By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Dentist Dr. Gary Martin has been in Marshfield for 40 years and has occupied his current location on Fourth Street since 1985. Time, as is often said, waits for no man, and Martin feels that it is his time to pass his practice on to a fresh face.
Enter Dr. Susan Safford, a freshly minted dentist from Marquette’s school of dentistry, who bought the practice on June 12 of this year. Martin is also a Marquette alumnus, and he and Safford share a mutual ideology of how to care for patients.
Martin said that Marquette has a heavy emphasis on hands-on experience, the thought that book knowledge is great but practical application is essential. That hands-on experience and the fact that Safford has held numerous positions working in a dental office prior to and throughout her education at Marquette will allow her to hit the ground running.
“I realize that father time is claiming me,” Martin, who is 64 years old, said. “I knew that I wanted to transition eventually, and the opportunity came with Susan.”
Safford said that after visiting with Martin and the staff several times, “I could tell that what he was doing was very similar to the type of treatment plan and diagnoses that I would do.” Applying a family-oriented approach to patient care is important to both Martin and Safford.
“I think it’s really important to have that strong and solid relationship with your patient and their families,” Safford said.
There is no definite retirement date for Martin. Rather, he will slowly transition out of practice as Safford takes on more responsibility. The current support staff at Martin Dental will stay on as Safford takes over. Safford’s first fulltime day was Oct. 2.
She and her husband Tyler welcomed a baby boy in August, so having Martin and experienced staff in place is important as she assumes her role as owner of the practice. Caring for a newborn, adjusting to a new community, and running a business makes for a very full plate, but Safford looks forward, not back.
“I think as a working woman you just do it. You have your goals, and you set them, and you just don’t look back. You move forward, and you tackle them one by one,” she said.
“My main goal in transitioning is to give Marshfield a new, fresh dental face in town,” Martin said. He added that he wanted to guarantee a good opportunity for Safford, his staff, and a comfortable transition for his patients. Some of those patients, Martin said, have been with him since he began practicing 40 years ago, and in many cases he has cared for generations of patients from the same family.
“My dental hygienist, I saw her when she was 3 years old. She’s working for me now,” Martin said.
Because staff will stay in place, Safford can focus immediately on patients and less on the business side of running her own practice. Tyler has a background in finance and will help with the challenges of running a private practice.
“My office manager has been with me for 24 years,” Martin said. “I’ve got very long-term people here that have grown to know the practice. … This practice is nothing without my personnel here.”
“They (the staff) have learned everything for me, and they run the practice for me. I’m able to do my own dentistry back here, and with Susan coming in, she’ll find the same thing,” Martin added.
In retirement Martin hopes to hunt, fish, and golf more and potentially volunteer his skills as a dentist to help veterans. He added that he wants to “just kind of see the other side of life for a while because I’ve been working for a paycheck since seventh grade.”
Martin said that when he started in the field, dentistry was much more primitive with little or no anesthetic used, and less advanced tools and technology were at the disposal of the dentist.
“Anesthetic was just barely coming on the scene, and the needles were the size of pencil lead, and they were dull,” Martin said. “My interest in (dentistry) just kind of grew. … Everything just fell in place for me.”
It seems that now, despite the time of transition, everything is falling into place for both Martin and Safford.