Dr. Jon Hale

Monday, July 16th, 2018


Dr. Jon Hale

Boston University’s Dental Health

How Dr. Johnathon Hale emerged stronger, personally and professionally, from a blaze that nearly destroyed his West Virginia practice.

LATE ONE NIGHT at the start of a weekend last year—Friday, January 13, ominously—Dr. Johnathon Hale answered a phone call from one of his hygienists. His four-year-old practice, Hale Family Dentistry, she told him, was on fire. “My first reaction was that she had to be joking,” the 34-year-old general dentist says. “But I drove there, and already six different fire departments were on duty.” Dr. Hale had graduated from West Virginia University School of Dentistry in 2009, working as an associate at another doctor’s practice until 2013, when he opened his own in the town of Oak Hill, southeast of Charleston, the state capital. The fire stemmed from an electrical short in one operatory’s overhead fluorescent light. Dr. Hale’s Benco Dental Territory Representative, Seth Flohr, “was there right away,” the doctor says, “helping me take inventory and literally picking things up from the ashes.” The duo was able to salvage some damaged computer servers, but otherwise the space and equipment were an almost total loss. Office vacancies in tiny Oak Hill—population 8,500—were thin on the ground, but Dr. Hale was able to work out a deal with a recently retired dentist to use his facility temporarily. “Our main goal was to maintain our patients so they wouldn’t go anywhere else,” he says. “But the office was small and dated; we knew early on it wouldn’t be a long-term solution.” One saving grace: All of Dr. Hale’s income-protection and property-damage insurance was in place, so his team never missed a paycheck and “I wasn’t stressed about money,” he says. “That was a big help.” Eventually Dr. Hale tracked down a newer, more functional space, and Flohr and the Benco team helped him draw up plans for a January 2018 move-in, just one year after the blaze. “Buying a building, finding a contractor, setting up a temporary office,” Dr. Hale says, ticking off the tasks. “All that change happened with no prior planning in about 10 months.” At 3,200 square feet, the new office isn’t palatial, but it’s laid out efficiently; Dr. Hale was able to set up eight treatment rooms, two more than he used to have. He transitioned from paper charts to digital records—“a learning curve”—and bought a new pano X-ray, intraoral cameras and chairs with massagers built in. “They’ve been a big hit with patients,” he notes dryly. (Fire or no fire, that’s one way to ensure they don’t go anywhere else.) His recovery from the conflagration has, improbably, become a catalyst for expansion. “I have eight people on my team now,” Dr. Hale says, “but I’m probably going to need a new doctor in the next year or two.” Sometimes, it seems, the only way to drive your own dentistry forward is first to be driven backward, firmly, against your will. “I didn’t have time to shop around,” he says, referring to the reconstruction and restoration of Hale Family Dentistry. “I trusted Benco, and I was happy with the whole process.”