Kool Smiles Spotlight: Dr. Renee Shirer – Senior Associate Dentist

Position: Senior Associate Dentist
Location: Indianapolis
Dental School: Indiana University School of Dentistry
Number of Years at Kool Smiles: 6

What inspired you to pursue a career in dentistry?

Both of my parents had careers in medicine so I was exposed to the healthcare profession at a young age. In high school and college, I worked towards becoming a doctor, which wasn’t in God’s plan. After completing my Master’s degree, a good friend asked me to visit his dental office for a day, as he had been encouraging me to explore dentistry as a career. That day he extracted several teeth and delivered an immediate denture. The patient was elated with her new smile and I was confident that dentistry was the field for me.

What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned in dental school?

Attending dental school at the Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD) provided an excellent foundation for my future career. The clinical experiences and rotations to specialty clinics were most valuable to me. That is when I could learn from faculty and staff how to plan treatments and care for my patients. The clinic is also where I learned that things don’t always go as planned in dentistry and collaboration with colleagues is important when trying to solve problems.

What drove you to join Kool Smiles?

IUSD and Kool Smile’s core values are very similar. Both emphasize excellence in patient-centered care. At Kool Smiles I work with my staff and collaborate with colleagues to provide high quality, compassionate dental care in underserved communities that have limited access to care. Kool Smiles encourages and supports continuing education for our dentists and staff. The internal and external auditors help keep our quality of care at or above the standard of care.

Describe your typical day at the office.

A typical day at Kool Smiles starts with morning huddle. During huddle the office manager or clinical team leader discuss the schedule for the day to help with patient flow. They review any opportunities for improvement or issues that came up on the prior day. On a single doctor day, we’ll treat 13-20 operative patients and the hygiene team will do about 20-30 teeth cleanings. Typical services provided include sealants, fillings, extractions, stainless steel crowns and pulpotomies. Specialty services offered at my office include orthodontics.

We see patients from one year on up to adults. Our patient population is very diverse. Indianapolis is a main city for Burmese refugees and about a quarter of our patients require interpretive assistance.

Can you talk about some of your community involvement?

After I graduated from dental school and started my career I became a member of the American Dental Association, the Indiana Dental Association, and my local dental component. My involvement in organized dentistry helped me stay involved with fellow dental school alumni. Often, I would consult with IUSD faculty for advice regarding specific patient situations. I was asked to serve as a member of the IUSD alumni board and am currently serving as its president. The IUSD alumni board hosts several events each year including reunions, continuing education, golfing and even cruises.

I also volunteer at events such as Mission of Mercy and Team Smile, community outreach events designed to help those in need of dental care. The events bring together dentists and their teams for the common goal of providing dental care to the underserved. Many of the dentists are IU alumni and faculty.

What drives you to keep going?

Many of the dentists in our area do not accept Medicaid for a variety of reasons. This means that Kool Smiles serves as a safety net for children who would not otherwise be able to access care. There are days that I feel like I am doing mission work right here in Indianapolis. It gives me great satisfaction knowing I can make a difference for a child, whether it is relieving a toothache or impressing the importance of brushing and a healthy diet.

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