Dr. Walter Hunt Looks Back at a Life of Providing Care
The year was 1977, and the stock market hit 831. The average new home price was $49,500 and a gallon of gas cost 65 cents. Jimmy Carter was elected president of the United States, the movie Star Wars premiered, and the Eagles “Hotel California” became a megahit.
In the Twin Cities, Walter Hunt, Jr. had just opened his dental practice in Roseville, Minnesota, after graduating from the University of Minnesota’s dental school.
Thirty-six years later, gas hovers near $4 a gallon, there have been five presidents since Jimmy Carter, and the stock market just topped 15,000. And Dr. Hunt is still bringing compassionate dental care to his patients at the same location on Hamline Avenue. Actually, tens of thousands of patients in those 36 years.
His practice has grown by leaps and bounds over the years – his expansion this fall will be the third time he has added space to his offices on Hamline Avenue – as patients have spread the word about the quality and caring that the staff at Personal Care Dentistry bring to their work every day.
But even with three other dentists on staff, Dr. Hunt still works a full-time schedule treating patients while running the business side of Personal Care Dentistry.
Dr. Hunt’s son Zach joined the practice last year after earning an MBA, and is now the Chief Operating Officer for the practice. Another son, Kyle, is currently in dental school and will join Personal Care Dentistry in 2014 after he graduates.
So how did Dr. Hunt arrive on Hamline Avenue with an approach to dentistry that focuses on “compassionate care?” Dr. Hunt grew up in northwestern Indiana in a town named Merrillville. By the time his family moved to Minnesota at the beginning of his junior year of high school, he had become an accomplished athlete in both football and baseball. It was then that he also reached a defining moment in his life, one that has influenced his approach to life and dentistry.
“My family didn’t have much money – we lived in a poor neighborhood in Merrillville – so I had a lot of friends who were also poor. But because I was a good athlete, I also had a group of friends who came from families with money. And I didn’t like the way the kids with money would treat the poor kids. It was then that I vowed that I would always treat everyone equally with the same amount of caring and respect,” emphasizes Dr. Hunt. “The worth of a person should not be defined by what they have or how they look.”
After moving to the Twin Cities, Dr. Hunt’s athleticism earned him the starting quarterback spot on the Saint Anthony Village High School football team. He also played second base on the high school baseball team. By the time he was a senior, he had interest from a number of colleges in Minnesota looking for football quarterbacks.
But Dr. Hunt decided that a career in football probably wasn’t going to pay his bills, so he focused on a career as a dentist. He graduated in 1977 and joined the practice of Dr. Stende, who had been on Hamline Avenue for about 8 years. That fall, he bought the practice, which occupied just 700 square feet on the same floor that the practice is currently on. Five years later, Dr. Hunt expanded the practice to 1,400 square feet and had six employees. In 2002, Personal Care Dentistry expanded again to 4,000 square feet and doubled its employee count. This fall, Dr. Hunt will expand the practice once again, taking up almost all of the space left on the third floor that Personal Care Dentistry doesn’t currently occupy. The practice now has 30 employees, including four dentists.
The latest expansion will add three treatment rooms. The reception/patient waiting area will be redone, and additional staff will be added.
“I probably could have grown quicker earlier in my career, but you tend to be conservative when you own a business and things are going well. But I decided when I turned 50 that I would practice for 20 more years, and when I turned 70 I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘Was that as good as I could have done as a dentist?’”
For Dr. Hunt, being a dentist and the founder of Personal Care Dentistry is not a job. It is a passion. He has had the same goal for almost half a century – treat people with dignity and respect, and as a dentist, provide them with the best care possible.
“This is my passion, and this is how I can contribute to helping other people have better lives. Even today, I still feel like I get more out of caring for others than they do. I love being here at Personal Care Dentistry.”
In his spare time, Dr. Hunt loves to take photos of the beauty of nature. If you have been to Personal Care Dentistry, you have probably seen his images on the walls and on flat screen TVs in the treatment rooms. Many patients have commented about the vibrancy and uniqueness of his images. For many years, Dr. Hunt also played “town” baseball, a big tradition in the Midwest. He finally had to stop playing in his 50’s after a variety of injuries and the competition – “a lot of my opponents were in their 20’s and 30’s” – made him realize that he needed a different sports hobby. “The hip replacement I had really made me realize I needed to hang up my cleats.”
He may have hung up his cleats, but you will still find Dr. Hunt on Hamline Avenue caring for thousands of patients every year.