Distinguished Dentist Award: Dr. Kim Gardner

Dr. Kim Gardner is dedicated to his career in dentistry, to serving his community and to advancing the profession. In recognition of his efforts, he will receive the Ohio Dental Association Distinguished Dentist Award on Friday, Sept. 14 at the Callahan Celebration of Excellence, held in conjunction with the 152nd ODA Annual Session.

“The one thing that makes Kim most qualified for this award is that he has served dentistry with selflessness rarely seen,” wrote Dr. Bruce Grbach in his nomination letter. “Kim has always answered the call when asked to serve the dental profession and done so with dedication and passion. People often underestimate Kim because of his mild persona, however, those of us who have served with him know he is always prepared and has the heart of a lion.”

Gardner said he is very humbled to receive the award.

“I know it’s the highest honor that the ODA can bestow on a dentist and I’m very humbled,” he said. “I know past recipients and they’re very deserving, and I’m very honored.”

Gardner started thinking about a career in dentistry when he was a junior in college. He wanted to do something with his biology degree, and had an interest in both medicine and dentistry. He had always liked working with his hands, and growing up he and his brother often built model cars and planes, so dentistry seemed like a good fit. He also thought when he visited the dentist that it looked like an easy job. He said he learned it’s not as easy as it looks!

Gardner attended the Case Western Reserve University School of Dentistry because it was near where his wife’s parents lived, and he earned his DDS in 1981. After graduating, he started a practice from scratch in the Chardon area.

“It was very difficult in the beginning because I think we made enough money to just pay the rent, and grew from there,” he said.

Gardner was eventually able to purchase the medical building that his office was in and expanded his space.

He said that being involved in the community was one of the best ways to build up his practice.

“I think one of the things that was always good in the early years of practice was to make yourself available and known in community,” he said. “I have never really advertised; I have gotten most of my patients through word of mouth and by helping on civic community based organizations.”

Before the Give Kids A Smile program got started, Gardner used to go into schools to see local third-graders and talk to them about dental health. Now, he participates in the Give Kids A Smile program every year at Lakeland Community College.

Gardner said his favorite part about being a dentist is the patients and the conversations he gets to have with them.

“I often tell them if I could make a living by just talking to them I would do that,” he said. “That’s the part I like the best.”

Gardner is also very involved in organized dentistry. He started as a delegate and alternate delegate to the ODA House of Delegates, and when an opportunity came up he volunteered to serve on a local council.

“I made a lot of friendships, which I think is probably the most wonderful part about organized dentistry and coming to Columbus or going to national meetings,” he said.

He continued to get involved with councils and committees at the local and state level, and eventually decided to run for vice president of the ODA. After losing two elections, he was elected on the third try.

Gardner said he thinks organized dentistry is important because it’s the voice of the profession.

“If you’re a private practitioner, you’re never going to be able to persuade people from over regulating you if you don’t have a voice,” he said. “Advocacy, Day at the Statehouse, lobby day at ADA are all very important in minimizing the over regulation that our profession would have if we didn’t have that voice.”

Gardner is a fellow of the American College of Dentists, the Pierre Fauchard Academy and the International College of Dentists.

Gardner has served as president of the ODA and has served on and chaired several councils and committees with the ODA, including the Council on Membership Services, the Council on Dental Education and Licensure, the ODA Foundation and the ODPAC Board of Directors. He has served as the president of the Northeastern Ohio Dental Society and as a delegate to the American Dental Association.

Outside of dentistry, Gardner enjoys golfing and is very involved at his church. He also has been very active with the Boy Scouts of America, and has served on several local boards including with the American Cancer Society and the United Way.

Gardner and his wife, Sue, have four children, Paul, John, Amy and Molly, and four grandchildren, with one more on the way.

The Distinguished Dentist Award is the ODA’s most prestigious award. It is given to a leader in the profession committed to the advancement of dentistry who is dedicated and committed to organized dentistry at the local, state and national level.