Dentist goes from colonel to cavities
Since returning from duty on June 7 he has taken up his practice at Sussex Dental, N63 W23401 Main St. His time in the army took him many places including Fort McCoy, Afghanistan and Paraguay and Ecuador in South America.
As a young boy in Montana he grew up playing army with friends, and when he was older he decided to join the Army ROTC in order to help pay his way through dentistry school at Marquette University. From 1974 to 1978 he was a cadet in the Army ROTC program at Maquette, and in 1982 he graduated with a degree in dentistry. After he graduated he headed to Fort Bragg in North Carolina where he served from 1982 to 1986 as a dental officer.
In 1986, he received a call from a friend who told him about the army reserves. That year he joined the 452nd Combat Support Hospital unit and has been in the reserves ever since. In December 2003, his unit was given four days notice and told that they would be heading to Iraq initially, but he ended up serving in Afghanistan. A typical day in Afghanistan started out early at around 5:30 a.m. Waller headed to the mess hall to eat, and every morning he would prioritize patients treating those in the most pain first and those with more minor conditions such as tooth aches were sent away until later in the day. Waller said the treatment was very hands-on and a quarter of the time he came in on Sundays to perform emergency treatments. In his free time he would go to the gym and take walks, but he was most reflective of the time he spent with other dentist officers.
"You miss out on a little bit of camaraderie," Waller said of his time in Afghanistan.
Lining the walls next to the dentist chair where he routinely checks patient's teeth is an assortment of pictures from his tour of duty in Afghanistan. On the right side of the wall is a picture of three surgeons. Waller reminisced on the time he spent with them and wished for the opportunity to speak with them again although he believes that time may never come.
Waller's time at Fort McCoy was a different experience than his service in 2003 and 2004. Col. Waller managed other dentists who conducted exams to see if soldiers had any dental issues that may have ended up being a problem later in their service. Within a few days anywhere from two to 400 soldiers came through the Fort remaining there from 20 to 30 days. If they had serious dental problems they were referred to civilian dentists in the area. The conditions were different at Fort McCoy as well. Waller had a private room with a bathroom and a number of other amenities.
"Afghanistan was clearly more of an adventure than Fort McCoy," Waller said.
He enjoyed his time at Fort McCoy because he had the opportunity to visit his family and could relate to those who were being sent overseas and looked forward to welcoming the soldiers home who were coming back from tours of duty. In September his army reserve commitment will once again be served at Fort McCoy. Waller said he has been in contact with his army friends and looks forward to catching up with them next month.
Waller said his state of mind was different when he was in the army as opposed to civilian life. Instead of worrying about emergency surgeries and drills, he now thinks about taking the kids to soccer practice and mowing the lawn. His schedule also changed drastically. An early to bed early to rise philosophy was replaced by the daily toll of choirs that come with raising a family.
Dentists have a 90-day on the ground commitment so while Waller was away a friend who also served in the reserves substituted for him at Sussex Dental along with a number of other dentists. After he returned from the service, he said the staff and his clients were receptive and welcoming. One of those staff members was Office Administrator Cheryl Maas who has worked with Waller for 19 years.
"It's unbelievable the amount of patients that wanted to put off dental work until his return," Maas said. "We hear nothing but good things about his service."
Maas said the work load was difficult at times at the office while he was away, and she was very excited when she first heard about his return.
"Personally he is a wonderful man," Maas said. "He puts his patients first."
Waller first joined Sussex Dental in 1990 after meeting Donald Foley, whom he would eventually buy out of the business, through dentist Eugene Goetsch. "It was through the reserves that I met Dr. Goetsch who introduced me to Doctor Foley," Waller said. "So I guess the reserves got me to where I am right now in Sussex."
Sussex dentist's patients are all smiles
Family practice maintains loyal client base for nearly three decades
In fact even if you've never been to Magnusson's office, it's likely you've noticed the sign for his practice. It's been hanging around Sussex for a while either at his first location on Main Street above Tony Maroni's where Magnusson practiced for 18 years, or today on Silver Spring Drive where he's been checking teeth for the past 13 years.
Magnusson's Sussex lineage began long ago when his grandfather Johan Magnusson a Swedish immigrant started one of the first blacksmith shops in Sussex and his maternal grandparents, Emma and John Stier, were postmasters in the 1930s.
Born and raised in Sussex, Magnusson was educated in the Hamilton School District and said he intended to head toward Colorado, but decided to stay in his hometown where he said he saw a need for family dentistry.
But you don't have to be a Sussex-area resident to know Magnusson, in fact many of his patients drive from more than an hour away. Actually, Magnusson has patients that live states away, even a country away and when they're in town, on their list of family and friends to visit is a trip to the dentist while they're here. "I've got patients from age 3 to age 90," Magnusson said.
Lori Wright a dental hygienist who has been with Magnusson since he started his practice attests to the patient loyalty.
"I can't tell you the hugs and kisses we get," she said. "I have one guy who always falls into the chair when he gets here and says, 'Ok Lori, pamper me,' " she snickered.
Ken Schuette has been a patient of Magnusson's for 22 years. He and his wife Sandy will be retiring soon and plan to split their time between their Wisconsin home in Jackson and a home in Arkansas.
"But we're keeping him as our main dentist," Ken said.
"He puts up with me because I harass the heck out of him," Ken laughed. "Harass" is Ken's way of having fun during his visits to Magnusson's office. "I always walk in and say, 'Is this Maggie's Massage Parlor and if it's not, well then see you later.' The girls always want to know which one I'm calling Maggie, but I will never tell," Schuette laughed.
Here for awhile
Lucky for his clients, Magnusson said he has no plans to retire soon after nearly 30 years. He's seen Sussex grow up around his practice and today, he works to growth with the world around him.
Magnusson said his newest venture is setting up a Web site and Facebook page for his clients and those who might be interested.
"I would like to be able to e-mail patients information or post health tips," he said.
And he also finds time to use his skills to give back. Magnusson has travelled to Haiti with the Lake Country Rotary a year ago to help set up a dental clinic and deliver equipment. This year, he will volunteer with colleagues of the Wisconsin Dental Association in Sheboygan to do free dental work for those in need. He said the goal is to treat 2,000 people in two days.
"He loves what he does and that's the best thing," said Schuette.
Wright said the entire staff keeps up by taking continuing education and attending seminars on the latest dental offerings. Sitting in Magnusson's office recently with patient chatter and ringing phones in the background, Wright reflected on a time when it was just her and Magnusson in a small office. She also drives 45 minutes each day from Campbellsport to continue working with Magnusson after her family decided to move there from Sussex for other opportunities.
"There used to be times when it was just me and him in the office," Wright said.
Today the two still work together and learn from each other. Wright's children now much older, may even be able to teach them something when they get ready to set up that Facebook page. For now, Magnusson will continue to serve his patients - near and far.