As Dr. Brian Hathcoat advanced through his career as an engineer, he realized that each promotion would take him further from the hands-on and research-oriented work he loved.
It would lead to more meetings, more budgets, more paperwork.
“I … did not aspire to do that,” he said.
While golfing with a family friend who was also a dentist, he made the decision to change careers. He took night courses while working as an engineer and when he applied to dental school, he made himself a promise:
“That if I got in … I would make sure to give back to the community because I’d be in a position to make a good living and felt it’s important to take care of each other, as humans,” he said.
That work, since dental school, has included launching mobile and school-based clinics for school children while he worked at the Contra Costa County public health department and volunteering for six years at the Berkeley Free Clinic.
The mobile clinic and school-based programs had humble beginnings but the health department had the will to try and Hathcoat and the passion and creativity to make them work. The school program was seen as risky – treating students at school without their parents – but Hathcoat and the department were able to argue for exams, cleanings, x-rays and fillings at the school.
And the mobile clinic started in the back of an old box truck.
“By saying yea, we know we can do this, I know we’re working out of the back of a box truck in a six-by-six room, but if we set the chair just like this, if I squeeze right in there, if I put my assistant here, if I put all the supplies and the materials on the counter back there … I think we can make this work,” he said.
The clinic has expanded and dentists now work out of large customized RVs, he said.
Aside from his work with the health department, Dr. Hathcoat spent years volunteering at the Berkeley Free Clinic, as a dentist but also helping students with clinical and administrative guidance. He helped develop training presentations and then taught the students to document and assign value to procedures so they could use that data to get funding for the clinic.
“Organizations will want to see that as part of the application process,” he said. “We planted those seeds and they’ve run with that and were recently awarded a $300,000 grant. Having that data there to present was a big portion of being able to get that grant.”
Dr. Hathcoat is also serving as the dental coordinator for the veteran’s stand down to be held in September at the Contra Costa County fairgrounds. The event brings together at-risk and homeless veterans for meals and entertainment but also dental, medical, vision, legal, housing, and social clinics.
“A sort of one-stop shop to take care of health and life and at the same time have some fun and get some networking with the goal of trying to give them enough to get them back out into the workforce,” he said.
It’s a lot of work, and there’s more to be done, but Dr. Hathcoat is passionate and guided by a simple belief:
“My core philosophy is that we as a society should do what we can to help others,” Dr. Hathcoat said. “Whether that be something as simple as opening a door if that’s all the energy you have, or giving money if that’s all the energy you have, or in my case, helping out and volunteering and providing dentistry.”
Dr. Hathcoat is a recipient of the 2018 10 Under 10 award. Read more about the award at ADA.org/10under10.