Local dentist Dr. George Kinney Jr. didn’t necessarily intend to spend thousands of hours over the course of his career volunteering, but “when you say ‘yes,’ you get presented with lots of opportunities to help and learn,” he says.
Encouraged to enter the dentistry field by his father, a World War II naval officer, Kinney graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in 1969 before serving two years as a U.S. Navy dental officer.
In 1973, Kinney opened Art & Science Family Dentistry, one of the longest-running dental practices in Woodbury. Soon after, he became involved with the Minnesota Academy of General Dentistry—serving as secretary, treasurer, program chair and president—and the St. Paul District Dental Society, serving as a delegate to the Minnesota Dental Association. He received the society’s Outstanding Service Award in 1999.
Appointed to two four-year terms on the Minnesota State Board of Dentistry by Govs. Rudy Perpich and Arne Carlson, Kinney started volunteering as an examiner with the Central Regional Dental Testing Service (CRDTS), an organization that evaluates dental students seeking licenses across the Midwest. “It takes a lot of time, but it’s about giving back to the profession and the public,” Kinney says. These organizations exist, he notes, to ensure that every dentist in the state is capable of providing high-quality treatment to their patients. “They keep the quality of dentistry very high so you can go to the dentist and not be concerned about it.”
“Dr. Kinney is quite an icon in our group,” says CRDTS executive director Kimber Cobb. “He’s dedicated decades of his life to our mission and the profession; he’s a fantastic leader and contributor.”
Kinney has also spent time as a volunteer dentist with the Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul, performing free tooth extractions for the shelter’s underserved population of youth and adults experiencing homelessness and addiction. He’s also worked with the American Dental Association as part of its Council on Dental Education and Licensure and its task force on accreditation standards, and given presentations locally on the link between oral health and other ailments such as diabetes.
In April, Kinney received the 2016 Distinguished Dental Alumni Award from his alma mater, the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. He encourages other dentists to follow his example, citing the emotional rewards and exposure to cutting-edge ideas as benefits of time spent outside of the office. “People become better clinical dentists when they do this,” he says, adding that “you’ve got to have an understanding family, since it can take nights and weekends away.”
Kinney has passed on his passion for helping others to his daughter, Dr. Renee Kinney, who practices at Art & Science Family Dentistry with her father and Dr. Tom Musser; she also works part-time treating patients with developmental disabilities at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.
Though he could retire and devote more time to his outdoor hobbies including bicycling, kayaking and hiking with his wife, Julie, near their Afton home, Kinney will continue to practice “as long as I can physically still do it,” he says. “I really enjoy the people contact. When you’re taking care of people over a lot of years, you start seeing their children and grandchildren; it really becomes almost an extended family.”
Of course, his plans for the future still include putting smiles on the faces of as many people as possible. “When I quit practicing, I’ll be the greeter at the office,” he laughs.