Dr. John Nelson: The meaning of young, successful
Local Black dentist opens Midtown Dental in Miami
Ashley Montgomery | 4/3/2014, 9 a.m.
At just 32 years old, Dr. John A. Nelson opened his own dental practice, Midtown Dental. Located in one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in South Florida, Midtown Dental has been a lifelong dream for Nelson.
A graduate from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Nelson earned his degree in Chemistry from the University of South Florida and then attended Howard University's College of Dentistry.
“Since I was basically 10 years old I’ve had this dream,” Nelson said. “When I went with my sister one day to her dentist appointment, the dentist allowed me to stay around and explore . . . ever since then I have had an interest for it.”
In 2009 after Nelson passed his Florida Board exam he started working for someone, his ultimate goal then was to buy the practice of the doctor he worked for but the two couldn’t agree on terms.
“It was then in 2012 that I made the decision to go out on my own and start hunting out different neighborhoods in Miami to start my own business,” Nelson said.
He was approved for loans months later and although it has been “crazy for the past year and a half it's all been worth it.”
So far, Nelson recalls the journey of opening his own office — which is fully equipped with modern sterilization systems and a friendly staff that Nelson hand-picked — hard work.
“I wasn’t expecting the business side of it to be so hard,” Nelson said.
Thanks to one of his mentors in the industry, Dr. Dirk Fleischman, DDS, gave Nelson a lot of beneficial advice when it came to the business aspect in addition to dentistry.
Nelson said that although he received an above average education from Howard University, you aren’t taught things like “how to operate, how to bill insurances or how to coordinate your staff.”
Upon returning home from eight years of school, adjusting to Miami’s culture all over again was “pretty challenging.”
“Over the years, I have acquired many mentors for different things that have helped me get to where I am,” Nelson said. “It's only been four months but It is very rewarding, especially to have my staff with me who are people that have been with me for years.”
Second to none
Howard University College of Dentistry was established in 1881 and is the fifth oldest dental school in the United States. The College has taught thousands of skilled dental professionals to serve their communities, particularly the underserved.
“The education that I received from Howard was second to none,” Nelson said. “There may have been people from ‘more prestigious’ but clinically weren’t half as prepared than I was.”
Historically Black colleges and universities, mostly known as HBCU’s, once held a monopoly. Nowadays, most struggle to compete with elite colleges that have made advancements in recruiting for best and brightest Black students.
Roughly 89 percent of Howard’s students rely on some sort of financial aid. Howard’s teaching hospital that once served middle-class patients, is now used mostly by those who can’t afford to pay elsewhere.