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Dr. Epps to open new dental practice

Dr. John’e Jasper Epps will soon locate to the Dental Clinic formerly owned by Gates County Rural Health Services. She is shown here at the Clinic with Gates County Board of Commissioners Chairman Graham Twine (right) and Vice-Chairman Kenneth Jernigan. The board of commissioners took control of the property last month. Photo by Cal Bryant

GATESVILLE — Mission accomplished.

One month after accepting the deed to the property formerly owned and operated by Gates County Rural Health Services, the Gates County Board of Commissioners announced they had secured a full-time dentist at the facility located on Medical Center Road.

Dr. John’e Jasper Epps said she was excited about coming to the county.

“When I first became aware of the need for a dentist in Gates County I thought it was tied in with a dental group, much the same as what I’m doing now,” Dr. Epps said. “Then I found out it would be a stand-alone business. I was a bit hesitant at first to venture out on my own, but once I got here and saw what this was all about I felt this was the right place and the right opportunity to go in business for myself.”

She said becoming her own boss was her goal all along…she just didn’t know that opportunity would present itself so early into her career.

“I feel I have a lot to offer; my training has led me to this point,” Dr. Epps stressed. “Plus I feel I have a leg up by formerly working in a rural environment.”

Dr. Epps said she would start slowly, beginning with hiring office staff and then adding hygienists and lab technicians as the business grew.

An open house for the new dental clinic, which will operate as Heavenly Hands Dentistry, is currently being planned. That date and time will be published as soon as that information is made available.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Epps and welcome her to Gates County,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Graham Twine. “It’s been pleasure to work with her up until this point and I feel she will be an asset to the citizens of this county. If they choose to use her services, our citizens will no longer have to leave the county for their dental care.”

With Dr. Epps now in the fold as a medical provider, Twine said this marks a big step in the county’s effort to secure status as a federally qualified medical facility.

“Part of that was getting Dr. Epps here,” Twine noted. “We are in discussions with Albemarle Hospital on getting ourselves aligned for that status. She has already been involved in that process where she came to us from.”

Commission Vice-Chair Kenneth Jernigan recalled coming to the local dentist when the clinic first opened in 1977. At that time, Dr. Harold Turner was the dentist.

“We had several dentists since that time; the need is great for one here in our county,” Jernigan said. “Some of the ones that we had here moved their practices to other counties and some of their patients followed those moves. Now with Dr. Epps here, our citizens can drive a much shorter distance to receive dental care. We’re very happy to have her here.”

Both Twine and Jernigan recalled the old days when the Gates County Dental Clinic stayed full of patients. Now, with a young and highly skilled dentist in the county, both men said they felt good about the return of those glory days.

“People become comfortable with a certain dentist, just like they feel comfortable with their doctor,” Jernigan noted. “But in my case, my dentist is getting older and he might retire one day. Dr. Epps is a nice young lady and right here in the county. I may find myself having to switch dentists. That may be the case for a lot of our citizens.”

“I think more people will come here once they learn we have a local dentist,” Twine added. “It sure will save them from having to travel out of the county.”

Twine encouraged Dr. Epps to work closely with the local public schools to promote dental care.

“It will be great from a standpoint of having a local dentist for the children of Gates County,” Twine said. “That way they won’t have to miss a whole day of school for a trip to the dentist.”

Over the last few weeks, Dr. Epps has been at the local dental clinic where she is cleaning up and preparing for her opening day on the job – currently scheduled for the early part of September.

The local dental clinic features four exam rooms, a lab and an office, complete with an adjoining file room.

All of the exam rooms are complete with dental equipment. Dr. Epps said she had someone to come in and check all that equipment.

“It’s exactly what I need to start my business here,” she said. “It’s all in great shape.”

Dr. Epps currently resides in Petersburg, Va. She is a native of Richmond, Va. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from James Madison University. In May of 2006, she earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I am a general dentist who can provide a full scope of dental care for children of all ages and adults,” she said. “I have a passion for providing quality dental care and I truly enjoy working with people. I am ecstatic about the opportunity of being able to offer comprehensive dental care to the citizens of Gates County.”

In July, officials with Gates County Rural Health Services turned over the keys to its facility to the Board of Commissioners after repeated attempts failed to secure the services of a dentist.

The Dental Center at the Medical Complex formerly owned by Gates County Rural Health Services first opened in 1977. The facility was built through a series of fundraisers and private donations and was owned by a non-profit organization, all in the effort of providing dental care to Gates County.

“They began to experience difficulty in locating dentists that would remain long-term,” said Gates County Manager Toby Chappell. “They could attract short-term, but then had to begin the recruiting process all over again.”

Chappell also stressed that this property, which belongs to the citizens of Gates County, will remain in those same hands.

“This building will not be given away…it will be used for the intended purpose of dealing with health and welfare of our citizens,” Chappell concluded.

The property now owned by the county on Medical Center Road are the two brick buildings connected by a walkway. Another stand alone building on the same property remains under the ownership of Carl Taylor, who once operated a pharmacy there.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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