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Norris Point dentist winding down her hours of work

Norris Point dentist, Dr. Marina Sexton, poses for a photo in her clinic with Ji Hwan Kim, the area's new dentist.
Norris Point dentist, Dr. Marina Sexton, poses for a photo in her clinic with Ji Hwan Kim, the area's new dentist.

Prior to graduating school, Marina Sexton of St. John’s had mapped out her immediate future. Once she earned her degree at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry, she would hang out her shingle in her home city.

That all changed, however, when Sexton and several of her classmates made a trip to the Norris Point area less than six months before graduation.
The provincial government sent letters to the soon-to-be dentists encouraging them to visit rural areas of the province (on government’s dime) to scout out possible communities to begin their practices.
For Sexton that trip in December 1979 was more about visiting Gros Morne National Park than it was about setting up a practice in the area.
She had no idea at the time that, however, what she was about to see and feel would have such an impact on her that she would cancel her plans for a clinic in St. John’s and open the first permanent dental clinic in Norris Point.
“Coming over that hill into Norris Point, I felt like, 'Oh my god, I’m coming home. Within a few hours of arriving, I’d lined up an office space and a small apartment I could rent,” Sexton said during a recent phone interview.
Sexton graduated in May 1980 and opened her office two months later. She was 25 years old at the time.
“Everybody said I’d last a year in such a small place but, 37 years later, I’m still here,” Sexton said.
Sexton is now cutting back on her practice at Norris Point Dental Centre and is working alongside another dentist who she hopes will take over when she retires permanently.
Looking back on the early years of her practice, Sexton said she also worked a week out of every month in St John’s. That’s where she reacquainted with a high school friend, Vince McCarthy. The two married and have two daughters.
When asked how dentistry has changed over the decades, Sexton said things are much different now, not only in terms of equipment and products, but also in the reasons why people visit a dentist.
Years ago, she said, visits were driven by pain and the thoughts of the relief that would come once the tooth was pulled.
Today, however, dentistry is more focused on infection control, Sexton said, with most people visiting their dentist as a way to prevent cavities and other problems.
“They are understanding more about what goes on with children’s teeth and how we now have ... (an initiative) to get the child in the office so you can talk to the parents about what the child is eating and drinking.”
A two-time past president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association, Sexton has been recognized for her commitment to her profession. In 2014, Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry awarded Sexton an Outstanding Alumni Award.
While she still enjoys her practice as much as she did 37 years ago, Sexton said, because of back issues, it’s now time for her to cut back on seeing patients.
She encourages people to continue to make an appointment at the practice, however, where Dr. Ji Hwan Kim is seeing patients.
“I’m blessed that he has come to work with me... I know patients want to see me because they are used to me. But, Dr. Kim loves this area as much as I do and he’s willing to stay here indefinitely. So we need to give him that opportunity.”
A native of South Korea, Kim came to Canada 12 years ago and settled in this province in 2014. His work as a dentist spans over 25 years and includes experience as a dentist doing missionary work in underdeveloped countries.
Before moving to Norris Point, Kim practiced in Roddickton and St. Anthony under the Labrador-Grenfell Regional Health Authority. Kim and his wife have three sons.
When contacted by phone about the move to Norris Point, Kim said he and his wife Insook enjoy living in that part of the province.
“The community is very nice," he said. "The people are friendly. I like it here.”
Kim also said it’s a pleasure to work alongside Sexton.
“Dr. Sexton is very considerate to me and to her patients," he said. "I respect her and am very pleased to work with her and her nice staff.”
While much has changed in dentistry over the 37 years, some things in Sexton’s life remain the same.
“I still catch my breath coming down over that hill into Norris Point,” she said.
danette@nl.rogers.com
 

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