All Woman

Dr Erica Gordon-Veitch: The caring family dentist

By NADINE WILSON All Woman writer wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 04, 2013    

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IT'S easy to confuse the offices of Dr Erica Gordon-Veitch's Paediatric and Family Dentistry with a day care centre, given the colourful display of toys and other gadgets to put small children at ease. But that's the effect Gordon-Veitch hopes to achieve before she takes her young ones on a journey that oftentimes leads to a lifetime of good oral health.

With 33 years experience as a dentist, Dr Gordon-Veitch pretty much understands the needs of her young patients, and over the years she has become an advocate for them. She has done so by educating adults on how to care for their children's teeth, and by disseminating messages through the media that challenge parents to take their kids to the dentist as early as possible.

"I love working with the children — who wouldn't? They are such a joy," she said, just minutes after conducting dental surgery at her practice located off Molynes Road in St Andrew.

"They are just very spontaneous and they need a voice. Some of them are in pain and they can't tell you, they just cry," she said.

Dr Gordon-Veitch grew up surrounded by dentists, who were the associates of her late father Dr Lebert William Gordon-Veitch. Her father and mother first started the family practice over 50 years ago off Molynes Road in an effort to offer dental services to residents in and around the area.

"He was, of course, my mentor and one of the main reasons I joined the dental profession," said Dr Gordon-Veitch.

When her father died in 1987, it was left up to her to continue the practice with the help of her business-savvy mother. But given her father's care and attentiveness in dealing with all whom he came in contact with, his patient list was very long, and it wasn't long before they outgrew his original office space and had to relocate to 57A Molynes Road.

"I not only have the elders that he passed down, who are now like in their 80s, 90s because they started with him in 1962; I have the generation from them and so I am very grateful for that because it's like a generational practice. We have been here for 50 years and we have had our patients referring their family and friends, so although I specialise in paediatrics, I also do adults," she said.

Dr Gordon-Veitch said her father's shoes were very big ones to fill, but she did not feel pressured at all. She, instead, placed her own touches on the family practice, by adding more focus on the paediatric aspect of the profession.

"Between the toys and the cartoons, they (children) are so happy. There are the inside toys and the outside toys, and so when they are out there (in the reception area) they play and they watch cartoons. When they come by, we say choose any cartoons; sometimes the cartoon is on even after they leave and so the adults would have to watch Spongebob," she laughed.

The paediatric dental specialist graduated as a dental surgeon from her father's alma mater, Newcastle University in the UK in 1981, and received her master's in paediatric dentistry in 1987 from the University of London.

She garnered years of experience working with children during her assignment as a dentist at the Bridgeport School clinic in Portmore, which was responsible for 21 schools, and of course, while working at her father's practice.

Dr Gordon-Veitch also spent some time at the Dental Auxiliary School and served as the first Jamaican director for the institution until 1991. She also served as president of the Jamaica Dental Association in 1990 and 2011, and is currently the organisation's vice-president. She was among those awarded by the association for her work during their 80th anniversary celebrations in 2008.

"When your colleagues recognise you, I think that's a very great honour," she said.

For Dr Gordon-Veitch, it's not all about cleaning teeth, it's about catering to the emotional and physical needs of those who visit her office.

"I really do care for my patients. It's not just a matter of 'sit in the chair get out' type of thing. It's a matter of 'how are you doing? How is your family?'" she said.

One of her greatest pleasures is seeing some of her young patients actually follow in her footstep to become dentists too. She is aware of at least 10 of them who are now her young colleagues in the field.

But more than any other child, the one that features more prominently in her heart is "her one son" as she called him during various segment of the interview. Motherly pride is very obvious as she speaks about her only child, Idris, who lives in Japan and keeps her current with the latest technology, trends and fashions.

Despite her hectic schedule, which saw her giving her all to her patients while fulfilling her obligations to the numerous committees she has joined throughout the years, her mother Claudia was always there to assist. So, too, has her only sister, as well as her life partner, John, who she never fails to call upon for support.

Dr Gordon-Veitch describes herself as a wide-eyed conqueror, who has travelled to the Far East, Central, South and North America, the Caribbean, West Africa, and Europe. In order to ensure that she is always in top form, she also does yoga and swimming.

"I think that if I ever retire, if I have made a mark, if I have managed to get my patients dentally fit and aware of prevention and also spread the word that baby teeth are important, I would feel that my time as a dentist would have been worthwhile," she said.

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