Dr. Jonathan Huffman more than a dentist

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 1, 2013

If there’s one appointment I dread, it’s a dental appointment. Knowing patients can be fearful, dentists look for ways to ease that fear, sometimes even telling jokes. Searching the internet for dental jokes not long ago, I found the website, dentalindia.com. On that website was a Bible verse from Psalm 81:10, which said, “… open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.” Although the original intent of that verse has a different meaning, when shared in a dentist office it may inspire people to pray.
Recently, I talked with a friend and local dentist, Dr. Jonathan Huffman, about how being a dentist must be a calling. While he admitted it was, he said he didn’t find his calling until after joining the Navy in 1993. Growing up with parents who did the best they could, Jonathan said there was never any extra money. So, not wanting to waste his parents’ money, and not sure what he wanted to do after one year of college at Western Carolina University, he joined the Navy.
Soon after that, he married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Neill. Having a full-time commitment to the Navy, Jonathan said those first few years of married life were a struggle. Even so, other than becoming a Christian, marrying Jennifer and later having two sons, Jonathan believes his assignment to work with a dentist at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia was one of the best things that ever happened to him. He loved working as a dental technician so much, he decided to go back to school to become a dentist. Working out details to attend college at night for undergraduate requirements, after his enlistment, Jonathan finished his course work at UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating in 2002.
While Jonathan was finishing his degree, Jennifer was working to support the family as a physical therapist, having earned her degree from Old Dominion University in Virginia several years earlier. After graduation from dental school, Jonathan joined Dr. James T. Mitchell’s practice in Salisbury. He and Jennifer both were excited about the future and moving back to Rowan County. One year later, Jonathan bought Dr. Mitchell’s practice and is now the sole owner.
Staff members are quick to explain they love working for Dr. Huffman because he treats them like family. Appreciative of what they do, he never fails to say, “thank you,” every day. Dental assistant, Lisa Hudson, said, “He takes time to get to know his patients and when there’s a need we all pray for them.” That may explain why a patient who moved from Salisbury to Japan still comes back for dental work.
Jonathan’s goal is to provide gentle, caring and comprehensive care for his patients. He believes that goal is made easier because of his kind and caring staff. Bragging on them, he said, “They are dedicated and professional, always putting patients first.” Finding humor in the situation, office manager, Jean West said, “Dr. Huffman would like nothing better than to spend his entire career with the same staff, but since a few of us are old enough to be his mother that may not happen.”
When Jonathan meets new people and they ask what he does for a living, generally he says, “I work.” Realizing people often put professionals like doctors and lawyers on a pedestal, he instead wants to be treated just like everyone else.
It’s easy to understand that attitude because Dr. Huffman grew up like everyone else in a rural community just across the Rowan-Iredell County line near Hwy 152. Jonathan had friends in his neighborhood who went to South Rowan High School, but because he had a Mooresville address, he went to South Iredell. Although Jonathan was smart and did well in school, little did anyone foresee the path his life would take.
There’s no doubt Jonathan deserves respect for his accomplishments in the professional world, and yet, there’s so much more to him. That became evident during his testimony on Baptist men’s day at Franklin Baptist Church. In his testimony, Jonathan talked about how much he loved serving God and studying his word. Believing one of his gifts is teaching, after becoming a member of Franklin several years ago he began teaching a Sunday School class.
Most people would be satisfied, thinking they were doing enough, but not Jonathan. Any time there’s a void or a job to be done, he’s willing to help in any way he can. One of those ways has been volunteering as a musician playing different instruments, including the electric guitar, bass guitar and drums.
Playing piano for the second service at Franklin, I’ve learned even more about Jonathan during practice times. Not long ago, he shared he took piano lessons while growing up, but only enough to read music, not perform. His method for learning to play the drums and guitar has been through trial and error with lots of practice.
Taking his music seriously, he sees it not as a way to bring attention to himself, but as a way to bring the congregation into worship. In talking with those who know him, he pretty much follows that same pattern in all areas of his life, helping where there’s a need.
One of the ways he serves the community is through volunteering at the Community Care Clinic on Mocksville Avenue, providing patients with procedures they couldn’t otherwise afford.
While presents and material things are nice, maybe we should take a lesson from Jonathan this Christmas by giving more of ourselves. After all, do you even remember what presents you received last Christmas? My point exactly.
On the other hand, memories last a lifetime when you give of yourself.
Jonathan, you were right after all, you indeed are a teacher. And your patients thought you were just a dentist.
Now they and the rest of the world know better.