Dr. Ernest Sheppard began Sheppard Family Dental Care in 1983 when he purchased the practice of Dr. William Cunningham, who was retiring.
Dr. Cindy Sheppard joined the practice after she and Ernie were married in 1984. Having been classmates at Baylor University School of Dentistry, they kept in contact for a year before the distance between Dallas and Lawton became too great.
For that first year after graduation while Ernie was in Lawton, Cindy taught at Baylor College of Dentistry in the Removable Prosthetics Department (Dentures). That was a wonderful experience, for in one year she was able to treat more patients than some dentists see in 10 years.
"Many people ask if it is difficult to work with your spouse, but we think it is an ideal situation. We each treat our own patients and yet have another doctor nearby for a second opinion if it is ever needed. Also, by having two doctors in the same office we are able to handle different areas of management in the office," Cindy said.
Ernie was born and reared in Lawton and graduated from Eisenhower High School before attending Texas Tech University for his Bachelor of Arts and the University of Oklahoma for his Master of Business Administration. Ernie played sports in Lawton, and was the quarterback on the original Eisenhower High School football team that defeated Lawton High School in 1966.
At the age of 29, Ernie entered dental school at the encouragement of one of his former pupils. When Ernie was a sophomore at Texas Tech University, a young freshman, now Dr. Ron Bosher of Dallas, asked to be paired as a roommate with an older pre-dental student. Bosher was paired with Sheppard.
Sheppard spent many hours coaching Bosher so he could succeed in college, and three years later Bosher was accepted to dental school in Dallas. After graduate school and a successful business career, Sheppard and Bosher met again in Dallas where Bosher provided the coaching and first-hand experience for Sheppard to pursue a career in dentistry.
Cindy entered college knowing that she wanted to be a dentist. She had always wanted to be in a health-related career, and her orthodontist provided the incentive for her to pursue dentistry. She loves to work with her hands - either sewing, doing cross stitch, or anything crafty, and these interests are a large part of dentistry.
Three dentists preceded Dr. Sheppard in this practice. It was started in the early 1900's in an office above the downtown fire station.
In 1986, the Sheppard's moved from Great Plains Medical Square at 38th Street and Gore Boulevard to 4206 SW Lee Blvd. After Cindy joined the practice, the old office was just too crowded.
"We decided to build a new office and wanted to create a building that was attractive and easy to describe. With the importance of railroads to the history of this part of the country, we thought a railroad station would be a unique thought. We also wanted a building that had plenty of windows so we could all enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, and a railroad station lent itself to all those windows," Cindy said.
The section of land that the office occupies was drawn in the original Oklahoma lottery by Ernest's grandfather. Ernest's mother walked to grade school from her home on this land, and the old house and well were located near the present office. This land was not family-owned when he made the decision to locate the office there.
"We traveled all over Oklahoma and Texas photographing original railroad stations and took our collection to Richard Smith, our architect. He combined characteristics of many of the stations to get the desired result. The colors of the interior were selected on the basis of a physiological study that was completed at the University of Oklahoma that states that greens and blues are the most relaxing colors to people. We realize that many people need as much relaxation as possible in the environment when they enter the dental office, and our office has utilized shades of green throughout."
An unusual feature of their present office is the HO-scale train layout that circles the reception area. It provides a light-hearted moment for adults, and a source of curiosity for children. The original construction of the train layout was completed by patients, and many people find it a charming and unusual addition to a dental office.
Several key items have not changed since the beginning of Sheppard Family Dental Care. One is the philosophy: "We practice the concept of optimum health, which is the most favorable degree of oral health that you, as a patient, can attain with our help. Our goal is to save as many of your natural teeth as possible for the rest of your life."