary clinic to fully functioning dental clinic attached to a medical clinic. Mark helped make that transition and says it was very helpful to be ready one day to set up his [current] office. Making the Transition Mark recalls being immediately interested in pediatric dentistry; I think that s what I thought I was headed towards [and] it was an area that I really excelled in during dental school. Pediatric dentistry seemed like the most appropriate path for Mark because for him, [it] provides the most impact on someone s life, and helps lay healthy ground work for a healthy lifetime. He says his biggest challenge is helping families see the value in ideal care. You catch young families with limited resources in a difficult economy, and the recommended care will be expensive. Families will say they don t want to invest the money, but the child can be headed towards problems we want to avoid. Walking into Mark s practice, Dentistry for Children, it s evident how much work he has put into creating a warm, comfortable environment for his patients. Growing up in Dentistry Dr. Mark Stapleton completed his D.M.D. at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in 2003 where he was among the top of his class and graduated with both general and clinical honors. He served as a member of the Omicron Kappa Upsilon national dental honor society and received the Outstanding Senior Student in Periodontics award in addition to the Outstanding Leader award. After graduating from OHSU, Mark relocated to Butte, Montana, to practice general dentistry in a community health clinic. Following his time in Montana, he moved to Seattle, where he was accepted into a pediatric dental residency. During his residency from , Mark was selected as Chief Resident. He saw patients through the University of Washington and the Seattle Children s Hospital. Shortly after completing his residency in 2006, Mark moved back to his home state of Oregon, and opened his own practice focusing on pediatric dentistry in Springfield. He lives in Eugene with his wife Karen, a teacher, and their three children: son, Jackson, 6, and daughters Marie, 3, and Jane, 8 months. There aren t a lot of distractions within the office; Mark s focus is really on creating an environment of trust for his patients. He says that his favorite aspect of dentistry is helping an anxious child become comfortable [in a dental office]. Burkhart Dental CATALYST MAGAZINE Issue 2,

3 interesting challenge to do, but I didn t set out to do it right away, says Mark. Deciding where to open his practice seemed like less of a challenge. Mark recalls that he was looking for some stability and a community where [they] would find a good quality of life. My wife Karen and I landed on Eugene, and the best opportunity seemed like opening a practice in Springfield. This became the perfect spot for the balance we were looking for, says Mark, an avid fisher and skier. Pictured (left to right): Hellen Hendricks, Lacey Morris, Leslie Beekman, Dr. Mark Stapleton, Ashley Royer, Raina Clark and Sara Hansen The Importance of Family Opening the practice was a family affair; Mark s father-in-law helped paint part of the office, and his own father helped with the design of the office and building some of the equipment. They also worked together on the layout of the office, which is very similar to his father s office design, and many of the smaller details. Mark is the only one out of his four siblings in the medical field, and at family dinners he and his father often dominate conversations discussing different dental topics. He laughs and says, one day my sister told me, we re not just going to sit around and talk about dentistry. Dr. Stapleton's practice was designed to create an environment of trust; with children's art and family gifts adorning the walls. Early on in his career, long before he went to dental school, Mark recalls that his father told him he would be as much of a help starting a [new] practice as he would be taking me on as an associate or selling me his own practice. Ultimately the decision came down to where Mark and his wife Karen wanted to live, and after a casual search, they knew Eugene was where they wanted to raise their family. The walls are painted a soft, neutral color and hold artwork from his patients. There is a Sesame Street rug that was made out of yarn by his grandmother that previously hung in his father s practice. Next to the sterilization room there s a mural painted by a local artist of children riding bikes alongside the river with the mountain in the background. Mark says that his patients love to pick out some of the mural s hidden secrets; the deer in the background, the fox playing in the grass, or the lady bug. It s a really great challenge in dentistry to start a practice from scratch on some level in the back of my mind I knew it would be an Karen has been a crucial part of Mark s practice; she is in charge of the business side of things, allowing him to focus more on clinical care and his patients. Mark says, her organizational skills have kept [that] part of the office running smoothly with minimal input from me. Our goal was to strike the right balance [with her involvement] to keep the staff happy. 26.

4 Walking into Mark s practice, Dentistry for Children, it s evident how much work he has put into creating a warm, comfortable environment for his patients. Opening the Practice Mark finished his residency in Seattle on July 1, 2006 with plans to open his practice right away in Springfield. After construction delays, Mark accepted a part-time job at the White Bird Community Dental Clinic in Eugene. After working at White Bird for six months, he slowly transitioned into his own practice, which opened in January of He says that he felt very welcomed into the Eugene dental community, where he previously served as the President of the Lane County Dental Society. A big part of Mark s success in his practice is due to his staff; two of his original staff members are still with him today, and the rest have been there for around three years. Mark calls the group very fun, kid centered and creative with their interactions with young patients. Although pediatric dentistry remains his primary focal point, his passion for helping lowincome families in the community is evident. Rather than serving in community clinics, Mark prefers to see those patients in his own office. Occasionally he takes referrals from local schools for children who need serious dental work with limited financial resources. For Mark, his real passion is helping kids have a healthier, happier life, and for each kid that s different. It might be repairing a tooth that solves the problem, or it might be helping a child with a behavioral problem Burkhart Dental CATALYST MAGAZINE Issue 2,

5 "Dentistry is about much more than just fixing a tooth, says Mark. Mark with Burkhart Account Manager Matt Hoertsch. become calm and comfortable. Coming to the dentist might have nothing to do with their teeth. Helping them with their dental, medical and social issues to get on the right track is really rewarding. An Educator Mark actively participates in the academic dental community. Recently he taught a lecture in Eugene that focused on pediatric dentistry for dentists throughout the country. Modestly, he admits that a local dentist who taught classes for the Academy of General Dentists approached him, and hoped that Mark would fill the need for a pediatric focus. Mark spent the next five months researching his material in preparation for the lecture. A friend who is on the faculty for the University of Washington joined him. Mark called the experience very challenging, and says that he would love to follow more academic pursuits in the future. Academia is a passion of mine, it s just the way I ve been drawn [I am] a big proponent for liberal arts education, says Mark. Mark s research was recently published in Pediatric Dentistry. He also serves as a member of the American Dental Association (ADA), American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), Oregon Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (OAPD), the Northwest Precedent Research Collaborative, and is a board certified member of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD). Conclusion He says that he has been very happy in the Eugene community, and he has no plans to leave any time soon. And although his kids are a little too young to share their career plans, Mark says that is a decision they will have to make on their own. He calls his practice a happy, healthy balance, and says he is in no rush to see things change. When his patients reach the age where it s time to start seeing a general dentist, Mark admits that he doesn t refer to one single dentist in the community. I m very focused on relationships, I try to match kids to dentists who I think will be a best fit personality wise. After all, dentistry is about much more than just fixing a tooth, says Mark. 28.

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