This article can be found in the Spring 2019 edition of the Alumni Magazine.
June 5, 2019
Tyler Kimmel, DDS (BS ’09), knew he wanted to become a dentist when he was in the fifth grade.
Kimmel job-shadowed his family dentist, Joseph E. Kinder, DDS, and became even more curious after being fitted for braces, wondering if orthodontics might be a good career route. He ultimately chose a path with more variety and unpredictability. “General dentistry gives you the opportunity to do a little bit of everything,” he said.
Kimmel today oversees a team as Chief Dental Officer at Neighborhood Health Clinic, 1717 S. Calhoun St., serving the underserved as he uses his skills, his soothing temperament and his wealth of empathy.
“Some of that is actually from the Franciscan values we had when we were at Saint Francis,” Kimmel said. “Respect the unique dignity of each person, and that includes the ability to receive healthcare. I want to help the patients in the community who wouldn’t normally be able to get help.”
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Kimmel’s empathy informs much of his work. He became the Chief Dental Officer at Neighborhood Health Clinic after graduation from the Indiana University School of Dentistry in 2013. Assuming the role was a daunting task, as he stepped out of school and right into a manager’s shoes at a not-for-profit clinic with a wide range of patient needs.
“It was a challenge, being a new dentist just getting used to dentistry in general,” Kimmel said. “The management piece was the most challenging. You don’t get a lot of that in dental school. They teach you how to be a dentist, not how to run a business or manage other staff members.”
He learned on the job, he said, embracing the challenge and overseeing the dental center, which is open every weekday and two nights per week. Neighborhood Health Clinic also has a satellite on Paulding Road and a mobile clinic that travels around Fort Wayne Community Schools to examine second, third, sixth and seventh graders.
Kimmel relishes his work because it combines his love for dentistry with his desire to live Franciscan values. Kimmel’s background includes a lifetime of Catholic education. He graduated from Bishop Luers High School before enrolling at USF.
He faced a number of choices coming out of dental school, including whether to start a private practice or become an associate of another dentist. Kimmel had spent time volunteering at Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinic while he was a USF student and also went on some mission trips, including one with a pediatric dentist to Honduras.
“Some people feel public health is something you do when you graduate dental school until you have enough to buy your own practice,” Kimmel said. “I actually do enjoy working in public health. Whether it’s here at the Neighborhood Health Clinic or if I moved to another city, I would enjoy working in a federally qualified health center. I feel like there’s a lot of mission to it and the values I picked up at Saint Francis encourage those types of things.”
Kimmel treats patients of all ages at the Neighborhood Health Clinic, starting at six months old. Like most dentists, he’s striving to teach healthy habits and encourage patients to practice preventative care.
“When you see ‘pain’ on the schedule, you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get into,” Kimmel said. “But those are some of the most grateful patients. They have pain and you take it away.”
Kimmel takes pride in the Neighborhood Health Clinic staff’s ability to help dental patients improve their smiles and appearance, which often benefits them in their work lives.
“I do feel I’m where I want to be and I’m glad I made the decision to go down this particular road,” Kimmel said. “Dentistry has been very good to me. We have a very good dental profession here in Fort Wayne. We work well together and collaborate. Not every dentist is going to click with every patient and we can talk about those things without it being a competition.
“There’s still unmet need, unfortunately. You want everyone to be able to eat and chew normally and have that nice smile that brings self-confidence.”