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Canton native takes over Potsdam dental practice

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POTSDAM — From engineering to dentistry, David M. Hurlbut made a huge career change in order to stay in the north country.

He and his wife, Elizabeth M., took over North Woods Dental, 145 1/2 Market St., Jan. 6, after the recent departure of Dr. Jamal Kassad.

“We both really wanted to end up in the north country,” Mrs. Hurlbut said. “This process came about when we found out that Dr. Kassad was moving back to his home in Texas.”

Dr. and Mrs. Hurlbut were born and raised in Canton and studied at both SUNY Canton and Clarkson University, but dentistry wasn’t the plan.

“He went to SUNY Canton in 2002 for engineering and science, and then he went to Clarkson and graduated in 2004 with a degree in engineering and management,” she said. “I graduated from SUNY Canton with a two-year degree in business administration in 2002. Then I graduated from Clarkson in 2004 with a degree in engineering and management as well.”

Dr. Hurlbut went on to work as a supervising technician for three years at Corning Inc., an American manufacturer of glass and ceramics in the town of Canton.

“But it wasn’t for me,” he said.

Dr. and Mrs. Hurlbut both have family in Canton and didn’t want to have to leave the area for him to get another job.

“Health care and teaching are really the only jobs you’re guaranteed to have around here, and he didn’t want to teach,” Mrs. Hurlbut said.

At the time, Mrs. Hurlbut was working as an office manager at Smile Associates in Canton.

“So, she was working at that dental office and I wanted to see what dentistry is all about,” Dr. Hurlbut said. “So Dr. Bryan B.D. Francey let me observe for two hours, and I said I’d give it a shot.”

Dr. Hurlbut said dentistry was his ticket to stay in the north country. He said there has always been a need for dentistry in the county.

“Nobody wants to come up here to be a dentist,” he said.

From 2008 to 2011, he attended the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine and received a degree in general dentistry.

“He then went to Syracuse to do his general residency program at St. Joseph’s Hospital and in 2013 he worked at McCue Dental in Watertown. I went to Erie Community College in 2010 and 2011 and then I also worked at McCue Dental as a dental hygienist,” Mrs. Hurlbut said.

Starting a new career and going back into debt with school loans was not an easy decision to make, the couple said.

“I knew I was going back to school, so you’ve got to just put in your time and it will be worth it in the end,” he said. “I was used to working and bringing home a paycheck, but then all of a sudden I had to sit in a classroom and study all night long. So, it was a bit of a change.”

Dr. Hurlbut is the main dentist at North Woods Dental, with one other part-time doctor, Edmond Ormond, of Colton.

“We’d like our team of dedicated health care professionals to strive to create a premier family-oriented dental facility that provides high-quality dental care in the north country,” Mrs. Hurlbut said. “All of our employees are the same from Mr. Kassad’s tenure. We wanted patients to expect the same faces that they are used to.”

Dr. Hurlbut said they have about 2,400 active patients that used to be Dr. Kassad’s clientele, but are looking for new patients as well.

North Woods Dental is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Staff writer Victor Barbosa contributed to this report.

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