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The Shaynes and the Barnetts ...

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by Diane Rarick

SBJ Contributing Writer

Husband-and-wife business partners are everywhere these days even in professions once dominated by men. In the Springfield area, two married couples who work as dentists have chosen two very different ways of sharing their professions and raising their families.

Drs. Howard and Mary Lynn Shayne opened Fox Grape Family Dentistry in Springfield in 1993 and are the city's only married dentists practicing together. Family dentistry is epitomized by the Shaynes' two children, ages 4 and 6, who regularly come to work with their parents.

Drs. Marcus and Kelly Barnett, who met in dental school, have always practiced in separate offices currently in Nixa and Ozark, respectively. In 1984, Kelly Barnett made front-page news in Springfield when she became the city's first woman dentist. The couple also has two children, ages 7 and 11, but the Barnetts have employed a nanny to care for their children at home since they were born.

The Shaynes both worked in different professions before entering dental school at the Baylor College of Dentistry in the mid-1980s. Howard Shayne studied geology at the University of South Florida and worked as a petroleum geologist for a large oil company in Louisiana and Dallas for seven years before deciding to switch to a dental career.

A long-time interest in health care and a cousin in dentistry helped him realize that the science and art of dentistry could be combined in an interesting and rewarding career.

Despite early training as a chair-side assistant in a dental office during high school and college, Mary Lynn Shayne worked for seven years as a paralegal in Cleveland and later in Dallas. The Shaynes met through a mutual friend who knew of their common interest in dentistry.

They were married two weeks before Howard Shayne started dental school in 1985. Mary Lynn Shayne entered dental school the following year in a class that was about 25 percent women.

"All through dental school, that was our ultimate goal to practice together. We just thought we would really enjoy working together, and we complement each other in a lot of ways."

After graduating from Baylor, the Shaynes both joined the Baylor dentistry faculty and worked as associates in different dental offices. In addition, Howard Shayne completed a one-year residency at Veterans Administration Hospital in Dallas.

The couple often traveled to Springfield for vacations and became interested in opening a practice here.

The East Battlefield Smitty's was brand new and Fox Grape Plaza was still an empty field next door when the Shaynes saw the area and had one of those "gut reactions" that it would be a good location for a new dental practice. They contacted the developer, and six months later started building their office. With 7-month-old Emily occupying a special nursery in the office, the Shaynes began their practice as Fox Grape Family Dentistry.

Mary Lynn Shayne worked part-time and brought Emily to the office so they wouldn't have to use child care. A few years later, son Jordan was born, and he also came to work with his parents. A baby-sitter watched the children in the office nursery while the Shaynes built their practice.

"It worked out great. Our family and our practice have grown up together," Howard Shayne said.

"I can't say we planned to have our kids like that and have them grow up with our practice, but it just worked out," Mary Lynn Shayne added.

It's always been important to the Shaynes to have the children close to them.

"We're in a very unique situation that we were able to do this, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. We've seen both kids take their first steps in the office," Howard Shayne said.

Most of the time they have had baby-sitters to work with the children, with help from the office staff. "Everybody just pitches in, like we're a big family," Mary Lynn Shayne said.

Now that Jordan and Emily are 4 and 6, the former nursery is now a room for coloring, reading and watching TV while Mommy and Daddy work. But with preschool and kindergarten classes to attend, the Shayne children are not in the office nearly as much as they used to be.

Young patients are invited to play with the Shayne children while they wait for their appointments or their parents. Having a special area for kids helps make obligatory trips to the dentist seem more fun.

"We want kids to have a good time here. A good positive experience has implications that last a lifetime," Howard Shayne said.

Patients are also free to schedule appointments when Emily and Jordan are not around, if the idea of kids in the office makes them uncomfortable. But the Shaynes report that most of their patients enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere.

When the Shaynes take a family vacation, so does the staff of five full-time and three part-time employees.

Otherwise, the Shaynes stagger their days off and working hours to accommodate early morning, late evening and Saturday appointments, and to handle taking the children to school, lessons or activities.

When they are in the office together, each can serve as an instant second opinion for the other. Patients can choose between a male or female dentist without creating competition for patients, Howard Shayne said.

