Dr. David Dobmeier, longtime dentist at Elmwood Family Dentistry in West Fargo, plans to retire from full-time practice, effective on Dec. 27.
The Barnesville, Minn., native earned his undergraduate degree at Moorhead State College (now MSUM) before graduating from the University of Minnesota's School of Dentistry. After a few years stationed in Germany and Colorado Springs, Colo., he began his practice in West Fargo on Sept. 1, 1984.
"The town of West Fargo was only about 4,000 people at that point, and everything south of 13th Ave. was empty," Dobmeier said. "The growth of the city has been phenomenal, and with the growth of the city, the growth of the practice has grown equally."
Dobmeier will maintain his license, and hopes to do some part-time work in the area. However, he and his wife, Joyce, will spend their winters in Arizona, where he hopes to play lots of golf and do some dental work for charity.
"I am selling my practice, per se. I hope work around here part-time because I enjoy it. I also want to get the heck out of here in the winter time," Dobmeier said, laughing.
He also plans to take his family's fifth wheel and see some of the country.
"My wife and I really like to travel," Dobmeier said. "We really like to go to different places, visit museums, explore. That's what we like to do."
Dobmeier has been practicing dentistry for roughly 34 years, with the past 28 years spent in West Fargo.
"Dentistry has changed a tremendous amount since I started," Dobmeier said. "When I was in dental school, we practiced 'wet finger' dentistry. The only time you would wear gloves was when you were doing extractions or something like that. Of course, that has totally changed. Now, everything is sterilized and packaged, and you use gloves for everything."
Through all of the changes, Dobmeier insists that the best part of his career has been the people he has encountered.
"(The highlight) has always been working with the patients," Dobmeier said. "Our whole philosophy was to have a very family-orientated practice, from age two to 92, and we wanted to make sure our patients were as comfortable as possible and still meet their needs. That was our goal from day one. If the patient is comfortable, they are more comfortable with you and you can work better. Everybody benefits from that. If a person doesn't have great teeth, they may not have a very high opinion of themselves. I can change that around. That is very, very rewarding."
While the patients have been his favorite part, the need to adjust to each patient's needs has been his greatest challenge.
"Everybody is an individual," Dobmeier said. "Everybody is different. Drug reaction and things like that are different for everyone. Dentistry is a true 'practice.' It changes every day. But really, it is a people person's business, and you have to enjoy working with people."
Dr. Nick Bakkum, who was hired by Elmwood Family Dentistry in January as a transitional replacement for Dobmeier, recently saw how the community feels about the man he is replacing.
"The people are going to miss him," Bakkum said. "His patients will always tell you the same thing: what a tremendous guy he is and how they respect him and the work he's done over the years. We're going to miss that, and the employees say they are going to miss his laugh that you can hear down the hall. Everyone I've met is sad to see him go, but happy for him."
While he is leaving his practice, the only thing about the community Dobmeier wants to disassociate himself with is the cold weather.
"I've been so appreciative of the people in West Fargo, and the people of North Dakota," Dobmeier said. "Our philosophy on life is so healthy. We don't get too upset, and everyone is very family-orientated. People will say 'hello' to you. The quality of life here is second to none, and I'm glad I raised my family here."