Dr. Dan and Michelle Nicholson have officially taken over the dental practice in Owen from Dr. Tom and Mary Gelhaus. The practice is now called Owen Family Dental.
Dr. Dan just finished dental school at University of Minnesota, graduating in May. Michelle also studied for her Master’s degree there. Both of them attended St. Thomas University where they met. Michelle got her undergraduate degree in Operations and Supply Chain Management with a minor in Public Health Studies because she knew she wanted to go into Healthcare Administration.
Asked how the two of them met, Michelle explained that they had a mutual friend who set them up. Dan was two years older than Michelle and had just finished his undergrad studies. She still had two years to go. “He didn’t have a place to live,” she recalled, “and he knew he was going to [University of] Minnesota, just five miles away. So, he was working in the residence halls during the Summer which is what my friend did. So they knew each other.
Dan picks up the story, saying, “The job I was with were mostly people who were going into their sophomore of junior years, so they weren’t really doing internships or anything. It was just a Summer job. Here I was, just graduated and waiting to start dental school, and they were wondering why I was even there. I was asked if I had a girlfriend and I told them that I didn’t and they couldn’t understand what I was even doing there. I just didn’t have other housing at the time and this worked for me.
“I was asked why I wasn’t dating anyone and I told them that I was pretty particular and I didn’t wait to just date. I wanted to be serious right off the bat. I wanted a long-term relationship and someone who shared my religious beliefs—I wanted someone Catholic.”
Michelle picked up the story. “My friend knew that I was looking for the exact same thing. So, she set us up. I was about to start my junior year and had already started applying top grad programs. When he went to Minnesota, I just went with him when I graduated. But we were engaged before I even graduated.”
As it worked out, with Dan being two years ahead of Michelle and his program being four years and her grad program at two years, they both finished at University of Minnesota at the same time. And then came to Owen-Withee. “So, it all worked out,” Michelle attested.
“I knew I wanted to go to medical school and I had an uncle who was a G.I. [gastro-intestinal] doctor down in Texas and I was interested in Healthcare, so I shadowed him for a week before my senior year in high school. It really turned me off because of the schedule of being on-call. The nature of the patient care was not what I wanted. When the patient was being prepped, my uncle would go in an explain what he was going to do but the patient was going under anesthesia. Then, when it was over, he would go see the patient to tell them it went well but they were just coming out of anesthesia. So, he didn’t really get to know his patients as people. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted something more personal than that.”
There’s nothing much more personal than having your fingers in somebody’s mouth.
“So dentistry seemed like something I would be more interested in. A friend of mine at St. Thomas said that I should shadow his dentist, who was only about a mile away from school. I shadowed him for a day and saw how he knew about them and their lives. Plus, every person had something different. It wasn’t the same thing over and over. I wanted that style of patient care but also that variety of things to be treated. That was a good fit.”
Michelle interjected, “I’m going to embarrass him a little. When I had to write my letter of application to grad school, I was looking for ideas and I asked to read his. And by this point we are seriously dating, not quite engaged but this really won me over. In his letter, it was the sweetest thing, he said I am looking for a career with stable hours where I can have a large family and I can be home reliably every night. I never saw a lot of men writing about their feelings like that.”
Dan answers, “The original plan was to join a corporate practice or find somewhere that I could be mentored by an experienced dentist and eventually take over the practice. But, in talking with Dr. Tom, he said that if I wanted him to stay around, he would stay as long as I wanted. That was the main thing for me to make me take the leap. I wasn’t interested in taking over and him being gone. It has been great. He has always provided a second opinion and he gives me the confidence I need.”
With Michelle handling the business end of things, Dan and Michelle are building on the model established by Tom and Mary Gelhaus. The Gelhauses actually waited for Dan and Michelle, seeing what a good they would be in the community and in the practice.
“I love any sports. I can watch anything,” says Dan. “I go to the gym, like seven days a week, and I’m a big TV and movie buff.”
He’s also a one-time hunter who would like to get back into it. In fact, his dad is trying to talk him into getting bear tags this year.
Michelle, who runs the office now, is also a Healthcare Consultant since her background and education is in Healthcare Administration. So, when she’s not with Dr. Dan, she is either traveling or online consulting with Healthcare facilities and groups. “So, I do a lot of multi-tasking,” she says.
Michelle answered, “The only real changes will be technological. The schedulers will be able to see each other’s notes online and people will be able to set up appointments online, eventually.”
“And there will be some new imaging technology,” added Dan. “But as far as attention to patients and their healthcare, nothing will change.”
The Nicholsons wasted no time in becoming involved with the Owen-Withee community, joining the Owen-Withee Area Chamber of Commerce and taking part in community activities.
It is always uncertain how well new doctors or dentists or any business owners will fit in with a community. Dan and Michelle have removed that uncertainty.
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.