Kentucky dentist returns home to support local Guardsmen

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Dr. Sharon Upchurch works as the full-time dentist on staff with the Kentucky National Guard’s Health Servcies in Frankfort, Ky. The Hazard, Ky. native has enjoyed a long and successful career in the dental field with more than 20 years in practice in Kentucky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Dr. Sharon Upchurch spent more than 20 years ‘in the teeth’ of patients in Kentucky. And after a seven-year absence, working out of state she’s returned to the Commonwealth as the dentist on staff with the Kentucky National Guard’s Health Services.

“I’ve spent the past six years at Camp Atterbury in Indiana and I was ready to come home,” she said.

Raised in Hazard, Ky., Upchurch started college late and with an interest in biology, pursued the field of dentistry. Through private practice in her hometown and a long run in her own office in Lexington, Upchurch became restless with the administration of running an office.  The decision was made to sell her practice, a bittersweet time she said, but a moment of relief.

With the wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, Upchurch accepted a position at the dental clinic at Camp Atterbury, assisting with the care of deploying and returning Service members.  Married to a Vietnam Veteran and former Kentucky Guardsman, Upchurch had her own understanding of the military and its needs during wartime.

“As a military spouse, this was a great opportunity for me to do my part,” she said. “And it all became fun again at Atterbury. It was just dentistry.”

Always looking to return to Kentucky, Upchurch jumped at the chance to apply for the job in Frankfort.

Capt. Stephanie Fields, Deputy State Surgeon for the Kentucky Guard said Upchurch fills a void the state had for a full-time dentist, and the Health Services team couldn’t be more happier.

“We are very fortunate to have Dr. Upchurch here on staff,” said Fields. “She is very familiar with this sort of environment and brings a wealth of knowledge to the benefit of the Kentucky National Guard.”

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Dr. Sharon Upchurch conducts a dental exam at the Kentucky National Guard’s Medical Readiness Center in Frankfort, Ky., Oct. 17, 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

As she makes herself at home in the new Medical Readiness Center in Frankfort, Upchurch sees several Soldiers a day as they check in for their Personal Health Assessment. She knows there will be busier days and weekends as more unit arrive for the annual check-up. Upchurch will also sometimes pack up her things and travel to armories around the state to provide more localized service as well.

Upchurch called her new job a transition, as she winds down her long career in dentistry. She said she is gradually and slowly working toward retirement, but enjoys her work too much to just leave it all behind.  She is now able to provide Soldiers and Airmen of the Kentucky Guard some of the medical treatment they require. And all the while, finding enjoyment and fulfillment in each day’s work.

“I am here to support and advise Soldiers to help educate them to take better care of their teeth,” she said. “And I am happy to be doing it here.”

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