Th 0511dem Office01

In Colorado: Former Marine, missionary, Cougar, Hawkeye overcomes odds

Nov. 1, 2005
Dr. Brian Secrist is no stranger to being out of his element.

Story by Duane DaPron; photos by Delane Robinson of ABC Music Video & Photography

Dr. Brian Secrist is no stranger to being out of his element.

Born in Lockport, N.Y., Secrist is the youngest in a family of seven children, and the only one who attended college.

Later in life, before attending dental school at the University of Iowa, he was a full-time Fuller Brush door-to-door salesman.

Now, after having practiced dentistry for 22 years, Secrist has stepped out of his comfort zone yet another time.

On Aug. 2, 2004, he opened the doors to a 12-operatory, 5,200-square- foot facility - Secrist Family Dentistry - in Littleton, Colo. A suburb of Denver, Littleton is located on the western edge of the Mile High City at the foot of the majestic Rocky Mountains.

Freehand artwork from a Denver artist adorns the walls in the entryway to the reception room of Secrist Family Dentistry.
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And majestic just might be an appropriate description for Secrist’s general dentistry facility, which embodies most of the features that he has envisioned in his “dream practice” through years of compiling “bests” from other offices.

But the journey to opening his dream practice has been an arduous one.

“I felt a little too comfortable at my previous practice; I needed a new challenge,” Secrist said. “And boy, this has been a challenge. Doing this is not for the weak-hearted. One has to have staying power to build their own facility.”

Secrist, 52, has displayed the wherewithal to overcome the elements during a life that has been filled with challenges.

He grew up on the shores of the Erie Canal in western New York. His dad was a janitor while his mother worked at a rest home. He joined the Mormon Church at age 16, and then decided to travel across the country to Provo, Utah, to attend Brigham Young University.

“I’ll never forget that my dad made $20,000 in his final year of work,” he said, noting that - in order to reach this amount - his father had to work 60-hour weeks rather than the normal work week of 40 hours.

“After witnessing how hard my parents worked their whole lives, I knew that earning a good education was the best direction for me,” Secrist said.

While at BYU, he met and later married his wife, Lila. Ironically, Lila was the youngest of seven children in her family, too.

Secrist served stateside in the Marine Corps during the waning years of the Vietnam War. He fulfilled a two-year, mission-field commitment for his church in Colorado. While doing mission work in the Mile High City, Secrist met the first of several influential people in his life.

“I met and became good friends with Dr. Jim Colt,” Secrist said of a dentist in Littleton, where Secrist served his full-time missionary assignment. “He was the person who encouraged me to go into dentistry.”

Three sets of marble pillars line the south hallway, which also features a vaulted ceiling. Three of the practice’s 12 operatories are located to the right.
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Secrist graduated from BYU in December 1978. With the next year of classes at The University of Iowa College of Dentistry not beginning until the fall - and knowing the costs that lie ahead to attend dental school, along with having a wife and infant child to support - Secrist secured a job far from the reaches of dentistry.

“I sold Fuller Brush products door-to-door on a full-time basis between graduating from BYU and going to dental school,” he said. “Actually, I was the company’s No. 1 or No. 2 salesman on several occasions. Believe me, I was motivated.”

Secrist graduated in 1983 as valedictorian of his dental school class.

“I loved it there. My classmates, my professors, the school’s staff, the community, and the patients were wonderful people to be with while I was in Iowa City,” he said of being in dental school.

That motivation has carried over to his professional career. During the early stages of his time as an associate, he had an opportunity to work for five years with Dr. Ken Wadsworth. What Secrist learned from Wadsworth remains with him to this day.

“I always was impressed with how Ken was totally, totally honest with his patients on a daily basis,” he said. “I since have told him that most of my success in private practice is due to him.”

Dr. Secrist and daughter Kristen, a hygienist at the practice, provide treatment in an operatory that is equipped with the latest in technology.
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After serving as an associate, it was time for Secrist to go solo. So, in 1990, he started his own practice - a five-operatory office - in Denver. That office is just a short distance (about 5.5 miles) from his current facility.

Secrist’s practice flourished at his old location. But after some 12 years, it became apparent that a change was in the offing.

“We had done well in the other (first) location. But we were landlocked and weren’t able to expand,” he said. “The old office was beginning to show some wear. Plus, the landlords doubled the rent.”

But Secrist was unfazed by these detours.

“At the time, I remember telling the staff, ‘I think we neeed a new cover for our book now.’”

After Secrist attended an all-day office design seminar in Denver offered by Dr. Michael Unthank from Lincoln, Neb. (a dentist who is also a licensed architect), the seeds were sown for creating a new facility.

An exterior view of Secrist Family Dentristy shows terraced landscaping to aid in the proper runoff of water.
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“Dr. Unthank got my juices going about building my own space,” the Littleton dentist said.

Actually, Secrist had been doing his homework for quite some time in terms of preparing to design his own building.

