By the summer of 2010, I had stopped playing basketball and softball, but hadn’t done anything to replace these activities. My overall fitness worsened as my weight increased. Pictures from this time period captured the weight gain. To be honest, I remember feeling ashamed and angry that I had allowed myself, once an athlete, to become so terribly unhealthy.

I’ll never forget the pain, lying in the fetal position and trying not to throw up after running on the treadmill for only two or three minutes. That was definitely an eye-opening experience. I was trying to run an eleven-minute per mile. Pure and simple, it was ugly. Some friends back in Missouri had issued my wife and I a challenge to prepare ourselves to run in the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital half-marathon in December of that year, and we had accepted.

Thirteen miles was a daunting task. The farthest I had ever run was a 10K, and that was in high school at the peak of my athleticism. I started this challenge at the heaviest weight I had ever been in my life. Overcoming the psychological and emotional obstacles to succeed was, perhaps, even more of a challenge. After six months of training and losing twenty-five pounds in the process, I successfully finished my first half-marathon on December 2, 2010.

I felt different – more alive than I had in years. It was as if physical and mental shackles preventing me from living my life to its fullest potential had been removed. It was liberating. I was free to be what I wanted to be, to become a better husband to my wife, a better father to my four children, a greater contributor to my church and community – and, lastly, a better dentist. I wanted others to feel the same.

During this transformative experience, I began to look for a deeper and more meaningful purpose to my professional life. I wanted to make more of a difference in people’s lives than I had done previously. It was also during this time that I heard a well-known dental consultant speak on the topic of practice vision and purpose.

Two things he mentioned really stood out to me. First, he said the dentist needs to be uniquely known for something in the community – and that something need not be related at all to the field of dentistry. Secondly, if you can combine the dentist’s personal passions and dentistry, all the better.

Some people go on long walks. Others meditate. I take a shower. This is where I get organized for the day, and tend to get creative ideas. The words of the dental consultant had been stuck in my head for months when, in the summer of 2011, the original idea for Fit to Smile came to me during a shower.

I had become passionate about long distance running, and, of course, I was a dentist. While a dentist who loves to run long-distance races is not necessarily unique, developing a practice model that allows patients to be rewarded for living an active lifestyle is!

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