Hilbert retires after 27 as Park City’s dentist
Pam Hilbert opened the first full-time dentistry practice in 1979, back when Park City’s population was so small it hadn’t needed one before.
She is retiring, 27 years later, in a bustling city with dentists’ listings filling multiple pages in the local phone book.
Brandon McKee, who officially took over the practice on July 28, said he will try to fill the void left by Hilbert, who came to Park City so her husband could take a job at Westminster College but not have to live in Salt Lake City.
"I was originally a dental hygienist and then I got into dental school at Michigan," she said. "And when I was done with school we knew we wanted to move out west and then he got a job offer at Westminster and we knew we didn’t want to live in Salt Lake City, so we moved to Park City. There was one part-time dentist, and so another dentist and I opened a practice together and then I bought him out about two years later."
The native Californian, Hilbert has been here ever since.
In her 27 years as a Park City dentist, she said she met a lot of wonderful people and got to do a lot of wonderful things.
During the 2002 Olympics, she was an on-call dentist for the National Guard, and earlier, during one of his visits to Utah, she was on-call for then Vice-President Dan Quayle.
"I guess they thought he was going to do a face plant or something," she said. "He didn’t."
She also had the opportunity to do humanitarian aid dentistry with Project MARC on some islands between Fiji and Australia an experience she wants to do again and again now that she’s retired.
During her previous visits, she said she lived on a boat and would take a dingy to land where they did evaluations for all the kids and adults. For most of them, she was the first dentist they had ever seen.
Surprisingly, however, she said the kids had great teeth. She believed it was because they had no sweets, no sugar. She said the adults had periodontal disease, so she had to extract some teeth, but she was also able to teach a dental assistant on the island how to do minor evaluations and extractions, as well as other small procedures.
Although she said she wished she could have stayed longer, she went on one-week trips, but might stay for a month at a time if she goes back now.
"I went for a week both times because I had a full-time practice here, but now we’ll see," she said.
She also said that despite her desire to go abroad, that dentistry in Park City has been most ideal.
"I love my patients and I love my job," she said. "I love dentistry and I have loved every second I’ve gotten to do it. It was a good ride. It was rewarding in many aspects. I feel privileged to be a part of this profession and especially to be in Park City and to be a part of this community."
She said met McKee because "he was looking for a practice in Park City and I had one to give. But to be a good dentist takes something special, and, although he might not know it yet, [McKee] has it."
McKee said even though Hilbert has small feet, she’s leaving huge shoes to fill.
"I feel a lot of responsibility because of what she has established here and the relationship she has with the patients."
But McKee has established his own local history, too. After graduating from South Summit High School, he played basketball at Mt. Hood Community College for two years, followed by a year at Western Oregon. He finished his degree at the Portland State University with a double major in speech/hearing science and science before going to dental school at Indiana.
He came back to Park City hoping to open a practice, but brought part of Indiana with him. In his office, he keeps a basketball autographed by the high school basketball team the movie "Hoosiers" was created after, as well as a basketball signed by legendary coach John Wooden and a collectable plaque of Bobby Knight.
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In an intriguing sidebar to the overall Park City Planning Commission talks about a proposed project at Park City Mountain Resort, the developer recently mentioned a future Winter Olympics in the context of the project.