Daniel Huber

Area Dental Consultant

desk Photo 1[1]_2 Daniel Huber, Quinault, DMD, is the Area Dental Consultant of the Phoenix Area Indian Health Service. His many high level duties include being responsible for planning, disbursing, spending and reconciling the $10,000,000 dental category funds to Phoenix Area Service Units and tribal programs. “Consultation is my main work,” Huber says. “I try to support the dental chiefs and the staff at about 22 dental clinics located in Utah, Nevada and Arizona. I give them technical and program advice.”

Some of the programs that Huber supports are IHS; others are the tribal programs that provide some funds to support his services. (Some tribal programs operate entirely on their own.) Part of Huber’s job is assisting tribes who want to take over all or some of their program.

Huber is also responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring dental prevention programs for service units and communities in the Phoenix area. “All the clinics do a good job with prevention,” says Huber. “It takes 30 minutes to fill and tooth and 2/12 hours to do a root canal. Preventing tooth decay save times and it can save people a lot of pain.” The staff of the outreach programs go to Head Start and schools where they educate the children and paint fluoride on the children’s teeth. The staff also does prevention at health fairs.

Recruiting new dentists and hygienists, providing development for non-clinical staff, and assisting with personnel actions are also Huber’s tasks. In addition, he protects one half day per week so he can care for patients.

People-Oriented Work

Huber was raised in the Portland area. At Oregon State University Huber was a general science major. Initially he wanted to go into research but after doing some research he decided he wanted to use his science background but do something that was more people oriented. When his roommate, who wanted to be a dentist, found that he had an extra application for dental school, he offered it to Huber who filled it out and sent it in. When Huber was accepted at the School of Dentistry at Oregon Health and Science University, he decided this would be a good fit with his interests, so he enrolled.

Upon graduation, Huber joined the IHS and became a staff dental officer at Pine Ridge Indian Hospital in South Dakota. He worked in the hospital three days a week and spent the other two days seeing patients at Manderson/Wounded Knee satellite clinic.

At the Manderson clinic he established a dental program for Head Start children and for people with diabetes. He also created a sealant program at Wounded Knee District School. “This work was fun and made me realize how much I enjoy pediatric dentistry. When I first arrived, the kids didn’t want to go to the dentist. We had a trailer across from the school, but nobody wanted to go there. By the time I left, they all wanted to go.”

How did Huber change kids’ attitudes about going to the dentist? “By building trust” Huber says. “Starting out slowly and being nice. Giving them a little toy at the end of a visit plus ‘high 5s’”.

The children, in turn, uplifted Huber’s spirits. “They were a lot of fun. They have so much energy and enthusiasm,” he muses.

In 1990, Huber moved to New Mexico where he spent two years as Chief of the Tohatchi Dental Clinic, a satellite clinic of the Gallup Indian Medical Center. In addition to caring for patients, he provided education and some preventive care in three local schools, a special education facility, 7 Head Start centers and the local community.

Developing Skills

Next Huber began a two-year-long advanced general practice residency program at Phoenix Indian Medical Center in Arizona. Huber is grateful to IHS for giving him this opportunity. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this residency if I was in the private sector” he explained. “Developing higher-level skills and dealing with complicated cases made me feel like a strong and good dentist.” Working in the hospital as well as the clinic also gave Huber opportunities to collaborate with doctors and other professionals and to learn more about the medical issues of some of his patients. “IHS is a special institution. It’s not as hierarchal as a university setting. We’ll all depend on each other – physicians, pharmacists, mid-level providers [e.g., physician assistants and nurse practitioners].”

Following his residency program, Huber became Deputy Chief of the Phoenix Service Unit Dental Program at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center. He spent 60% of his time caring for patients. The managerial responsibilities that took the rest of his time helped prepare him for his current position.

Advice

“Get a strong science background in high school so you’ll be able to handle the science classes in college,” Huber recommends. “Talk with dentists. When they know about your career interest, they’ll be glad to tell you what their day entails and show you around. Shadowing is more difficult now than it used to be, but it’s possible to be respectful of patient privacy and still show students the lab and other behind-the-scenes things.”

Huber also says, “Once you’re in college, get a good pre-dental advisor who knows how the system works and can advise you on the classes to take.”
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This article was originally published in the Spring 2007 issue of
Winds of Change. (The cover artist, Buffalo Gouge, Creek and Cherokee, works with bright colors. Portraits are his main interest. For more information visit Art Exchange Galleries