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From patient to colleague, Campbell joins Worthington practice

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Jeff Campbell (right) has joined Ed McNiece at AppleWhite Dental in Worthington, years after McNiece was Campbell's dentist growing up.1 / 2
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Jeff Campbell (right) has joined Ed McNiece at AppleWhite Dental in Worthington, years after McNiece was Campbell's dentist growing up.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Years ago, Ed McNiece had a young patient who didn't especially enjoy opening his mouth when visiting the dentist.

That patient was Worthington resident Jeff Campbell.

Now, many years later, Campbell has joined McNiece at AppleWhite Dental in downtown Worthington.

"I was a little intimidated -- I didn't necessarily like opening my mouth and letting someone do things in my mouth," Campbell recalled. "It was kind of weird that I went into dentistry because I wasn't a huge fan of going to the dentist when I was younger. I think that's helped a little bit, because when I see kids, they don't want to open their mouth and let me look in there, so I have to be aware of that."

"As I recall, we didn't have to do much work on Jeff," McNiece said. "Actually, I thought this was the interesting thing -- his oldest sibling, his brother, is an oral surgeon. One of his sisters is a dental hygienist. I kind of got a lot of grief from the family that they all went into dentistry and didn't stay with the family business."

The family business was construction, a business in which Campbell spent some time.

"Doing construction-type things is what my dad did while I was growing up," Campbell said. "That's how I got into the construction side of things. The family business kind of turned into dentistry with my brother, sister and I all in different areas of dentistry."

Campbell is a 2003 graduate of Worthington High School. He then went to Bethel University in St. Paul and earned a degree in biology. From there, he worked in group homes for two years.

"It was personal, one-on-one patient care in day-to-day lives at the group home," he explained. "Working in the health field, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed working with clients and patients and things like that. I did construction and things like that during college, so I always liked doing things with my hands and that kind of thing.

"That kind of combined into pursuing dentistry, you could say," Campbell continued. "My brother is an oral surgeon and he actually kind of directed me toward dentistry in a lot of ways, as well."

Campbell went to the University of Louisville Dental School and graduated earlier this year.

When the other dentist in McNiece's office moved back to his hometown, there was an opening.

"It involves a search process; we had somebody who did some searching," McNiece said. "I gave them Jeff's name, along with some other people they were looking at. They did all the work. I'm reaping the benefits of their work."

Campbell and his wife, Alecia, moved back to town. He started at AppleWhite on June 18.

"It's really nice to be out and about anywhere, and I feel like I see people I know," Campbell said. "I haven't had that in 10 years -- I've been in big cities for 10 years. I think that's one of the best parts about being back -- just being around a closer community."

For McNiece, having a familiar face makes the transition easier for him ... and the patients.

"They have a little built-in trust because of knowing the family and knowing Jeff," McNiece said. "We've had a number of people who have come in just to say hi. Jeff has been out and about."

"I've seen a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time," Campbell said.

"He's basically been gone for 10 years, other than a couple summers back, I guess," McNiece said.

Having known each other for many years, the two have a great working relationship.

"It's great," McNiece said. "Because we've known each other for a long time, we're able to talk to each other on a regular basis."

"I don't feel intimidated," Campbell said.

"I probably yelled at him when he was a little kid to behave," McNiece said. "But he's not holding that against me now."

"You probably yelled at me to open my mouth," Campbell said.

"I think it was when you were misbehaving when we were with your folks." McNiece said. "And they were probably yelling at my kids."

Campbell, who admits having a "few cavities, but not a ton" when he was younger, won't be on patrol when outside of the office.

"I love drinking regular Coke," he admitted. "I try to not drink it as much, so I will not blame anybody or point the finger at anybody."

But as a young dentist, he admits there is a lot he can pick up from McNiece.

"In dentistry, there is plenty I can learn," Campbell said. "Apart from dentistry, it's trying to get involved in things. I know Ed had been involved in a lot of things in the community, and trying to be a part of that and be a leader in things I think are important. In dentistry, there's plenty of new techniques and maybe some old techniques that still work and can be good to know."

"I like the fact that I can learn some of the newest stuff that's out," McNiece said. "Some of the things he picked up in school that are different. I don't practice dentistry anywhere close to what I learned in school. You're always changing, and Jeff has the newest thoughts on different things. I'm certainly not afraid to ask him."

Even though Campbell has only been at the practice for a little more than a month, McNiece has been pleased with his work.

"To me, what I see is the interaction with people and being able to help people," McNiece said. "He has a really easy-going manner with patients. He maybe cares too much sometimes."

"I would say helping patients is the big things," Campbell said.

When he's not working, Campbell enjoys being outdoors.

"Lately, I have been fishing; trying to fish," he said. "I have not been doing so well. Shore fishing on Lake Okabena is tough. That's one thing we've been trying to do. I'll be hunting this fall. I'd like to get out and do pheasant, duck, goose and maybe try to do slug deer. But we'll see. That's everything I'd like to do, but we'll see what time allows."

As for the future, Campbell is happy where his career has taken him.

"Right now the future holds just practicing dentistry in the community," he said. "Trying to get involved in the community, that's one thing, and building a practice and kind of developing my professional skills and things like that."