All of the team here at The Gentle Touch wish Stuart Norman all the very best in his retirement as of Thursday of this week. We can’t believe the time has come to wave him off! We’ve been doing lots of reminiscing in recent weeks (and months!) about everything Stuart has brought to the practice since he founded it 22 years ago. We’d like to share just a few highlights from his career and also tell you all about the amazing trip he’s about to embark on to Tanzania.
Stuart Norman is retiring this week (31st January) after 36 years in dentistry, of which he’s spent 22 years running The Gentle Touch dental practice here in Kelso. But, he’s not quite finished with dentistry yet! When Stuart hangs up his gloves, mask, probe and inspection mirror here for the last time, he’ll be heading to Tanzania to work as a volunteer trainer in dental care.
For most people, retirement gives the chance to settle in to a new, relaxed and peaceful life post work. We asked Stuart why on earth he’s embarking on this huge challenge now – when he could be winding right down. He told us, “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 2 or 3 days to get to the clinic. I am sure it will be a challenging but rewarding experience and a fitting end to my career.”
There are over 56 million people living in Tanzania, but just 111 dentists. That’s why Stuart and our brilliant dental nurse Lisa Wood have offered their expertise. They will be volunteering with UK-based charity Bridge 2 Aid which specialises in training rural health workers in emergency dental care.
The dental equipment and facilities which Stuart and Lisa will be working with in Tanzanian villages will be just a tad different from what they’ve become accustomed to here at The Gentle Touch. However, we know that the care and knowledge which Stuart and Lisa will provide will be just the same.
Life as a Kelso dentist
Stuart’s long career in dentistry started out in Wales before he moved to Kelso in 1990 to set up his own practice in Horsemarket. The move to Kelso was, Stuart tells us, a real highlight of his career – he loved getting to know the community and the surrounding area. Seven years later, he merged his original dental practice with Mr & Mrs Forrest’s practice (when they retired) in Roxburgh Street. And that was the beginning for The Gentle Touch. In 2006, Stuart masterminded the development of our fantastic new clinic here at the Corn Exchange.
Patients and staff will all remember Stuart’s time by the dentist’s chair for the exceptional care he has given people. Most will remember his “calming” presence – we’ve all got stories to tell of times that this has been invaluable, and we can’t thank Stuart enough for that attribute.
From a personal perspective, the team here absolutely loved having Stuart as our “boss”. He has been so supportive at the times we’ve needed it most – during the inevitable ups and downs of life, it’s fair to say we’ve appreciated Stuart even more than usual. He’s also been wonderful in his encouragement of all of our careers and training, always encouraging us to really go for it.
Stuart’s warmth and care has certainly been one of the reasons for the success of The Gentle Touch which has now been welcoming patients through its doors for 22 years. And while we are very sad to say goodbye to Stuart, he’s set things up for a very bright future here at the Corn Exchange.
What now for The Gentle Touch?
In preparation for Stuart’s retirement, one of our other dentists, Dr Amber Aplin took over the practice. Amber, and all of us at The Gentle Touch, will continue to build the practice keep it firmly at the cutting edge of modern dentistry.
We asked Amber how she sees things from this point onwards. She 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. He has built something really special here at The Gentle Touch, and I feel very privileged to pick up the reins from here.”
“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 only 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.”
75,000 appointments in Kelso
We had a bit of fun last week estimating how many appointments Stuart will have conducted in his years in Kelso – we got to 75,000 appointments!! That is some effort! But, we’re not at all surprised that people have been coming back to see Stuart time and time again. In fact, some of Stuart’s patients from his first practice in Horsemarket have been treated by him right up to this day.
Stuart had a few kinds words to share about how he feels heading off. “I feel very privileged to have been trusted with the care of people’s teeth and mouths for many years. I shall certainly miss my patients and the whole team”. He went on to say “I am so pleased that as I leave, the practice is going from strength to strength. Amber and the whole team are constantly innovating. They are expanding the range of care and the practice is taking on more and more patients.”
Once back from Tanzania, Stuart plans to devote more time to his great passion in life – painting. Lots of you will have seen Stuart’s work in the practice waiting room. We certainly look forward to seeing a lot more of his incredible talent in the years to come.
Donations & a thank you
It’s not too late to support Stuart in his volunteer trip to Tanzania. Simply visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stuart-norman6 or by pop in to The Gentle Touch to donate.
For patients of Stuart’s, we’ll make sure you have a smooth transition to your new dentist here at The Gentle Touch. Your new dentist will take the time to get to know you, just like Stuart did.
All that remains to say is an enormous THANK YOU to Stuart for everything he’s done here at The Gentle Touch. He’ll be missed by all of us!