A Kelso dentist is set to round off a 36-year career by passing on much-needed skills to health workers in Tanzania.
Stuart Norman, who ran the Gentle Touch dental practice for 22 years, retired last week, but the 59-year-old won’t be hanging up his gloves, mask, inspection mirror or probe just yet, with a voluntary stint as a trainer in dental care next on the cards.
Stuart and colleague Lisa Wood, a practice nurse, will spend two weeks volunteering in the East African country, which currently has just 111 dentists for a 56 million population.
“Tanzania has one dentist per 500,000, and when we drive out to the village clinics, we will find a crowd waiting for us, some of whom will have walked for two or three days to get to the clinic,” Stuart told us.
“I am sure it will be a challenging but rewarding experience and a fitting end to my career.”
The pair have volunteered with Bridge 2 Aid, a UK-based charity specialising in training rural health workers in emergency dental care.
And although the equipment and facilities in Tanzanian villages are a far cry from those at the Gentle Touch, the care, knowledge and experience Stuart provides will be the same.
Stuart’s career in dentistry started when he qualified in Dundee. He moved to Kelso in 1989 to set up his own practice in Horsemarket.
Eight years later, he merged his practice with another in Roxburgh Street to become the Gentle Touch, before developing a new clinic in the Corn Exchange in 2006.
Over the last 22 years, the practice, sold by Stuart to his colleague Amber Aplin last year, has developed to offer some of the most cutting-edge treatments available today.
“I feel very privileged to have been trusted with the care of people’s teeth and mouths for so many years, and I shall certainly miss my patients and the team,” Stuart said.
“I am so pleased that as I leave, the practice is going from strength to strength.
“Amber and the whole team are constantly innovating, expanding the range of care and the practice is taking on more and more patients.”
Dr Aplin said: “I feel very fortunate to have known and worked with Stuart for a number of years.
“We are all sad to lose him from the practice and the wider dental community.
“Throughout my working life, I have never seen a practice quite like the Gentle Touch.
“It is not only the wonderful building which Stuart chose in the Corn Exchange, with its high ceilings and original features that he so thoughtfully kept – it’s also the team within which Stuart built. That’s what gives the practice its heart and soul.
“I wanted to take over the Gentle Touch from Stuart because of what it represented and its ethos, as well as the existing highly competent and caring team.”
Once back from Tanzania, Stuart plans to devote more time to his great passion in life – art – but for now his focus is on fundraising for his upcoming work in Tanzania.
To donate, go to www. justgiving.com/fundraising/stuart-norman6 or pop into the Gentle Touch at the Corn Exchange, in Woodmarket.