TRACY - It's been a long time, but everything is starting to come together for the community of Tracy to have a local dental office again. Some of the progress is visible now, through the windows in one half of the Box Car Business Center in Tracy's downtown. Part of the business center is the site of the future Prairie Lakes Family Dentistry.
"The walls are being built, and we're working on the plumbing and electrical," said Jon Heezen. Heezen is in the process of finishing dental school at the University of Minnesota and getting licensed to go into practice. "I graduate May 11." Licensure will take a little longer, likely by June, he said.
The dental clinic will open on July 9, Heezen said.
Photo by Deb Gau
Construction visible in the front window at the Box Car Business Center in Tracy will be part of the new Prairie Lakes Family Dentistry clinic. New dentist Jon Heezen said he plans to open the clinic in early July.
"I've actually gotten four patients scheduled right away for opening day," he said.
Filling a health care need in Tracy is just what members of the local Economic Development Authority had hoped for with the new clinic, said Tracy EDA Director Robert Gervais.
"I think people are excited about having a dentist in town," Gervais said. "Tracy has been without a dentist for a long time now."
After the Tracy Dental Health clinic closed in 2005, local residents had to travel to surrounding towns like Balaton, Marshall or Walnut Grove to take care of their teeth. The EDA began looking at offering incentives and recruiting dentists with southwest Minnesota ties. Heezen, a Lake Sarah area resident, worked with the EDA when he decided to become a dentist.
"It's unique," Heezen said of the situation. "I think I'm one of the only people in my class who are going to start their own practice right away."
"It's been great to work with (Jon)," Gervais said of the process.
Heezen said working with the EDA made a big difference in making dental school more feasible. One of his biggest concerns about going back to school was finding the money for both education and to meet his family's needs. Attending dental school at the University of Minnesota meant spending a lot of time away from his wife, Darcie, and their four children.
Heezen said working with Gervais has been "really instrumental" in helping him move through the steps to start his own practice. Heezen said he opted to lease space in the business center and renovate it, partly because it would have more room and more easily comply with building codes. Heezen said he plans to install state-of-the-art equipment including digital charts and ultrasonic teeth-cleaning tools.
Renovation has been a group effort, Heezen said. While the renovations are Heezen's investment, the Tracy EDA has provided some financial assistance, and Dru Larson Construction is doing the remodeling work. Heezen said the finished dental clinic will provide services including cleaning, tooth extractions, crowns, fillings and some cosmetic procedures.
"I like working with all different ages of people," Heezen said.
Heezen said he plans to start out working with a dental hygienist, a full-time assistant, a receptionist and a part-time financial officer. However, if things go well, he hopes the clinic and staff will expand.
Heezen said staff applicants or prospective patients could call (605) 530-5031 for more information.