Despite their different personalities and areas of expertise, the Shaynes present a united front in a practice that appeals to people of all ages. To alleviate confusion, the staff and patients call the dentists by their initials Dr. H and Dr. M.L.

Drs. Marcus and Kelly Barnett were in the same class at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Dental School and began dating when they were seniors. They graduated and were married in 1984. Kelly Barnett was one of 30 women in a graduating class of 160 the most women in a dental class up to that point. After graduation, she taught on the dental faculty and worked as an associate in a Kansas City dental practice.

Marcus Barnett, who grew up in Crane, did a residency program at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Kansas City, and then thought about moving back to southwest Missouri.

During a trip to Springfield, Kelly Barnett was offered a job working with Dr. Charles Vogel.

She accepted and made front-page news in 1984 as Springfield's first woman dentist. In 1985, Marcus built a new building in Nixa off State Highway 14 when it was still a small town with the majority of businesses downtown.

"We talked about it and thought it better to not work together, in order to prove ourselves," Marcus Barnett said.

After working for Dr. Vogel for a year, Kelly Barnett yearned to prove herself in a solo practice and chose Ozark, another growing community. "I wanted to be out on my own and be my own boss," she said.

"I think she just wanted to be out on her own to prove she could do it," Marcus Barnett said.

"We also felt that even though we were trained together on the same team, everybody does everything differently. We thought it would be better for her to try it her way and me try it my way.

"It's worked out great. Being in each other's hair all day and all night might put a stress on the relationship," he said. "Now that we've established ourselves, I think we could work together, but in the beginning, it was wise not to work together."

The Barnett's two children, Burke, 7 and Tish, 11, are cared for after school by a nanny, Connie Sullard, who has taken care of them since they were babies. "We are truly blessed having Connie," Kelly Barnett said.

Sullard drives the children to and from school and after-school activities, performs household chores and runs errands for the Barnetts.

Good communication and a professional relationship have made the long-term child-care arrangement work for everyone.

Because the Barnetts work the same hours, the family enjoys quality time together on evenings and weekends. "On our days off we go do things together or as a family. We really enjoy having our free time together. I think if we were in the same office, I would feel like one of us had to be there all the time and I think we wouldn't ever see each other," Marcus Barnett said.

An ideal child-care situation has proved to be instrumental in the Barnetts' success.

"When I'm at the office, I'm 120 percent there for my patients and my staff, and we can handle anything. And I know that my bases at home are covered," Kelly Barnett said.

"I don't have family or child interruptions through the day and I can really concentrate on my job," she added.

"There's no possible way I could have my children in my office," Marcus Barnett said. "If they even came in and needed anything, it would break the whole flow for me."

Kelly Barnett agreed, but said, "Everybody's different, and I might feel differently if I didn't have such an ideal situation on the home front."

One of the positive aspects of having a husband and wife who share the same profession is the total understanding of a spouse's career challenges and what he or she deals with daily.

"If he says 'I worked in five emergencies in an already hectic day,' you know how he's feeling because you've done it," Kelly Barnett said.

Marcus Barnett took in a partner, Joe Kofron, last year, and they staggered work hours.

Dental Care of Nixa has a staff of seven in addition to the two dentists. Kelly Barnett has a staff of five in Ozark.

Since Barnett made news as Springfield's first woman dentist, many other women have opened practices in the area. Jane Klingner, executive director of the Springfield Dental Society, said that in the 16-county area covered by the society, there are 15 women dentists. There is another married couple who practice separately in Springfield Bob Becker, an orthodontist, and Julie Becker, an oral surgeon.

In the current dental class at University of Missouri-Kansas City, about one-third of the students are women, according to Klingner.

When Drs. Mary Lynn Shayne and Kelly Barnett graduated from dental school, their classes were about one-fourth women.

So as the ranks of women dentists continue to grow, it's likely that patients will see more couples sharing their careers and their families in unique ways.

"Dentistry is a great career for women," Klingner said.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Marcus and Kelly Barnett say they found that working apart in the same profession has been best for their relationship.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Drs. Howard and Mary Lynn Shayne had a goal of working in dentistry together, and now they share a practice at Fox Grape Family Dentistry.[[In-content Ad]]

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