After decades of serving the local area, a local dentist will be putting away his tools as he looks to move on to the retirement lifestyle. Dr. Pat Patel will be retiring come the middle of June from his two dental practices. Patel had served area with his dental services for a total of 39 years since he got his start in the world of dental medicine in Clarkfield and later started a practice in Cottonwood.

After decades of serving the local area, a local dentist will be putting away his tools as he looks to move on to the retirement lifestyle. Dr. Pat Patel will be retiring come the middle of June from his two dental practices. Patel had served area with his dental services for a total of 39 years since he got his start in the world of dental medicine in Clarkfield and later started a practice in Cottonwood.

Patel was born and raised in Uganda, East Africa. He later immigrated to the United States in 1969 where he earned a bachelor’s degree from Augsburg College in Minneapolis. During his time as an  Augsburg ‘Auggie’, he met his wife Annette, a science major at the college. Later, Patel continued his graduate dental work at the University of Minnesota’s Dental School and graduated in 1976. After his graduation, Patel and Annette shortly started their journey to the heart and mouth of rural Minnesota.

A tale of two offices
Clarkfield was Patel’s first stop on his journey after completing his education. Recruited by the local mayor and administrator of the former Clarkfield Hospital, the young dentist was encouraged to set up shop in the town, which was currently without a resident dentist. Dr. Patel started serving the dental  needs of Clarkfield in February of 1977.

During his time in Clarkfield his first dental office was damaged during the June 16 tornado in 1992. Rather than repairing the costly damages, Patel chose to build a new practice with an updated and modern feel to it. The new office opened in December of 1995 with design help from his staff members and has been the home of Patel’s Clarkfield practice ever since.

Patel later expanded his practice to Cottonwood in 1978. The Cottonwood building was remodelled and added on after Patel’s practice moved in. Dr, Patel has practiced in Cotton-wood on Mondays and Wednesdays and Clarkfield on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The offices have seen a variety of patients during their time of service in the area. Patel’s office is unique and has a core of dedicated patients due to his generous policies on accepting low-income insurance plans that are often rejected by other dental practitioners. He stated that he sees some patients travel from distances as far as 100 + miles away to come to his practice.

The two offices would not be complete without their dedicated staff. According to Patel, the offices have longtime staff, some of which who have been there for 20 to 30 plus years. He stated, “We had  excellent staff over the years, they’re dedicated, they look after the town, look after the patient. That I was impressed with and they helped us a lot over the years.”

The Cottonwood office building is currently in the hands of the city, according to Patel after the building but not its contents was donated to the city of Cottonwood in 2007. After Patel’s quickly approaching retirement, the Cottonwood building will be the City’s responsibility.

However, with the Clarkfield building, Patel owns the building and the equipment inside. Not wanting Clarkfield to be without a dentist after his retirement and wanting to give back to the community that he spread his roots in, Patel announced during  a previous Clarkfield City Council meeting that he and his wife Annette were donating the building and its entire contents to the city.

Sparking generosity
After spending almost 40 years in the area, the Patel family has an abundances of fond memories and experiences in the area. Annette stated, “The town has given a lot to us, we raised two kids here...we want to encourage the towns to keep going.”
At first the Patels were considering selling the Clarkfield property traditionally. But concerned about the future of dental  well-being for the area, the Patels decided the donation could be an attractive incentive for young dentists seeking to start their practice but struggling with the immense burden of student loans that might be a struggling point.

Dr. Patel explained, “Now our approach is to donate the building and equipment so that a new graduate coming out doesn’t have to worry about that big expense coming out of their pocket. So that isa chance they can be attracted to small towns.”
Combined with the Patel’s appreciation of support from the community, the couple thought this donation is indeed the right path. Dr. Patel stated, Annette and I had been thinking that with all the things that the community and the staff has done for us, we felt that that would be the right thing to do, give it back to the community.

"There’s a tremendous shortage of dentists, or patients trying to get into dentist, especially low income families...By doing this, maybe there’s a chance that we can attract the new generation of dentists so that the people, the community, and the surrounding community can have an acess to dental needs, because that’s a big, big problem.”

The donation has been making quite a splash in Clarkfield, with the City elated to have received such a gift. According to the Jenni Schuler, chair of the Clarkfield Economic Development Authority, the donation is a critical and especially useful gift for the City. "This generous gift by the Patel family provides Clarkfield with an amazing asset that we can use to keep our community vital for years to come. The Clarkfield EDA plans to utilize the building and equipment to ensure that community residents are able to receive dental care locally.”

Dr. Patel stated how he hopes that his donation can spark generosity by encouraging others to give to their communities in what manners they are able. Schuler also summed up this spirit of generosity when she stated, “The Patel's really show us all what's great about the Clarkfield community - we help each other out, we care for each other, and we make investments for the future. I encourage everyone in the community to join me in thanking Dr. Patel, Annette Patel, and their children Anesh and Anita."

The Patels will be hosting an open house on Tuesday June 14, at the Clarkfield office and on June 15 at Cottonwood. Dr. Patel’s last day besides the dental chairs is on June 16th. Both open houses will run from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

The Patel family has wished that if anyone has any leads or connections in finding a dentist for Clarkfield and Cottonwood that they may feel free to contact the city offices.