In 2012, Dr. K purchased the practice from Dr. Terry Horlick (who retired in 2015), and branded it as Caring Tree Children’s Dentistry. Caring Tree is now expanding to include a second office in Lincoln later in 2018. Dr. K nurtures a supportive, joyful, and cohesive team in her practice, knowing this ensures the most positive dental experiences for our young patients and their families.
Dr. Michelle Kucera (known by all as Dr. K) has always loved children. While babysitting as a teenager, she witnessed her baby sister taking her first steps, a profoundly touching and life-affirming moment that has stayed with her ever since.
In terms of ambition, Dr. K found an early role model in her aunt, who was an independent, opinionated lady with the singular goal of becoming an airline pilot. At that time, it was incredibly difficult to achieve success in a male-dominated field like aviation, but Dr. K’s aunt had the focus and tenacity, beginning as a flight instructor and becoming a Delta Airlines pilot. As the first woman in the family to achieve that level of education and career responsibility, her example encouraged her young niece to follow her own career aspirations.
Dr. K found a job with a local dentist and orthodontist while still in high school. While it began as a good way to earn some money, the science of dentistry intrigued her more and more as time went on. She also loved interacting with a wide variety of different people each day. Other adults in her life suggested she become a dental hygienist, but Dr. K instinctively knew being her own boss would be more fulfilling. She went on to attend Case Western Reserve University, earning her DDS in six years rather than the usual eight. While still in school, Dr. K discovered one of the most important components of successful dentistry is building patient relationships and trust. She places high value on listening to and honoring each individual patient’s story, developing bonds that she hopes will last many years. Her additional professional credentials include:
Dr. K’s list of personal goals include riding her bicycle across the United States, learning to speak Spanish well, and possibly joining the Peace Corps someday. She loves spending time with her daughter, watching her grow and learn. She looks forward to traveling with her husband and daughter to India, Asia, and eventually Africa, discovering new and creative foods along the way.
Robyn grew up on her family’s dairy farm with her parents and sister, surrounded by her large family (14 aunts and uncles and many cousins). A single mom of three before the age of 25, she juggled two jobs and graduated at the top of her class as a Registered Dental Assistant. With all her accomplishments, Robyn’s favorite aspect of dental assisting school was attending and graduating with her best friend as they encouraged and helped each other along the way. Robyn’s tenacity serves her well at Caring Tree Children’s Dentistry, and her desire to create a better life for her family gives her the motivation to continue moving forward despite everyday struggles.
Robyn’s adult son has battled a serious chronic health issue for most of his life, requiring multiple surgeries and a lot of contact with medical personnel over the years. One of Robyn’s favorite role models was a caring nurse who made sure Robyn’s son got all the services he needed, no matter how tired or overworked she was – even using her own time to follow up when needed. People like this wonderful nurse—as well as other medical professionals who fell far short of those standards—continue to drive Robyn to communicate with increased empathy and hone her ability to recognize and settle fear and frustration in parents and kids.
Irene grew up the oldest daughter in a large, loving family with her four brothers and sisters. Helping with younger kids at home instilled a love of working with children that remains with her today. She particularly appreciates children’s humor and unique perspective on the world. At age 19, Irene got a job in the office of her childhood dentist, where she worked with a dental assistant who had once been Irene’s childhood babysitter. Though the two women were close in age, this dental assistant proved to be a valuable mentor.
Irene’s philosophies are simple, but powerful: allow a child some control over a situation and she will be comfortable and confident, and patience and kindness go a long way. One of Irene’s favorite career moments occurred while assisting a young patient who was terrified of having her teeth cleaned. Irene showed the child the dental tools, explaining the purpose for each in age-appropriate ways the child understood. Shortly after, the little girl looked up at her mother with a smile and said, “You can go, I’m fine!”
An environmental advocate, Irene makes a conscious effort to reuse items rather than discarding them. She hopes to travel and immerse herself in the history, art, and culture of faraway places in the future. Irene and her husband love to restore classic cars, especially Ford Mustangs. Their two grown daughters understand and appreciate the ways Irene helps other children. Irene loves to cook and create new, healthy and interesting recipes for her family to enjoy.
“Gentle, sweet, and honest,” is how Irene describes Dr. K. “She is someone you would want your own kids to see for their dental needs.”
Deborah grew up 9 miles south of San Francisco until she was 18 years old. She has fond memories of climbing and playing on part of nearby San Bruno Mountain: “sliding down the hill on cardboard in the summer was great fun.” As an adult, Deborah took continuing education classes in bookkeeping, Word, Excel, keyboarding and supervisory skills. She also holds certifications in basic life support, typing and QuickBooks. Deborah began working in the dental field when she began working for Caring Tree in 2014. Prior to that time, she had been an office manager, administrative assistant, bank teller and homeschooling mom.
Deborah enjoys the children that come to see Dr. K and finds helping them rewarding, always striving to understand how she can best serve the kids and their families. “I believe in treating people with kindness and respect,” she says. “We are all such individuals, and everyone is unique in their own way.”
Deborah and her husband Ralph live in Grass Valley with their mini schnauzer, Sophie. They raised their three children here, and their son Dan still lives nearby. Their oldest son Josh is a U.S. Navy Lieutenant who is married with three daughters, and daughter Amy lives in Rhode Island with her husband and three sons.
Deborah’s hobbies outside of the office include bicycling, spinning, walking, weight training classes, and reading. She also likes being outdoors and has said that “even mowing the lawn is enjoyable.”
Sue became connected to dentistry her first day of college, when her roommate needed wisdom teeth extracted and the surgeon was kind and skillful. Sue later went to work for that surgeon, becoming a Registered Dental Assistant. Always driven to learn and achieve, Sue obtained a degree in Business Management and became Dental Coordinator for Davis Community Clinic, serving the indigent population of Yolo County. Sue worked with 22 volunteer dentists and coordinated with local agencies to improve access to dental care for children in the community. Sue’s work inspired California State Children’s Health and Development Program to invite her to instruct other counties who hoped to succeed by using her business model.
Sue credits her grandmother for her work ethic. Sue’s father was also a role model whose impact became clearer after his unexpected passing. A quiet, humble professor for over twenty years at Sacramento’s California State University, a celebration of his life packed an auditorium, spilling out into the hallway. Sue was stunned and touched to hear people she had never met express gratitude for the positive influence her father’s mentorship had on their lives. Sue’s favorite book is “Roadmap to Success” by John Maxwell, which asks the question “at the end of your life, how have you made a positive impact on the lives of others?”
Sue’s assessment of Dr. K: “It’s a miracle what she does with kids. Those who were terrified of other dentists become the best patients under her care – they trust her and suddenly care about their teeth.” Sue enjoys working at Caring Tree because the team complements each other and sees each day as an opportunity to positively impact lives.