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Face of Defense: Dental Hygienist Continues to Serve Others

By Air Force Senior Airman Thomas T. Charlton Joint Base Charleston

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JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C., Aug. 29, 2017 — Since he began his career as a dental hygienist, Patrick Miller has kept a positive attitude and a smile on his face. Additionally, his patients usually smile just as big as he does once they sit in his chair.

Patrick Miller, a dental hygienist and chief of preventive dentistry for the 628th Medical Group, sits in an exam room at the Deily Dental Clinic at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Aug. 1, 2017. Miller was named the 2016 Dental Civilian of the Year for his work as the director of an eight-chair clinic where he and his team manage care for approximately 3,600 patients. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas T. Charlton
Patrick Miller, a dental hygienist and chief of preventive dentistry for the 628th Medical Group, sits in an exam room at the Deily Dental Clinic at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Aug. 1, 2017. Miller was named the 2016 Dental Civilian of the Year for his work as the director of an eight-chair clinic where he and his team manage care for approximately 3,600 patients. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas T. Charlton
Patrick Miller, a dental hygienist and chief of preventive dentistry for the 628th Medical Group, sits in an exam room at the Deily Dental Clinic at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Aug. 1, 2017. Miller was named the 2016 Dental Civilian of the Year for his work as the director of an eight-chair clinic where he and his team manage care for approximately 3,600 patients. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas T. Charlton Armed to the teeth in experience
Patrick Miller, a dental hygienist and chief of preventive dentistry for the 628th Medical Group, sits in an exam room at the Deily Dental Clinic at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Aug. 1, 2017. Miller was named the 2016 Dental Civilian of the Year for his work as the director of an eight-chair clinic where he and his team manage care for approximately 3,600 patients. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas T. Charlton

Miller is the chief of preventive dentistry for the 628th Medical Group at Deily Dental Clinic here and has been in the dental field for 34 years, 20 of them in uniform.

“When I joined the Air Force in 1983, I came in without a specific career field designated to me,” he said. “The Air Force showed me a list of options and I saw dentistry. It was something I had never thought of before and it was something new. I had to do it.”

At the end of his first enlistment, Miller still wanted to serve his country while practicing dentistry, but determined active duty was no longer the proper fit for him. Unable to locate an Air Force Reserve dental position, he did find a slot as a dental technician in the Army Reserve. This allowed him to continue serving in the dental career field while practicing in the private sector as well.

“When I was trying to go to the reserves, I switched branches to keep following my passion to serve my country,” Miller said. “Once the Air Force Reserve opened a slot for my career field, I went back to the Air Force in 1994 and stayed until my retirement as a master sergeant in 2003.”

He worked for private practices from 1991 until 2011, when he joined the dental clinic for the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. He then practiced at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Georgia and Pennsylvania before coming here.

Best Team

“Out of all of the places I have worked, I think the team I have here is the best I could ever ask for,” Miller said. “We all help each other stay in high spirits and communicate well, which is why we are as successful as we are.”

He said the clinic here has a work environment conducive to the free flow of ideas. The environment allows those in the clinic the opportunity to continue refining their skills. This enables Miller to share the many different experiences and skillsets he’s gained from the variety of places he’s worked throughout his career.

“This is an outstanding team who provide a great environment for anyone walking in our doors,” he said. “We, as a team, have set a high standard. I hope to see myself and the rest of my team improve each day and I think, with a team like this, it is more than possible.”

Their hard work was recognized when Miller was named the 2016 Dental Civilian of the Year. He credits his team for their contributions to this achievement.

“You have to realize what the award represents,” he said. “If I didn’t have a team willing to work as hard as they do, or supervisors with the drive to submit me for the award in the first place, I wouldn’t have won. This award represents my team and the people we care for, not me.”
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