Dentist hangs up drill

BOBBIE NICHOLLS
Last updated 14:30 08/11/2012
graemeclark
BOBBIE NICHOLLS/FAIRFAX NZ
FIRST AND THE LAST: Feilding dentist Graeme Clark commemorated his retirement by presenting his last patient, the same person he saw first 31 years ago, Heather Mansell, with flowers.

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When Graeme Clark bought his dental practice in Feilding 31 years ago, the first patient he saw on November 2, 1981, was Heather Mansell of Palmerston North.

On October 31, 2012, Mrs Mansell, who has recently shifted to Feilding, was also his last appointment.

Mr Clark retired last week, having sold his practice to Manawatu Dental Group.

Mr Clark and his wife Kathy came to New Zealand in 1974 with a 2-year-old son, in response to an advertisement in a Scottish paper. He joined the practice of Kennedy-Good, McKay in Lower Hutt, where John Kennedy-Good was also the mayor.

After seven years Mr Clark made the move to buying his own practice in Feilding.

"I had to get my head around being in a single dentist practice in a small town, just like my father," Mr Clark said.

The family grew here and between bringing up two sons and a daughter, Mrs Clark acted as receptionist and business manager of the practice.

In 31 years Mr Clark has had "about a dozen" dental assistants and five years ago also employed a dental hygienist.

Dentistry has changed over Mr Clark's career.

"People are living longer and keeping their teeth longer," Mr Clark said. "My oldest patient has just turned 100. But they are also taking more medication so you have to keep up with the new pharmaceuticals and their side effects."

"My patients have been very loyal, often coming from Palmerston North for their appointments."

Experienced dentist Jenny Kirkland, from Ashhurst, has been getting to know the practice while Mr Clark worked part-time for the past month. He finished work last Tuesday.

"Feilding has been a good place to do business and to live," Mr Clark said. "We have no plans to shift."

Mr Clark's retirement programme does however include making more use of their caravan at Paekakariki and house and garden renovations.

"Kathy has just returned from visiting her mother in Aberdeen and I will be able to travel with her in future. There are parts of Australia to explore and we love the islands."

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- Manawatu Standard

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