Dad inspired daughter to pursue dentistry
He taught her to throw a softball, offered up sage advice through her childhood, and inspired her to become a dentist.
And dad—also known as Dr. Doug Nielsen—continues to stand tall in the eyes of Dr. Michele Nielsen.
“I have worked side by side with my dad for 12 years,” she says. “Sometimes when I try to explain how enjoyable and rewarding the experience has been, I feel like there are no words that can truly explain the honour and appreciation I feel. He’s been my mentor in everything from the dentistry itself to patient care and running a business.”
And since Michele has purchased Steveston Smiles from her dad, their professional relationship has transitionedm though she believes they still learn from each other on a daily basis.
“When I bought the practice from him he gave me his keychain that I always remember him having,” she says. “Inscribed on it are the words ‘commitment to excellence.’ I carry it with me every day and I am so proud to call him my dad.”
Michele was a mere 13 years old when she began working part-time at the dental practice. During that first summer she—along with everyone else in the office—was gobsmacked watching her dad perform a unique dental procedure.
“It wasn’t something most people would find fascinating, but it peaked my interest,” she says.
Still, it wasn’t until late in high school and early university days that she committed to apply to dental school. That was after she went through a period when she admits to trying find anything else but becoming a dentist.
“I ruled out many options before finally accepting that dentistry combined my love of art, science and healthcare with the added benefit of creating independence and flexibility of being self-employed. It was the perfect fit.”
In 2001, Nielsen received her dental degree from Montreal’s renowned McGill University which as followed by a dental residency at the Jewish General Hospital where she gained valuable experience treating patients with many dental and medical conditions. She joined the Steveston practice with her dad in 2002, but for the next few years managed also to find time to continue studying. She is a certified invisalign braces provider, trained and certified by the Pacific Training Institute for Facial Aesthetics to provide facial botox cosmetic treatments. She is also trained in nitrous oxide sedation which can make treatment more comfortable for anxious or younger patients, and has further advanced her skills and training in computerized dentristy using a milling system to design crowns which provide higher quality restorations.
In 2009, Nielsen was awarded a scholarship to the California Center for Advanced Dental Studies and spent 18 months with a Vancouver-based team advancing her talents in dental esthetics, smile design and smile makeovers. She continues to train as a proctor with the centre.
With husband Chris, a parent of two young boys Matthew and Nathan, Nielsen’s naturally friendly demeanour makes her popular with patients—many of whom she has known for several years.
“It does make coming to work every day extremely rewarding, and it is great to have meaningful conversation about people’s lives,” she says. “To be a part of a community and see people grow and change, and their successes and even struggles, I am grateful to be able to be here to experience it all.”
Working in a true family practice is even more rewarding. Several patients have been seen her grow up, and she cherishes the opportunity to care for their oral health and, in some instances, their children and grandchildren as well. Most of all, she enjoys the opportunity to change people’s fear of going to the dentist.
“I find joy in being able to welcome someone into the practice who has dental anxiety, showing them that going to the dentist and taking care of their oral health is something they can do with my help,” she says. “I don’t expect them to love coming to the dentist, but at least they can do it and get the necessary work done. I have an adult female patient who used to be terrified of the dentist, but now at her regular appointments she asks me ‘What’s next?’
“It is even more rewarding with children. To have a child who doesn’t even want to come in the building to bringing me flowers to asking me when I’m going to do his first filling makes me feel fulfilled.”
Nielsen also has a passion for art and at different times over the past decade has explored and expressed her creative side through drawing, water colours, and acrylics. Her latest passion, while a bit ironic, is cake decorating.
“It’s a great skill and passion to have, especially with two young kids, and I love this hobby more than any of others I’ve embarked on,” she says.
And their cakes are definitely to toast of their birthday parties.