“For the last 17 years, I had cut out articles on Office of the Month and Office of the Year winners from Dental Economics® magazine, and kept a notebook on specific items that I liked from those practices,” he said.

Appropriately called “The Book,” he gave the purple-covered, three-ring binder with his compilation of “bests” to Denver architect Jim Allred, owner of TAAG Architects.

With the dentist’s notebook in hand, Allred attended a dental office design presentation in Arizona sponsored by THE Design. This proved to be quite beneficial in the inital design stages for the new facility.

A spacious reception room offers a 36-inch flat screen television and Internet access for patient use.
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“I received a lot of input from my architect,” Secrist said.

After locating and buying the land at his current location, construction on Secrist’s “ideal practice” began in November 2003, using Facilities Contracting Inc. The company president is Mike McKesson.

The facility, which provides patients and staff with a tremendous view of the front range of the Rockies, is a testament to the Littleton dentist’s detail in planning.

On the exterior, there are 28 parking spots located on the south side of the structure allowing for proper runoff of water in case of rapid melting from a large snowfall. In addition, proper water runoff is addressed with the use of three terraced retaining walls on the structure’s north side.

An exterior view also displays 15 white fiberglass pillars. These blend with 20 additional custom-made wood and marble pillars located inside the facility. The pillars were the result of something Secrist saw in a past Office of the Month winner in DE.

A unique five-sided consultation room has large windows to create a feeling of openness. To the left is a refreshment bar, which is stocked daily with goodies. To the right is a counter for reappointments.
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“I think the pillars both inside and out give the feeling of a home,” the dentist said.

Secrist’s nephew Shane Secrist - president of a local millwork company called Aspenleaf Millwork - selected the profiles and personally manufactured the office pillars and office trim package. Many of the interior pillars and walls were hand-painted by Charles Berendt, a master Denver artist.

Another nephew, Colin Secrist, built the soffits and light bars at the new practice with Dr. Secrist serving as his “cut man.”

The office’s crown molding is referred to as “Dr. Wadsworth crown.”

Secrist Family Dentistry’s custom-made crown molding, located throughout the practice, is evident in the west hallway. Dr. Secrist assisted with the building and installation of the soffits and light bars. Each of the 12 operatories (inset) is a mirror image of another.
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“He had that type in his home,” Secrist said of the influential dentist with whom he once practiced.

Much of the office’s décor, including color combinations and furnishings, were ideas of Denver-area designer Lisa Fatianow of Redberry Home Furnishings in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

“Lisa has an eye for comfort and style,” Secrist said.

In designing the 12 operatories, the Littleton dentist took great pains to economize on available space.

“I wanted to be as efficient as possible,” he said. “We don’t have to move patients from one area to another.”

Each operatory is like a mirror image of another. Standard features such as X-rays, Pentamix and RotoMix units from 3M ESPE, and ultrasonic scalers are included in each treatment room. About the only item that needs to be transferred between operatories is a curing light.

“We have less than a one-minute turnaround in getting treatment rooms ready from one patient to the next because everything is draped in disposable plastic coverings,” Secrist said.

“The Book” was the source of ideas for many of the features that now grace the practice.
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Most of the practice’s dental equipment was purchased from a local independent dealer, John Riedel of Dental Enterprises. Additionally, Tom Sorensen of Advanced Dental Technologies in Dumont, Colo., was the mastermind behind the office’s imaging system. David Sipos from 3M ESPE and Karen Archibald from Patterson helped with the 3M ESPE equipment. Also, Secrist worked extensively with Andy Tarver, President and CEO of Computek Dental Systems in Fort Collins, Colo., concerning computer technology.

Not surprisingly, the new practice has met with rave reviews.

“The comments from patients have been so positive ... just unbelievable,” Secrist said. “Some say they feel like they have been to a five-star hotel. We are hearing ‘wow’ a lot.”

Besides the positive comments, revenues at Secrist Family Dentistry have increased steadily in just one year.

“We are averaging one to two walk-ins a day at this location. That has been a pleasant surprise,” the practice’s owner/designer said. “Our new patient numbers are up 30 percent with only a building and a sign (marquee) out front.”

A recent addition to the practice includes offering complimentary massages to patients. (Secrist’s youngest daughter, Michelle, has attended massage therapy school while his oldest daughter, Kristen, is one of three hygienists in the office.) In addition, patients now have Internet access in both the reception and treatment rooms. Frosted glass dividers for the reception and consultation rooms also have been installed.

Dr. Secrist’s future plans include adding two or three other doctors to form a group practice arrangement.

For Brian Secrist, life has been a series of situations in which he has been out of his element. But, on each occasion the Littleton dentist has persevered and conquered the adversity.

“I wanted to challenge myself; I felt I had reached a plateau at the other building,” Secrist said about building his own facility. “I’m out of my comfort zone now, but I can see the tremendous potential in this new location.”

Feel free to contact Dr. Brian Secrist at [email protected] or by telephone at (303) 989-9010. Secrist Family Dentistry is located at 12999 West Bowles Drive, Littleton, CO 80127.