"I like art. I like science. Dentistry is a perfect blend of the two."
Dr. Josh Kirk’s childhood was cavity-free. "It was always fun. I loved getting my teeth polished. I still do." But at 16, Kirk was surprised when a dentist started to numb his mouth without telling him why: he had his first cavities. Kirk left abruptly, and returned to his childhood dentist, who performed the procedure. "He did a fantastic job," says Kirk, who still has those first fillings.
For Kirk, that childhood experience was also a lesson in the importance of provider/patient communication.
These days, you’ll find 33-year-old Kirk at his own bustling practice, Mountain View Dental Center, where his wife, Amy, also works as office manager. "I couldn’t do it without her," admits Kirk, who spends roughly ten hours a day in patient care.
The couple first met in dental school: Kirk was a student, and Amy on staff. "I knew right away I wanted to marry her," declares Kirk. And so they wed, and soon after moved from Arizona to Texas, where Amy experienced her first snow. "It snowed a lot there, actually," he recalls. "We got tornadoes, blizzards, extreme flooding. It was incredible! The northwest seems mild by comparison."
The couple moved to Ellensburg in 2017 with their son James, now three years old and big brother to ten-month old Julianna. The move brought Kirk back to his roots. Born in Kennewick, his parents live in the Tri Cities. "But my mom went to college here, and so did I. So did my siblings. We’re all honorary Ellensburgians," Kirk grins.
Last year, the extended family was celebrating Thanksgiving together when Kirk noticed a protrusion in his lower abdomen. "I don’t know how it happened," he jokes, "but I’m sure that the second helping of turkey didn’t help. It didn’t hurt at first, so it’s hard to say when or how it began."
Over the next few weeks, the inguinal hernia continued to grow and become painful. After a consult with Dr. Tom Penoyar, Kirk was scheduled for surgery.
"He told me it could be done laparoscopically," recalls Kirk, who was then given written instructions for the days leading up to his surgery. Kirk was grateful for the details. "It’s all good information to know. I’d hate to schedule surgery, take time off work, and then need to cancel because of something I hadn’t done correctly." As a dentist, Kirk regularly performs in-clinic surgeries. Now in the role of patient, despite his jovial nature, Kirk was serious about preparing for his own procedure.
When the day for surgery arrived, Kirk answered routine questions while being prepped for surgery. While he describes the staff as professional, "I could tell everybody was in good spirits. I was happy to be there." Kirk has nothing but praise for everyone involved - from check-in, to pre-op, to the OR where the nurse anesthetist explained his process to Kirk, and the nurse started an IV.
When he woke up after surgery, Kirk felt nauseous, a typical side effect of anesthesia. "They gave me all the time I needed," says Kirk, "and brought me some gentle foods, including chocolate pudding - my favorite." A short time later, Kirk was ready to leave. Amy drove him home and got him in the recliner.
Dedicated to his patients, Kirk returned to work the following Monday. It might have been a little too soon. "I only missed two days of work, but that first day back was tough," he says.
After a visit with Dr. Penoyar two weeks later, Kirk was officially cleared for all activity. And Kirk is nothing if not active.
Already an avid cyclist and runner, Kirk put mountains on his 2019 bucket list. After climbing Mt. St. Helens with his brother-in-law in 2017, this year, the two plan to tackle Adams, Baker, and then Rainier. "That’s the big one," Kirk says, eyes shining with anticipation.
As a life-long learner who embraces new challenges, no one who knows Kirk doubts he’ll scale any obstacles in his way. Now fully back on his feet, he's eager to let the community know about the quality of "awesome care" he received.
"What would that say about me, if I’m asking people to come to me as a local provider and yet I’m not willing to receive local care?" Kirk asks. "You have a choice. You can stay local and support your community, people that live down the road from you. So, why not? Give them a chance. They won’t let you down."