Spotlight Startup

Drill Down Expectations


Dr. Rachel Brown, D.D.S. said that owning a dental practice was part of her five-year plan. However, just one and a half years after coming to the office in Grand Island, Nebraska, Dr. Brown found herself securing funding to buy the business and break away from the chain that previously owned it. She soon redefined the identity of what was now her company, Cottonwood Dental.

Brown is now in charge of a staff of six, plus Dr. Doug Camplin, D.D.S. who performs full mouth reconstruction and complicated implant cases. If an average patient were to walk into Cottonwood Dental and see the two doctors, most would assume the older male, well-polished in his nearly 50 years of practicing dentistry would own the practice. They would then look at the 31-year-old ambitious Dr. Brown, who stands all of 5’4” and assume she was employed by Dr. Camplin. They, however, would be incorrect.

Brown credits Dr. Camplin and considers him a fantastic mentor. According to Practice Manager Jessica Hanson, the two share a balance of mutual respect.

“He’s more up on the latest technology than I am and he’s always willing to try something state-of-the-art and groundbreaking. [Dr. Camplin] is always looking for a better way to do things, always looking for new techniques,”  Brown said. For that, he has become a well respected within the industry. “He was born to be a dentist, he loves it and is great at it.”

Brown has owned Cottonwood Dental for almost two years, but she remembers when she first started in the field and people would second-guess her as a doctor.

“During residency I was asked when the doctor was coming in or if I’d be there the entire time as the assistant,” she said. “I’d just tell them I was their doctor and move on with the procedure.”

Brown has not let that affect her mentality in becoming a fantastic practitioner in what is predominantly assumed to be a male-driven industry.

“I’d get a lot of people questioning, ‘What do you know, you’re new to this?’ I would say in the beginning people were a little leery trusting me just based on my age. I’ve found that having been here longer people are more apt to do what I recommend rather than question it,” Brown said.

With those recommendations Brown has shifted what used to be a rather specialized clinic into a generalized, more “family-friendly” office, she said.

Taking over a business only 18  months after starting is atypical for most 29-year-old dentists, which she was at the time. However, Brown said she joined an already experienced staff who made the transition as simple as one could hope for.

“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. I was very lucky that this practice had highly trained staff and it still does. I am able to learn a lot from them. But not everyone is that lucky,” she said.

Cottonwood Dental is active in the community and can be found providing dental care at long-term care facilities sponsoring volleyball teams, whose photos hang proudly in the waiting room. Brown also assists with the Dental Hygiene program at Central Community College in Hastings.

Cottonwood Dental staff members can also be found speaking at elementary and middle schools in the area—sharing the importance of good dental hygiene. Brown and members of her staff actively participate in Grand Island’s Young Professionals group—promoting a young, vibrant and professional community in the area.

This year, Brown said she is assisting with Dr. Steve F. Anderson D.D.S., vice president of America’s Dentists Care Foundation’s Mission of Mercy, a charitable dental project. The project will provide free dental care to underserved people.

The last time Nebraska held a Mission of Mercy was in 2013 in Lincoln. Dr. Brown is excited to see it come to Grand Island and is slated for April 7 and 8, 2017.

Brown said they are trying to raise $250,000 for the event. They are recruiting 200 dentists and volunteers from across the state to help patients who will travel just as far, if not farther. She said this is the first time Mission of Mercy has been held in Grand Island for several years and she is looking forward to the impact it will make on the community.

According to Brown, she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support and influence of her parents. Her father Greg Brown owns Cattle Express, a cattle trucking company in Kearney. Brown said she learned many aspects of owning a business from him.

“He always instilled in me planning five to 10 years into the future, for seeing where you want your business to grow. Really planning for the economy,” she said. “My parents supported me and helped me during the stresses of school and learning the ropes of business ownership.”

Brown received her BS in Ecology with a minor in Business Administration. She went on to the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. She received her “Advanced Education in General Dentistry” certification following her graduation from dental school.

After practicing in Colorado, she moved to Grand Island, landing at a clinic with a well-established staff and identity of its own. After purchasing the company it became Cottonwood Dental and according to her staff, things have gone well under the new ownership.  

Molly Jacobitz is a dental assistant and has worked at the current office for 11 years. She continues to find her field rewarding, citing her favorite thing about being in dentistry as “the excitement after a big case, seeing the remake of the teeth and making everything look nice,” she said.

The changes in ownership over the last year and a half have not made a difference for her.

“The bosses are great, I think morale here is really good and everyone treats one another really well.”

Hanson, the practice manager, agrees. She was in optometry prior to receiving her MA in Healthcare Administration. She said working with Dr. Brown has been a rewarding experience.

“She’s the best boss I’ve ever had,” Hanson said. “Dr. Brown genuinely cares about the staff and she wants what’s best for us and for the company.”

As Cottonwood Dental moves forward they are certainly taking  Brown’s five-year plan approach. They have currently hired a new dental hygienist, so they can see more patients for general care. And according to Hanson, they are looking to hire another dentist within the next five years.


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